The Imaginary Heroine

searching for the plot

A New Dawn part 11: “Edward, Heathcliff, and Our Other Secret Boyfriends” by Robin Brande March 24, 2010

M[Part of a series discussing the essays in A New Dawn edited by Ellen Hopkins. These posts may contain spoilers about all four Twilight novels and Midnight Sun.]

Just the title of this one made me smile. Growing up a shy, bookish girl, I can definitely say that I got a lot of my romantic preferences from books. Brande compares Edward Cullen to some of the leading men in the novels that influenced the Twilight Saga and argues that he wipes the floor with them.

I’ve already spoken my piece on Heathcliff (or as Brande calls him “Scary Psycho Man”). Brande, Edward, and I are both completely confused by Bella and the other Heathcliff lovers out there. To torture his beloved’s husband, Heathcliff marries his sister and proceeds to strangle her dog and treat her so abominably she has to run away. After she’s dead, he goes out of his way to torment their son (they had sex?! EW!) to an early death. Just…No. Not attractive at all.

To me, it seems unlikely that Edward is supposed to be Heathcliff. Instead he is supposed to be Edgar, while Jacob is Heathcliff. Heathcliff didn’t get the girl. Edgar did. Heathcliff turned into a wolf and ran away for months and months…oh wait, Jacob did that. Heathcliff disappeared for years to regions unknown. Then he goes insane when Cathy is destroyed by her torn affections and dies. See what I mean? What if Edward hadn’t gotten the girl? I think the fact that he can behave himself may have something to do with that fact.

Brande finds Romeo a bit more acceptable, but not exactly up to Edward’s level. Mainly because Romeo ends up snuffing it so early. Sure he married Juliet, but their romance ended up being a wham, bam, thank you ma’am, didn’t it? Bella admits she “kind of had a thing for Romeo” in New Moon. What is with this girl? She clearly has terrible taste in men.

Pride and Prejudice‘s Mr. Darcy gives Edward a run for his money. It’s no surprise since, Meyer says that Twilight was loosely based on the Austen masterpiece. Brande herself has a thing for Mr. Darcy, calling him “Mr. Perfect” and admitting in her bio at the end that she “threw herself into a three-day binge of Carcy-infused chick flicks.” Bella never mentions P&P as one of her favorites, but she does mention reading some Austen novels in Twilight. I’m sure Mr. Darcy is probably pretty high up on her list too.

Though I agree with Brande’s assessment that Darcy is markedly better than either Heathcliff or Romeo, I’m still stymied by the fact that both he and Edward are arrogant @$$hats sometimes. She admits that they need “a good smack upside the head,” but argues that they eventually mend their ways once they give into true love. They just need a couple chances to get it right.

Brande thinks that Edward beats out all three of these classic heros. They were the “secret boyfriends” to thousands of women throughout the years. Clearly they were Mrs. Meyer’s secret boyfriends too and she appears to have taken the good qualities of all her favorite leading men and knitted together over the series to create the UBER Fictional Boyfriend that is Edward Cullen. Brande and millions of ladies thank her.

I can find little fault with the main argument of the essay. Clearly, Edward’s attractive qualities have roots in the romantic leads that have captured the hearts and minds of women for centuries. I don’t find these heros as attractive as many other women seem to, but to each her own. Maybe I’ll do a follow up post on my secret boyfriends of ficiton…

What really caught my attention is that Brande repeatedly calls Edward honest. Huh? I agree that he’s pretty up front with the declarations of love. In Brande’s words, “Romeo had his pretty soliloquies, and Darcy can say a lot once he gets going, but no one gives you the blow-by-blow, this-is-why-I-love-you the way Edward does.” However, he’s not so up front about other things.

Anyone who’s read Midnight Sun knows that Edward’s got a manipulative streak. Sure the whole Angela/Ben matchmaking thing is cute on the face of it, but it’s obvious controlling behavior as well. Earlier in the essay, Brande cites Edward’s refusal to make Bella choose between him and Jacob as a sign of his rationality (Jacob can protect her and make her happy), but from where I sit it looks like really skillful manipulation. By not forcing Bella’s hand, he makes himself look angelic and makes Bella feel like crap for having feelings for Jacob.

Jacob calls Edward out before the new born battle in Eclipse. When Jacob realizes what a skillful player Edward is, he tries to follow suit. He’s not winning by being honest, time to change strategies. Being both honest and inexperienced, the manipulation is so shoddy, we see it immediately. The whole “suicide by vamp” play for affection and smooches really ticked me off – like it did a lot of readers. However I kind of appreciated that his attempts at manipulation had an ugly clang, especially in comparison to Smooth Criminal Cullen. Edward is so good, he’s even manipulated the readers into being on his side!

It also royally pissed me off at the end of New Moon when Bella can’t believe that Edward still loves her and Edward turns it back, acting hurt because she had so little faith in his love. “You believed me so easily!” he accuses. Ugh. Excuse me! Can anyone say gaslighting? Ah, yes. The classic technique of romantic and platonic emotional abusers the world over. Enough about your feelings, how do you think I felt when you reacted negatively to me being mean to you?!

Honest? Up front? Not our Edward Cullen.


9 Responses to “A New Dawn part 11: “Edward, Heathcliff, and Our Other Secret Boyfriends” by Robin Brande”

  1. Ana Says:

    Even though I agree that Edward is manipulative (but again Bella, Jerkob and Alice manipulate when needed as well) I think on Eclipse he was genuine on his declaration of not forcing Bella’s hand. I mean Bella already showed he how much she needed him by asking to sit the battle out and she was already wanting to be with him (physically) and she only showed remorse over having feelings for Jerkob too, not because she didn’t knew who to choose and as much jealous Edward was he always placed clear that he would do whatever was best for Bella and he again tried for that, when she was crying on his arms over Jacob. So I think this was one of the situations where he was not manipulating her but was honest on his feelings.

    • LOL. And Team Edward fights back!

      I’m sure Edward loves Bella. I’m sure that Edward is the best for Bella. But I think he was definitely playing for keeps by saying he wasn’t going to make Bella choose. Then Jacob is the one who is the focus of Bella’s confusion and distress.

      I think this is pretty evident when Jacob and Edward talk in the tent while Bella sleeps before the new born battle (Eclipse 494-505). Edward knows that forcing a choice could mean that Bella could not choose him. So he doesn’t force that choice. Jacob is dumb and inexperienced. So he does. I recall another discussion in Breaking Dawn, but I don’t have the book on me (waiting for paperback to buy) so I can’t find pages.

      • Ana Says:

        Well are you implying that if Jacob would had not tried to force Bella’s she would had choosed him?

      • Nah. I don’t think so. She was in it for Edward all the way.

        All that I object to is the fact that I see a lot of hate on Jacob and almost nil discussion of some of Edward’s flaws. I don’t like the incomplete discussion.

        I also am uncomfortable with the way Jacob’s character plays into racial stereotypes of hyper-sexuality and aggression, as discussed on Seduced by Twilight and other sites. Edward’s character is, in a lot of ways, bathed in the halo effect of white privilege. He is seen as neutral in ways that I think Jacob is not.

        I’m not saying *you* are doing this. I think all your points about Edwards intentions and the outcome are really valid. I’m just trying to ask questions to broaden the discussion and explore non-dominant takes on the issue.

    • Also I really, really, really *HATE* the “and you believed me so easily” line. Reading between the lines it goes like this

      “and [I was so sad and depressed boohoo because] you believed me so easily [because you love me and think I am honest and mean what I say]”

      Of course Bella believed you, Edward! She thinks you’re always honest and always tell the truth.

      Turning his lies around on Bella to highlight his own suffering is a jerk move. Period.

      • Ana Says:

        Oh I agree with that part. It was uncalled for but Edward was a big drama king back them, but like I said on the Eclipse there was not logical reason for him to not try and forcing her hand, in fact she was repentant of the kiss and clearly remorseful why would he think he was at any risk when she clearly was not happy about the kiss outcome?
        He always keep thinking that he was not the best choice for her. He even though that at the wedding when he agreed that he should let Jacob kill him for trying the sex before marriage so again if he was manipulating her into choosing him it would mean he would had stoped his selfpity parade after that, but it took him Bella transforming for him to stop thinking of himself as the worst thing Bella could had choosed. No to mention that he can’t read her mind why would he had the impression that looking like a saint will work on his favor? Bella always defended Jacob and though of it as a saint and she didn’t even brought the manipulation when telling him that the kiss did not make any difference.

      • “He always keep thinking that he was not the best choice for her.”

        I think this is a really good point. A lot of the trouble in the books comes from Edward’s doubts about himself and Bella’s choice to be with him.

        I think Bella’s transformation and triumph at the end of the book affirms your conclusions. She was right. He was wrong.

        He should have just bitten her at the end of Twilight!

        • Ana Says:

          Yeah. I always read it as Bella being superior in many ways given that she recognized their happy ending very quickly while Edward need to make a whole journey to get to the same place, which is also the way physically he needed to get to a point to make love to Bella while she was all for it a lot quicker. Bella’s instincts were right all along (I keep remembering how she was genre savvy knowing that with her bad luck staying there all human and delicious was a bad idea) of course the delay also helped them to get their daughter and I think Edward needed that to come to terms with his immortality. Which such an amazing daughter he must accept by now that he cannot be completely damned if God gave him that gift, IMO.

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