[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.]
What separates humans from monsters seems so obvious that it’s hard to put into words. Nuzum starts with a basic outline of what seems to help us decide what constitutes a monster:
1) Monsters look different from humans.
2) They live outside the normal bounds of society, because they can’t or wont bow to human cultural norms.
3) They live in a “different time zone” than humans.
Wait, what? What time zone is that, exactly? Nuzum separates humans into “Historic Time,” while monsters belong instead to “Mythic Time.” Historic time is progressive and ever-changing. We each keep moving along our own personal time line, making choices about which way it will turn. “One of the ironies of our existence,” says Nuzum, “is that living means always moving closer to death.” Mythic time, on the other hand is circular, eternal, and repetitive as a hamster wheel. Existing in this circuitous existence, a monster will “experience an eternal compulsion to commit and recommit the creation act that transformed them into monsters.”
We place a high value on life’s milestones, specifically because in a progressive timeline “they can’t be repeated or relived.” Edward knows this. He’s had time while repeating high school over and over to ponder the fact that he missed out on a number of important adult milestones like getting a career, getting married, having children – the list goes on and on. He cares enough about Bella to want her to have all of the things he missed out on – even if she insists she doesn’t want them. Witness him dragging her to prom, the ill-fated birthday party in New Moon, and his marriage ultimatum… He’s big on the human coming of age moments, because, as a monster in Mythic time, he will never have them himself.
Nuzum agrees with Edward. Historical time is very important. The accident at the aforementioned birthday party illustrated the dangers of mixing beings from Historic Time with those from Mythic time. Historic time is extremely sensitive to the choices we make and “there’s no such thing as a “do over.”” The suspense we feel when we consider Bella’s choice between Historic time and Mythic time stems from this value we place on life due to our own firm residence in Historic time. Nuzum argues that the Cullen’s vampirism is represented as a last resort, when the only choice is to transform or die. Meyer repeats this choice for us with Bella’s transformation. Nuzum believes that this is necessary in order to quiet reader qualms about Bella turning her back on human life in Historic time and entering Mythic time as a monster. Even monster life is better than death…right? Right?
I’m not so sure that I agree with Nuzum’s assumption that we were all ambivalent about Bella leaving behind the human world. I’m guessing by the end of Twilight a large number of people were thinking exactly what I was thinking:
Maybe this links back to Steiber’s argument that Meyer’s vampires have inverted the vampire legend. In Twilight, the vampires aren’t the monsters – we are. Our imperfections and vulnerability to the hands of time have us more scared than blood drinkers or shape shifters. Nuzum insists that the passage of time is actually an integral part of our character formation, because “it is our experience in time the defines us as individuals, that gives meaning and uniqueness to each of our lives.” This is undoubtably true, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t scary as heck.