Twilight: Baby Seals and Killer Whales

[Content Note: Reference to Species Changes, and Related Dietary Issues]

Twilight Summary: In Chapter 14, Edward and Bella spend the night together.

Twilight, Chapter 14: Mind Over Matter

The thought occurs that the Narnia chapters move more swiftly than the Twilight ones in part because there is so much prose and so little dialogue. It's easier, somehow, to boil down 800 words into "an then they found a boat", but much harder to slice through 18 back-and-forth dialogue lines with a pithy summary.

But, at any rate, when we last left Edward and Bella, he was planning to spend the night in Bella's bedroom.

   “You seem more . . . optimistic than usual,” I observed. “I haven’t seen you like this before.”
   “Isn’t it supposed to be like this?” He smiled. “The glory of first love, and all that. It’s incredible, isn’t it, the difference between reading about something, seeing it in the pictures, and experiencing it?”

This exchange strikes me as interesting, because I would have thought that Edward -- who reads minds, when the narrative doesn't forget that he can do so -- would have more references for True Love than reading and movies. (Bonus points, though, for calling movies "the pictures". Nice anachronism, if that was intended.) And in addition to reading minds, Edward lives with three couples who are shining examples of True Love, to the point where Emmett and Rosalie have to go off alone for a few years every couple of decades when their True Love reaches critical mass.

But I also find the exchange interesting because I'm a bit of a Tudor obsessive (or perhaps it would be more accurate to say I'm an Alison Weir obsessive, since I tend to stick to her books alone), and if there's one thing Henry VIII is famous for, in addition to the whole Six Wives thing, is that he was extremely in love with Love, but (as it turns out) less so with the actual people he claimed to love. There's a fine line between enjoying the rush of new love versus enjoying the rush more than the actual person supposedly causing it.

   “For example” — his words flowed swiftly now, I had to concentrate to catch it all — “the emotion of jealousy. I’ve read about it a hundred thousand times, seen actors portray it in a thousand different plays and movies. I believed I understood that one pretty clearly. But it shocked me. . . .” 

And then there's this. Again, it's a really... odd choice that Edward's point of reference here is not his mind-reading. It's especially odd given that hunting Men Who Hurt Women was kind of his thing, and I should think that Jealousy would be something he would have been on the prowl for, along with Hatred, Resentment, and Anger. (Apparently Twilight continues to insist that women are only hurt by men because of rampaging Lust, in which case: NO.) 

Anyway, Edward then talks about the day Mike asked him to the dance and how thoroughly outraged he was by that, and how angry he was that he couldn't tell why Bella turned Mike down ("Was it simply for your friend’s sake? Was there someone else?"), and how tense he was as he waited for Bella to turn down the other men in "line". (UGH THAT FRAMING.)

I am sure there is some bizarro-universe where it makes sense why Edward would force Bella to listen to three more invitations to the dance when he didn't want her to go with anyone at all, all the while laughing at her discomfort (as opposed to stewing in impotent rage at the fear that she might not like boys at all or whatever would cause Edward to hit the Misogyny Bell for the day the hardest), but I honestly don't care. Suffice to chalk this up to one more example of Edward trying to assert ownership over Bella before they even had a relationship at all.

   “That was the first night I came here. I wrestled all night, while watching you sleep, with the chasm between what I knew was right, moral, ethical, and what I wanted. I knew that if I continued to ignore you as I should, or if I left for a few years, till you were gone, that someday you would say yes to Mike, or someone like him. It made me angry.


There is so much wrong with this, I don't know where to start. I don't know how thoroughly to convey how gross it is for Edward to talk about Bella choosing someone other than him as a sort of settling, with his dismissive "someone like him" framing. Even if we don't take that as connotatively bad and just read it as "someone other than me", there's the gross overlay of the fact that Edward is still not being honest about his feelings. "It made me angry that I might not have you", while horrifying, is at least honest; "it made me angry that you might settle for Mike or someone like him" is, once again, justifying Edward's really problematic actions and impulses under the guise of protecting Bella.

And then there's all this added baggage of assuming that Bella is sexual and heterosexual. Edward has no reason to assume this; Bella could be entirely uninterested in romance and/or sex or she could be entirely uninterested in those things with men. I think this is probably an author-fail instead of an Edward-fail, but it works out to the same thing: this book entirely invisibles asexual people and gay people. That really infuriates me so very much, and it's especially problematic when all the Cullen couples are being held up as a Platonic Ideal of True Love.

   “And then,” he whispered, “as you were sleeping, you said my name. You spoke so clearly, at first I thought you’d woken. But you rolled over restlessly and mumbled my name once more, and sighed. The feeling that coursed through me then was unnerving, staggering. And I knew I couldn’t ignore you any longer.” He was silent for a moment, probably listening to the suddenly uneven pounding of my heart.

So just to be really clear: Edward was attracted to Bella because she smelled good to him and he couldn't read her mind. Then he became infuriated at the idea of Bella accepting Mike as a love interest. He broke into her home and watched her sleep while trying to think of an excuse to exert ownership over her, and had just about settled on the "for her own good because Mike is grody" excuse when Bella said his name and that became the new excuse for ownership. Sure.

Anyway, Bella points out that the existence of Rosalie hurts her self-esteem and Edward reassures her that Bella is way hotter, ("...she could never have one tenth, no, one hundredth of the attraction you hold for me."), which is always a nice thing to say about a close friend who is "like a sister to me". But it doesn't really matter because Rosalie is blond and attractive, so she deserve what she gets, amiright. Moving on, Bella says that she hasn't had to wait as long as Edward has for True Love (because Edward is old-balls), and he points out that he's not the one in mortal danger here.

   “You only have to risk your life every second you spend with me, that’s surely not much. You only have to turn your back on nature, on humanity . . . what’s that worth?”
   “Very little — I don’t feel deprived of anything.”

   “Not yet.” And his voice was abruptly full of ancient grief.

I think that's kinda nice, if a bit overdone. But everything in this novel is overdone with ANCIENT GRIEF and TRUEST LOVE and ANGSTYEST ANGST, and while this is, yet again, an example of Edward usurping Bella's pain for himself, at least it maybe-sorta-kinda fits here a touch. Edward doesn't like being a vampire, so it's very difficult for him to imagine that Bella might like being a vampire, and while it would be nice if he trusted her judgment more, there's also the fact that being a vampire isn't exactly something you can test drive.

And I would like Twilight a little more if it really explored a lot of the things Bella would be giving up as a vampire (and maybe didn't hand us a Magic Baby) and how those things might not seem important now, but how she may miss them later. For instance: Carlisle notwithstanding, Bella can never really have a career, or at least her options for careers are very limited. Find me a career that Bella can do without ever being in the sunlight, or without any of the other vampire 'tells' being given away, and which can survive her having to pack up and change identities every decade or so. And job satisfaction is just one thing she'll have to give up; there's also stuff like food and family and sunlight and apple martinis. Bella hasn't experienced much of these things, so it's hard for her to miss them now, but Edward knows there's a chance she could miss them later. I'd like to explore that more, but Twilight never really does.

Anyway, Charlie pops in to check on Bella and Edward tells her she sucks at acting, because he read about negging girls in that pick-up artist book he memorized a few years back.

   I could feel his cool breath on my neck, feel his nose sliding along my jaw, inhaling.“I thought you were desensitized.”
   “Just because I’m resisting the wine doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the bouquet,” he whispered. “You have a very floral smell, like lavender . . . or freesia,” he noted. “It’s mouthwatering.”
   “Yeah, it’s an off day when I don’t get somebody telling me how edible I smell.”

LOL! I actually laughed at this. Bella has a sense of humor. Who knew? 

   “I’ve decided what I want to do,” I told him. “I want to hear more about you.” 
   “Ask me anything.”

And I kind of admire this, too. This whole book has been one long slog of Bella trying to find the right time to ask Edward questions, so I kind of like that when she has him in her bed and he's determined to pretend to be her captured slave, chivalric love conceit, etc. then she figures she might as well ask a few of her precious questions. I think that shows a lot of initiative, and it's nice to see an active (rather than reactive) Bella.

   I sifted through my questions for the most vital. “Why do you do it?” I said. “I still don’t understand how you can work so hard to resist what you . . . are. Please don’t misunderstand, of course I’m glad that you do. I just don’t see why you would bother in the first place.”
   He hesitated before answering. “That’s a good question, and you are not the first one to ask it. The others — the majority of our kind who are quite content with our lot — they, too, wonder at how we live. But you see, just because we’ve been . . . dealt a certain hand . . . it doesn’t mean that we can’t choose to rise above — to conquer the boundaries of a destiny that none of us wanted. To try to retain whatever essential humanity we can.”

And that's not a bad answer, but it's not really the one I would have given, either. There's this weird presumption through all this that the vampire mythos existed first and then people (like the Cullens) actually became vampires after that mythos began and were faced with the decision of what kind of vampires they wanted to be.

Surely if vampires really did just evolve on their own, or were the product of a disease, or basically were "natural" creatures instead of demonic and supernatural, there would be quite a few of them who just didn't want to kill humans because they were very recently humans themselves and didn't want to be a murderer. I mean... imagine if a cow were somehow turned into a human tomorrow; it'd probably be awhile before the cow-turned-human decided to have a burger. Indeed, it seems very strange to me that "hey, we can eat animals too!" is apparently a really deep insight that every 'good' vampire takes years and/or the guidance of a mentor to discover -- it seems to me that eating humans would be the thing that would take time for most vampires to become desensitized to.

And then there's the fact that Twilight vampires cannot feed without killing or creating another vampire; every feeding is fatal. (Unless, I guess, they drain the body without fluid exchange, i.e., the saliva venom. So I guess they could open a vein with a nail or something.) In a world where the masquerade is paramount, I would think that the occasional animal feeding would be necessary in order to maintain secrecy. We're given to believe that vampires need to feed at least once a week, and I don't think a small town could handle 52 unsolved killings a year. Granted, a lot of the Twilight vampires prefer to be nomadic, but there's still going to be a lot of dead bodies piling up by this math. It seems like Carlisle could make just as many vampires understand by invoking the "we're trying to maintain the masquerade, you assholes" defense.

At least the Cirque du Freak books, for all their problems, recognized that killing a human at every feeding was the extremist position, and not the one likely to be mainstream in vampire society.

Moving on: Bella asks about vampire powers and we get the series-handwave: 

   “We don’t really know. Carlisle has a theory . . . he believes that we all bring something of our strongest human traits with us into the next life, where they are intensified — like our minds, and our senses. He thinks that I must have already been very sensitive to the thoughts of those around me. And that Alice had some precognition, wherever she was.”   “What did he bring into the next life, and the others?”
   “Carlisle brought his compassion. Esme brought her ability to love passionately. Emmett brought his strength, Rosalie her . . . tenacity. Or you could call it pigheadedness,” he chuckled. “Jasper is very interesting. He was quite charismatic in his first life, able to influence those around him to see things his way. Now he is able to manipulate the emotions of those around him — calm down a room of angry people, for example, or excite a lethargic crowd, conversely. It’s a very subtle gift.”

Wouldn't it just suck to have your vampire power being "loving things passionately", while everyone else gets like, Super Zapper Powers and Mind Control? Yeah. Then Edward says "something something something evolution predator-and-prey creation delicate angelfish with the shark, the baby seal and the killer whale". Um.


Edward assures Bella that she has an eternity to ask questions -- which would be reassuring if it were actually true, but probably isn't because we all know how moody Edward is -- and she asks for one more question about Teh Sex:

   “You said that Rosalie and Emmett will get married soon. . . . Is that . . . marriage . . . the same as it is for humans?” 
   He laughed in earnest now, understanding. “Is that what you’re getting at?” [...] “Was there a purpose behind your curiosity?”
   “Well, I did wonder . . . about you and me . . . someday . . .” [...]
   “I don’t think that . . . that . . . would be possible for us.”
   “Because it would be too hard for you, if I were that . . . close?”
   “That’s certainly a problem. But that’s not what I was thinking of. It’s just that you are so soft, so fragile. I have to mind my actions every moment that we’re together so that I don’t hurt you. I could kill you quite easily, Bella, simply by accident.” His voice had become just a soft murmur. He moved his icy palm to rest it against my cheek. “If I was too hasty . . . if for one second I wasn’t paying enough attention, I could reach out, meaning to touch your face, and crush your skull by mistake. You don’t realize how incredibly breakable you are. I can never, never afford to lose any kind of control when I’m with you.”

WHAT. I mean, I knew this was coming. But still: WHAT.

This makes NO SENSE. None. For this to be true, the Cullens are basically Disney's Hercules, which also didn't make any goddamn sense, because basically nothing on earth is engineered to stand up to use by Hercules because everything on earth is engineered by humans to stand up to human use. If merely brushing Bella's face could cause her head to cave in, then Edward should be leaving behind a constant trail of broken desks, smashed CDs, crushed cell phones, and mangled car doors. His reckless driving is even more scary and reckless because he wouldn't press the brakes properly at a crucial moment -- his foot would instead dive through the floor of the car. Shifting gears in the car would tear off the gear stick. Etc.

None of this is true. None of this can be true. The vampires cannot be impossibly graceful in every thought, word, and deed and in constant danger of clumsily leveling the block because they sneezed too hard. You can have one or the other, but you can't have both. And if Edward has perfect control every moment of every day except when fucking Bella -- How does he suppose this? Does this mean Emmett and Rosalie destroy houses, nay whole cities, when they romp? -- then that's a suspiciously specific weakness. I mean, he even has more self-control when he feeds! That's supposed to be the vampire thing, feeding.

My cynical side wonders if this isn't Edward holding out on sex in order to get the lifetime marriage commitment that he wants from an unwilling, anti-marriage Bella. Certainly, it seems to be used that way as a plot device and combination purity shield from the parental critics. But while (again!) it's okay for Edward to not have sex with Bella if he doesn't want that, he needs to be honest about that and not continue to do things under the guise of "protecting her" from whatever bullshit threat he makes up.

And it feels a little awkward to have Edward segue from "we can't have sex until you're committed to this thing" to "have you ever had sex with anyone else", especially right after talking about his white-hot jealous rage at the thought of Bella with Mike or 'someone like him':

   “Have you ever . . . ?” He trailed off suggestively.
    “Of course not.” I flushed. “I told you I’ve never felt like this about anyone before, not even close.”
   “I know. It’s just that I know other people’s thoughts. I know love and lust don’t always keep the same company.”
   “They do for me. Now, anyway, that they exist for me at all,” I sighed.
   “That’s nice. We have that one thing in common, at least.” He sounded satisfied.

He's satisfied that they're so similar or satisfied because Bella is a virgin? Because, I gotta say, everything about this conversation is leading me to the latter interpretation, and that's not a nice interpretation.

In fact, it's actually kind of a creepy interpretation if Edward really does think they'll never have sex (because he's thinking he'll never turn Bella into a vampire), because it would seem to suggest that he expects her to forgo sex (and presumably children) for her entire life as the price of being with him. For someone previously lamenting that Being A Vampire has so many drawbacks, he doesn't seem too keen on making Being With A Vampire any easier, even though it conceivably could be. Which suggests that Edward is less interested in easing Bella's pain and more interested in co-opting her pain to angst about his own, which is a very selfish thing for Edward to be doing.

   “Your human instincts . . . ,” I began. He waited. “Well, do you find me attractive, in that way, at all?”
   He laughed and lightly rumpled my nearly dry hair.
   “I may not be a human, but I am a man,” he assured me.

*groan* But I guess I can't expect any better from Edward "cis-heterosexual-normative" Cullen, who previously assured Bella that every man at school wants to bone her because god knows that's reassuring to a nervous teenager trying to fit in and not attract attention.

And that's Chapter 14! We actually finished it! Woo-hoo!


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