The Imaginary Heroine

searching for the plot

A New Dawn part 12: “To Bite, or Not to Bite; That Is the Question” by Janette Rallison March 26, 2010

[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.]

Most of what I read about the Twilight refers to destiny or fate. According to Janette Rallison, the books are instead all about free will. This jives with a few statements I’ve read from SMeyer. On her website, Meyer discusses the importance of the apple image on the first novel’s cover. Apples have been featured in myriad stories through the ages, but always with a similar meaning: Choice. She also discussed the importance of Free Will in Mormon doctrine in an interview with Lev Grossman from Time:

“[A]lthough Mormons avoid caffeine on principle, [Meyer] drinks the occasional cherry Diet Pepsi. “It’s about keeping yourself free of addictions,” she explains, sitting on a huge couch in her living room. “We have free will, which is a huge gift from God. If you tie that up with something like, I don’t know, cocaine, then you don’t really have a lot of freedom anymore.”

Rallison shows us that Meyer overtly communicates this idea to the readers when Carlise tells Bella that all anyone can do is decide what to do with what they were given in life. Even Alice’s future sight is dependent on the decisions of others. Rallison points out that this is Meyer telling us again that “no one’s fate is set in stone in the Twilight series. The future is made and undone with every choice a character makes.”

I’m going to stop with the free will vs. destiny stuff right here. It’s a good essay. Go buy or take the book out of the library and read it.

I’ve been derailed (Again!) by someone totally missing the manipulative element behind Edward letting Bella see Jacob. Rallison attributes this to Edward’s saint-like understanding. I’m still pretty sure that the whole point was to make himself appear saint-like and make Bella feel that she had to get rid of Jacob in order to be good enough for perfect, angelic Edward.

He's doing it again!

Then she turns around and says that Jacob is not above manipulation when honesty and logic don’t work. Yes. He did try to manipulate Bella. I will yet again point out the fact that when he did, he totally stank at it. People hated Jacob for that stunt. He’s not a skillful manipulator, for the simple reason that he’s usually an honest guy who doesn’t try to manipulate others. Allow me to point out (AGAIN!) that Jacob only tried it, because he realized that was how Edward was winning! He was manipulating Bella’s pathological need to throw herself under the bus before hurting anyone else.

Even thought Bella says Edward isn’t playing any game, Jacob knows better:

“He isn’t manipulating me”

“You bet he is. He’s playing every bit as hard as I am, only he know what he’s doing and I don’t. Don’t blame me because he’s a better manipulator than I am – I haven’t been around long enough to learn all his tricks.”

“He isn’t manipulating me!”

“Yes, he is! When are you going to wake up and realize that he’s not as perfect as you think he is?”
Eclipse p594

Maybe it would be different if this was an exploration of open relationships or something. I’m sure there’s a pile of fan fiction about various Bella, Edward, Jacob arrangements. But that’s not what the Twilight Canon is about. Edward, Bella, and Jacob are all up front about wanting to be in a monogamous coupling. Both Edward and Jacob are trying to get the other out of the picture by any means necessary. Neither is above manipulation to achieve their ends. So why is Edward getting called honest and understanding while Jacob gets tutted at for doing the exact same thing?

Ugh. I’m going to pull out a legendary Kansas quote and and simply say: “That’s right…Dollar signs.”

All of this discussion of who is manipulating whom is not about who is right for whom or which guy Bella should have chosen. Of course Edward loves Bella and vice versa. Of course Edward was the right choice for Bella. She may have loved Jacob too, but she always knew she loved Edward best, last, and forever. I just wish people weren’t quite so hard on Jacob. Sometimes I wonder if people don’t hate him so very much because he brought out the nasty side of Edward. It’s hard to see your knight in shining armor get tarnished.

 

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.