[Twilight Content Note: Murder, Abusive Relationships, Winning At Patriarchy.]
[Extra Content Note: Kidnapping, Physical Abuse]
Twilight Summary: In Chapter 18, Edward kidnaps Bella because why wouldn't he.
Twilight, Chapter 18: The Hunt
When we last left our lovers, Carlisle had perfectly maneuvered Bella to be considered a threat to the regular / non-vegetarian / murdering vampires that had come into town for a visit, and had then ordered her out of sight (though not, obviously, out of mind) lest prolonged contact with the murderer-vampires cause them to personify her into someone they might not want to eat. Thanks, Carlisle!
This whole time I’d been rooted in place, terrified into absolute immobility. Edward had to grip my elbow and pull sharply to break my trance. Alice and Emmett were close behind us, hiding me. I stumbled alongside Edward, still stunned with fear. I couldn’t hear if the main group had left yet.
Far be it from me to impugn the strategies of the Cullens, and I also realize that this would be totes immoral and also there are those maybe-exist / maybe-don't Volturi to think about, but there's a point in all this where I'm genuinely trying to work out why they don't just kill the three visiting vampires. (We need a term for them. I assert we shall call them the Traveling Trio.)
Now, the obvious moral objection to killing the Traveling Trio is that they haven't done anything wrong yet. In fact, Laurent has been nothing but polite and kind to the Cullens. But Edward is a telepath and he has sensed that James is a hunter who has locked on to Bella and will never ever stop trying to kill her, including going through her family, friends, etc. in order to get his teeth into her. And Edward has also sensed that Victoria and Laurent will support James in this goal if push came to shove, which means that they aren't being genuine when Laurent said they wouldn't harm Bella. Which... is kinda an all-bets-are-off moment for me?
At which point, I'm not sure why Edward didn't just turn to his family and say "my well-established telepathy that all of you believe in and trust tells me that we need to kill these guys right now and I'll explain later". And again, this isn't particularly moral, but it might be more moral than letting three murderers burn a killing spree through Forks, which is technically the Cullens' first impulse as long as Bella is safe. (For the record, this is the point where Bella really ought to be having doubts about the impact of this relationship on her family and friends, not because vampires, but rather because the Cullens don't extend their protection past Bella's safety.)
Anyway, then there's a lot of Edward being totes scary because he loves Bella so much.
[...] Edward slung me over his back without breaking stride.
[...] replaced by a fury that consumed him and drove him still faster.
[...] Edward barely slowed as he flung me in the backseat.
[...] Edward was growling something too fast for me to understand, but it sounded a lot like a string of profanities.
I hope Edward uses hilariously out-of-date profanities. I'm not entirely sure what would be right for a 90-year-old vampire, and surely the really good stuff like "Great Caesar's Ghost!" wouldn't be available, but it would still please me if that were the case. And I'm probably focusing on this in order to stem the white-hot rage that Edward is flinging Bella anywhere when I fully believe he could just calmly deposit her in the seat in the same amount of time. These aren't the actions of a boyfriend in a hurry, they're the actions of a boyfriend who is pissed off and doesn't care if his girlfriend gets hurt in the process.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
No one answered. No one even looked at me.
“Dammit, Edward! Where are you taking me?”
“We have to get you away from here — far away — now.” He didn’t look back, his eyes on the road. The speedometer read a hundred and five miles an hour.
“Turn around! You have to take me home!” I shouted. I struggled with the stupid harness, tearing at the straps.
“Emmett,” Edward said grimly.
And Emmett secured my hands in his steely grasp.
“No! Edward! No, you can’t do this.”
“I have to, Bella, now please be quiet.”
Thus the kidnapping begins.
And... I don't even know what to say about this. I realize, I realize, that this is supposed to be a measure of how much Edward loves Bella and is worried for her. He's so anxious for her safety that he can't be bothered with social niceties like answering her questions or driving at a speed that doesn't terrify her. And of course his big burly older brother has to physically restrain her for her own good so that she doesn't fall out or hurt herself. Et cetera. I get the conceit here, I do.
Here again I need to underscore that Twilight is a romantic fantasy novel. And if this is your personal romantic fantasy, that is okay. I want to make that very clear. I also do not believe for a moment that all or most or even many of the people for whom this romantic fantasy is their romantic fantasy therefore go and hope to be abusively kidnapped in real life. Fantasies do not work that way.
So. But. With that out of the way, with the understanding that it is okay to like this and that liking this on the page doesn't indicate a wanting this in real life, having said all that, this scene is very creepy to me. I mean, right off the bat, not gonna lie, I am very much not okay with Edward just not telling Bella what he's doing or where they are going. Like, kidnapping your girlfriend is one thing; kidnapping your girlfriend and not trying to calm her down and let her know what is happening is just beyond the pale for me.
Then there's all this fast-fast driving which seems entirely designed to scare Bella because I really do not understand how Driving Really Fast is supposed to help them get away better from James. Really, I don't understand the plan here at all, to the point where I suppose the reader is supposed to think that Edward is just reacting instead of planning. Which, okay, that is a thing people do, but it is not a good thing, especially not when the reaction is "kidnap girlfriend, terrify her". Apparently the plan is to pick a direction and head that way, and then... keep doing that for eternity until Bella dies of old age. And she can never make any friends or family because James will torture them to get to her. This definitely sounds like a super-great plan, Edward!
Alice spoke for the first time. “Edward, pull over.”
He flashed her a hard look, and then sped up.
“Edward, let’s just talk this through.”
“You don’t understand,” he roared in frustration. I’d never heard his voice so loud; it was deafening in the confines of the Jeep. The speedometer neared one hundred and fifteen. “He’s a tracker, Alice, did you see that? He’s a tracker!”
I don't even with consistency in books, but why does the telepath have to ask whether the seer saw something or not. And this might seem like a nitpick, but we have created this plothole in order to get around the larger problem of the Cullens not being willing to tell Bella (and therefore the reader) anything. So we created a plothole in order to justify abusive behavior when clearly the far superior option would have to be just talk to Bella.
I felt Emmett stiffen next to me, and I wondered at his reaction to the word. It meant something more to the three of them than it did to me; I wanted to understand, but there was no opening for me to ask.
[...] “Do it, Edward.”
“Listen to me, Alice. I saw his mind. Tracking is his passion, his obsession — and he wants her, Alice — her, specifically. He begins the hunt tonight.”
So... the word "tracker" means something specific to the vampires... which Edward then has to explain... to the seer in the car. Rather than, again, just telling all this to Bella directly.
“He doesn’t know where —”
He interrupted her. “How long do you think it will take him to cross her scent in town? His plan was already set before the words were out of Laurent’s mouth.”
I gasped, knowing where my scent would lead. “Charlie! You can’t leave him there! You can’t leave him!” I thrashed against the harness.
“She’s right,” Alice said.
And, I mean, ACK. I really hate to be less moral than the Cullens (although I guess here is where we again point out that the Traveling Trio are mass-murderers who have every apparent intention to keep mass-murdering when they leave Forks), but Edward knew that James was going to try to murder Bella, so of course he... let the Cullens split their superior numbers and lost the element of surprise to jump the Trio and kill them for good? I mean... I feel like I would at least think of that, but apparently Edward's mind went straight to flinging Bella into cars and kidnapping her for a long and lonely life of knowing that everyone she ever loved was horribly murdered in an attempt to get to her.
I'm saying that there are shades of moral ambiguity.
Then there is a lot of bleh about how James will wait out this Bella thing forever, I guess because macrame wasn't an exciting enough hobby so he picked this instead, and how the Cullens can't guard her at home forever because eventually a mistake will be made, so clearly it's a much stellar idea to guard her forever while always on the run for the rest of her life or whatever and it's all as great as it sounds which is to say it is shit.
“You didn’t see — you don’t understand. Once he commits to a hunt, he’s unshakable. We’d have to kill him.”
Emmett didn’t seem upset by the idea. “That’s an option.”
“And the female. She’s with him. If it turns into a fight, the leader will go with them, too.”
“There are enough of us.”
“There’s another option,” Alice said quietly.
The other option, for the record is turning Bella into a vampire. Which is stupid in all the ways.
Because, for one? If James' whole hobby is tracking and hunting his target, it's entirely unclear to me why making Bella a vampire would call off the chase. I guess it's just supposed to be a feeding thing, but why should we assume that? There's this weird parallel with the (wrongful) assumption that most rapists are after sex, and that if they just had access to sex, they wouldn't rape. (And kinda topical as a metaphor given that vampirism has a whole history of being a metaphor for sex and sexual violence.)
If James is after the thrill of the chase, and the power, and the kill, etc., there's no reason that I can see why turning Bella into a vampire would make him call off the hunt. There's still the thrill of the chase, also apparently tied up (ick) in the fact that he's propelled by the fact that Edward claimed her as his. Maybe we can presuppose some kind of No Killing Other Vampires rule (although the text really ought to establish that, and plus it would make a lot of other things in this scene make sense), but that still feels like a really tenuous thing to hang everything on. I mean, there's also presumably a Don't Mess Up The Masquerade rule, but that apparently isn't going to stop James and the others from going murder frenzy on Forks for shits and giggles.
And if we toss aside the No Killing Vampires rule--which, again, would have needed to be called out--and if we don't blithely assume that James will magically grow a conscience the minute Bella has vampire venom running through her veins instead of all-American blood, then why would Bella be safer as a vampire? It would seem like the options are either that she'll be able to protect herself as a vampire, or the Cullens are more likely to protect her if she's one of them. But they're already trying to protect her; the bigger problem here is that they're perfectly willing to let everyone she cares about be slaughtered.
So we come back to the fact that Alice's suggestion doesn't make sense unless we presuppose a lot of stuff (some of which is very problematic stuff from a metaphorical perspective) that the text ought to have made clear to us.
A second way this plan is stupid, and this is secondary to the fact that I don't understand why it would work, is that it's being invoked as an always-forever thing in a way that the alternative plan (Keep Bella On The Lam Forever) supposedly isn't. Because, you see, if the seer suggests making Bella a vampire (which is, I imagine, supposed to be less creepy than a non-seer mentioning it, because presumably the seer would be able to see if this shiny new romance was going to pan out) then Edward can overreact with his NO-I-SAID-NO-BY-GEORGE overreaction and Bella can (eventually) be all YES-I-LOVE-YOU-FOR-ETERNITY and we can play out vampirism as a marriage metaphor.
And I don't like the metaphor, just to be very clear. But I like it even less when it's being presented as the one permanent solution when the other choice is just as permanent. If they're not going to kill James (and if Edward is right about him being utterly single-minded in his decades-spanning hunts), then Bella's entire life as she knows it is over today as much as if Edward had bitten her. And if they are going to kill James, I kinda feel like they should have done that when they had superior numbers, the element of surprise, and none of Bella's relatives had been killed yet. But wev, what do I know.
Edward turned on her in fury, his voice a blistering snarl. “There — is — no — other — option!”
Emmett and I both stared at him in shock, but Alice seemed unsurprised. The silence lasted for a long minute as Edward and Alice stared each other down.
I broke it. “Does anyone want to hear my plan?”
“No,” Edward growled. Alice glared at him, finally provoked.
Sigh. I'm just... going to leave that there without comment. I literally don't know what to say that isn't just pointing and furious stammering.
Anyway. But. Continuing on. Bella comes up with the idea that they'll take her back home and she'll rage-quit Forks. This will keep Charlie from coming after the Cullens for her disappearance, and it will keep James from killing Charlie because it would be totally weird for him to take a hostage in order to use as leverage against Bella later. (No, this makes zero sense, we are just supposed to not notice, I think.) Then Bella will fly to Phoenix and hole up in a hotel until Edward can fly down to her and then he'll take her "any damned place you want". So we really are going with the on-the-run-forever plan and we're just going to pretend that's less permanent and marriagey and creepy at this stage of their relationship than just turning her into a vampire and calling it a day.
So best-of highlights for this chapter:
“It’s not a bad idea, really.” Emmett’s surprise was definitely an insult.
Yeah. The flinging into cars and restraining of hands is one thing but this is beyond the pale, etc.
“I think you should let me go alone,” I said even more quietly.
He heard that.
“Bella, please just do this my way, just this once,” he said between clenched teeth.
BECAUSE THIS WHOLE BOOK HAS DEFINITELY NOT BEEN ABOUT DOING THINGS EDWARD'S WAY.
Edward stared at her incredulously. “You think I should let her go alone?”
“Of course not,” Alice said. “Jasper and I will take her.”
“I can’t do that,” Edward repeated, but this time there was a trace of defeat in his voice. The logic was working on him.
I tried to be persuasive. “Hang out here for a week —” I saw his expression in the mirror and amended “— a few days. Let Charlie see you haven’t kidnapped me, and lead this James on a wild-goose chase. Make sure he’s completely off my trail. Then come and meet me. Take a roundabout route, of course, and then Jasper and Alice can go home.”
AND THEN WE CAN JET-HOP AROUND THE WORLD TOGETHER FOREVER AND THIS IS LESS CREEPY THAN ME BECOMING YOUR VAMPIRE-BRIDE BUT I CAN'T ARTICULATE WHY SO LET'S NOT DWELL ON THE POINT FURTHER.
“There are several million people in Phoenix,” I informed him.
“It’s not that hard to find a phone book.”
“I won’t go home.”
“Oh?” he inquired, a dangerous note in his voice.
Sure. This is totally reasonable behavior. Threatening your girlfriend, after kidnapping her, because she doesn't know precisely where she will stay when she steps off the plane before going on a permanent life-long country-hopping fugitive tour with you.
“I kind of like it.” Emmett was thinking about cornering James, no doubt.
“Shut up, Emmett.”
“Look, if we try to take him down while she’s still around, there’s a much better chance that someone will get hurt — she’ll get hurt, or you will, trying to protect her. Now, if we get him alone . . .” He trailed off with a slow smile. I was right.
SO WE ARE GOING TO KILL JAMES, JUST NOT RIGHT NOW. THAT'S STELLAR. REALLY.
“Bella.” Edward’s voice was very soft. Alice and Emmett looked out their windows. “If you let anything happen to yourself — anything at all — I’m holding you personally responsible. Do you understand that?”
“Yes,” I gulped.
WHAT THE FUCK I DON'T EVEN.
He turned to Alice.
“Can Jasper handle this?”
“Give him some credit, Edward. He’s been doing very, very well, all things considered.”
“Can you handle this?” he asked.
And graceful little Alice pulled back her lips in a horrific grimace and let loose with a guttural snarl that had me cowering against the seat in terror.
Edward smiled at her. “But keep your opinions to yourself,” he muttered suddenly.
SO MUCH HATE.
And that's the end of Chapter 18. It is, and I mean this in a very caring way, a steaming pile of shit.