The name Twilight applies to a lot of things, and to avoid confusing some laughable teen-vampire-romance with the main character of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, I now always refer to Stephanie Meyer’s work as “The Twilight Saga” so as not to associate it with any good work of high-fantasy. There’s also an owl with that name in Kathryn Lasky’s Guardians of Ga’Hoole series, and I’ve heard there’s also one in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and who knows how many other stories).
Having just started listening to the audiobook of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight, I must say that it seems to work better as a book than it did as a movie. Nonetheless, I cannot help but hate the main character, Bella Swan. Although she is indeed irritating on a great many levels, what really makes me hate her is not all this. Oddly enough, I should perhaps rightly find this part of her character relatable, but for some reason I cannot, and I only end up resenting this character for it; she grew up in somewhere called Phoenix, which I gather is in a desert, and then moved to a small town called Forks on the west coast. She can’t stand the weather on the coast and longs for dryness and bright desert sunlight.
I, on the other hand, was born in Victoria, British Columbia, and was moved when I was four to a horrible Albertan town in the middle of nowhere. I loathe the bright sunlight, the dryness, the extreme cold, the extreme heat, the lack of green, the rednecks, and most everything else about Alberta. This has given me a somewhat Thorin-ish obsession with returning to my true home, and one would think my discontentment with my current location would give me something in common with Bella Swan. Contrary to this assumption, I cannot but resent her for living on the coast and yet longing for the desert. Worse still is that she is destined to stay in the climate she hates, and all for the love of the vampire. Given my family’s history, this idea is very scary and disturbing to me, as most of my mother’s side of the family (the side from whom I must have inherited my love of the temperate rainforest) have wound up staying in Alberta—a fate I fear more than anything—for the sake of love.
The Seduction of Jacob
Upon reading further, I came to realize that in this story about blood-crazed vampires, by far the scariest character is Bella Swan herself. I often find myself being frightened by her disturbed personality, for she comes across immediately as a borderline-sociopathic, manipulative, self-obsessed seductress. Although Meyer seemingly goes to great lengths to establish her protagonist as selfless and sympathetic, Bella constantly shows herself to be disturbingly self-absorbed, bordering at times on narcissism.
An especially disturbing example of one of her more unpleasant attributes is to be found when first she meets the werewolf Jacob Black; immediately upon perceiving his attraction to her, Bella decides to deliberately seduce him with the goal of extracting information about the Cullens, even expressing the hope that Jacob would be naïve enough where girls are concerned so that he might actually believe her flirtation to be genuine. Upon hearing of her success in this, Edward laughs, expressing a desire to have watched her seduce the boy. Indeed, at such times in the story thus far, she has reminded me eerily of The Woman from BBC’s Sherlock.
Bella and Edward: A Sickening Romance
Although it is somewhat puzzling that Bella should become so infatuated with Edward Cullen, he is—at least—a marginally more sympathetic character than she is. It is yet more baffling to me that he should have any interest in her, given her tendencies toward manipulation, condescension, and horrifyingly selfish—and yet somehow self-destructive—behaviour. Bella appears to regard others merely as inferior beings to be either exploited or scorned.
Make no mistake; their relationship is most certainly abusive, but there’s something particularly unsettling about Bella’s mind. Edward often comes across as a male chauvinist, but Bella seems somewhere between being a sociopath and a psychopath. Edward shows no distaste for Bella’s callous manipulation of others and even seems to find her cruelty amusing. While their relationship is repulsive, riddled with abuse on both sides, one can at least say that they are both so horrible as to deserve each other.
When Bella has to come up with an excuse to go back to Phoenix, she could easily have told her father that her mother needed her help moving furniture or something equally mundane. Instead, she seems intent on seeing just how deeply she can emotionally wound him, even going so far as to repeat the exact words her mother had used when leaving him. When one sadistic approach doesn’t work, she moves on to one that’s even crueler, flipping seamlessly between various forms of manipulation during her interactions with others.
In narration, Bella does occasionally express a small degree of remorse for her actions, but it seems to be motivated by her—or perhaps the author’s—desire to regard herself as sympathetic, and her cruelty simply goes on as normal. Often she appears more embarrassed than remorseful, often amazed with people’s willingness to trust her, and these feelings disappear whenever Edward reassures her of her seductive power.
Thus far, I am quite enjoying this book. Make no mistake, though—that isn’t because it’s good. Kristen Stewart’s portrayal, while laughable, is somewhat less unnerving than the sociopath in the book. In many ways the book is not as bad as the movies, but it seems somehow to boast even more enjoyability in its ineptitude.