As you’ve probably guessed if you’ve ever thought about it, the silent “p” in “psychopath” isn’t there just to confuse; the Ancient Greek letter “ψ” (called Ψι) represents the sound /ps/, which is used in the word “ψυχή,” which meant “soul” and was pronounced /pʰsyː.kʰɛ᷄ː/. “Psychopath” is derived from “ψυχή” and “πάθος” (suffering), and like many greek loanwords, the latin alphabet renders “ψ” as “ps.” I assume since /ps/ isn’t an especially easy way for non-greeks to begin a word, it therefore became just /s/ in other languages.
Vampires and Psychopaths
Moving on from that tidbit of etymology, let’s get to the point of this article: Bella Swan. The first time I delved into the horrifying psychology of Stephanie Meyer’s vampire-mad Mary-Sue, I argued that Bella is, in fact, a sociopath. In this follow-up article, I will explore the possibility that she is actually a psychopath, which seems more likely the more I examine her character.
Mary Sue, Coward, and Psychopath?
“But,” you might be thinking, “if she’s a Mary Sue, doesn’t that mean she’s perfect?” Well, no. In fact, many mary-sues are psychopaths and/or sociopaths. This can be attributed to the fact that their worlds revolve around them, giving them the freedom to be as selfish as they want, particularly because nobody matters but the mary-sue herself. Furthermore, because the world around a Mary-Sue isn’t powerful enough to pose any real threat, they cannot experience fear as a normal person would, a defect often attributed to the character’s “bravery.” Their so-called “perfection” is, in many cases, just another sign of their dangerous mental instability as we shall see.
The Signs of a Psychopath
Impaired Ability to Experience Fear
Let us first examine Bella’s reaction to the vampires, for this is one of the major signs that she may be a bit beyond being a sociopath. We would expect someone to be afraid of something that could kill you in a second, would we not? Not good old Bella, however! In addition to feeling very few emotions in general, there is one emotion that she seems never to experience: fear. Even with a vampire boyfriend who watches her sleep and constantly expresses a desire to kill her, Bella remains calm and unafraid. The only thing that ever seems to frighten Bella is the prospect of not getting exactly what she wants at any given time. This inability to experience fear and other negative emotional responses to one’s environment is a common trait in psychopaths. Indeed, one might be tempted to think that Bella’s claiming to “trust” edward may be due to the fact that he is yet more foolish in trusting her.
Reckless behaviour (particularly driving unsafely) is obvious; she specifically goes out of her way to put herself in dangerous situations because it gives her psychotic visions of Edward. She even jumps off a cliff at one point!
As a “Newborn” Vampire
I doubt many would disagree that the scene where Bella, having just become a vampire, goes on her first hunt is a very Mary-Sue-ish sequence; unlike every other “newborn” vampire ever, Bella easily resists the urge to feed on a human on her very first try. This seeming hyper-competence is obviously due to her being a Mary-Sue, but when taken in context, it appears that Bella has quite a bit of control over her own instincts despite making such bad decisions.
In typical psychopath fashion, she doesn’t seem to feel emotion in the same way as a non-psychopath, and so she is able to wield greater control over her actions. In typical Mary-Sue fashion, she is able to do many things perfectly on the first try. This is yet another way in which the roles of Mary-Sue and Psychopath go hand-in-hand.
Granted, Bella has absolutely no likeable qualities. To anyone in the real world, she has less charm about her than almost any character in fiction. Nonetheless, Bella Swan is beloved of everyone who meets her. The moment she arrives at a new school, everyone flocks to her, desperate to be her friend. Most of the reclusive, blood-sucking Cullens like her immediately. Jacob Black, and later his entire tribe, instantly love and trust her. Clearly she must have some degree of superficial charm—something common to psychopaths—and she uses this to get exactly what she wants at every turn. She also exudes a sometimes-subtle air of superiority and haughtiness and is able to enter people’s lives with terrifying ease, both traits of a psychopath.
Machiavellian and Manipulative
Couple this with Bella’s callous manipulation of others, from her schoolmates to Jacob and even to her own father. She seems very often to relish psychologically torturing people. Unlike a normal person, who would likely be adept at only one or two forms of manipulation if any, Bella dances from one way of getting what she wants to another with almost no effort. When she’s not tormenting or seducing others, Bella is just annoyed by those around her. Throughout the story, she derives self-esteem from this manipulation. Any remorse she shows (or pretends to show) after hurting another person is short-lived, and she returns to thinking only of herself.
The most obvious example is when Bella tricks Jacob into helping her repair some motorbikes and thinking that she has some interest in him. Of course, instead of genuine friendship, Bella wants nothing more than to put herself in danger so as to make herself hallucinate. Whether it’s with Edward or Jacob, Bella’s lifestyle is quite parasitic, taking advantage of others. This sort of manipulation is yet more evidence that Bella is a psychopath.
Unable to Form Meaningful Bonds
At no point do we learn anything of Bella’s life in Phoenix. We are given no indication that she had any friends, and certainly none for whom she cared enough to stay. All we see of her interactions with others takes place in Forks, where she treats her swiftly acquired circle of friends with a combination of hostility, callousness, and deceit. Even when it comes to her parents, Bella has no scruples about faking her own death and putting them through one of the worst conceivable traumas just so she can shag a vampire with no personality. I can think of no point in the story where she is ever shown to regret any of her clearly piss-poor decisions.
The Final Conflict (or not)
It’s this part that not only shows Bella to be a sociopath, but also confirms once and for all that the whole bloody series is a waste of thought. Firstly, we have Bree Tanner, a “newborn” vampire who surrenders in the battle at the end of Eclipse. She is granted asylum and supposed protection by Carlisle Cullen, who promptly steps aside when the “vampire royalty” decide to kill her. Carlisle is apparently “deeply saddened by her death”; so when does this become important to character motivations and the “greater plot” of the series? Never! She has no importance except to show that the Cullens are dishonourable and entirely useless.
Doesn’t Care About Right and Wrong
Let’s skip to the anticlimax of Breaking Dawn, where it seems like a battle’s brewing. A vampire called Vladimir hopes to destroy the Volturi, and we are made to think that something of substance is finally going to happen in this pathetic excuse for a story. The Volturi have done nothing but evil for four tedious books, and by all respectable accounts, they need to go down! Their destruction would make the world a better place for everyone, and what do Bella and her pathetic friends and family do? Talk it out so everything returns to normal!
We Are Talking About the Greater Good!
Just imagine if the negotiations at Morannon had ended that way! Imagine if Aragorn kept talking with the Mouth of Sauron and eventually decided, “Well, you can keep slaughtering the free peoples, but Gondor will make a peace treaty with you till you’re done with everyone else; then you can wipe us out!” and then the battle never happened and everyone just went back to their normal lives. The story would’ve had no payoff, Frodo and Sam would’ve died on the slopes of Orodruin, and Sauron would have succeeded in every possible way. Aragorn would have come across as a coward, as would everyone else for following him. Rather than a final, desperate battle like the Battle of the Morannon, Stephanie Meyer gives us nothing more than an infuriating cop-out.
Worse still is that unlike the forces of Mordor, who at least attempt to convince Aragorn that they’ve the hobbits for hostages, the Volturi do no such thing; indeed, there is quite a good chance that the Cullens and their allies would have won. The only downside to fighting would have been the casualties you’d suffer in any battle. The world, however, would’ve been better for it. Bella and her companions are all pathetic cowards who care for none but themselves! They’ve seen what their enemies can and will do if they are allowed to exist, but all that matters to our “heroes” is their own comfort; everyone else be damned! We even end the story with Bella reflecting on how bloody perfect her life is. Bree and those like her? Screw ‘em!
But you know what’s really scary?
To conclude, I think that Bella Swan is most likely both a psychopath and a sociopath. There’s even a good chance, given her hallucinations and detachment from reality, that she’s also psychotic. This has got to be one of the most unpleasant characters I’ve ever encountered. She doesn’t care about anyone else, she manipulates and abuses those around her, and concepts like right and wrong mean absolutely nothing to her. Indeed, she takes pleasure in all of this. It’d be a difficult question as to why Edward and Jacob are so smitten, and everyone else too, were it not clear that they’re all bloody horrible people! And do you know what the scariest part is?
Stephanie Meyer intended Bella to be a good role-model for teenage girls! Readers are meant to admire this psychopathic woman, and Meyer actually seems to think that the world would be better if girls were more like this piece of concentrated evil. Selflessness and valour in the face of a great evil force are apparently worthless, and one should embody Bella’s cowardice coupled with her disregard for others’ lives and even her own. It doesn’t matter how many lives you ruin or destroy so long as you don’t shag till you’ve signed a stinking marriage contract!
In Conclusion… Go Ahead and Laugh Your Ass Off!
The morals in these stories are so unbelievably messed up that I can’t believe anyone could take Meyer seriously. The characters, narration, dialogue, “plot,” and conclusion are all terrible. Had Bella been written intentionally as a manipulative psychopath, she could have served as a great villain, but she’s intended as a “good” role-model for the series’ target audience. If you want a good story with even the slightest degree of tension, payoff, investment, or skill, then you’d do well to give anything by Stephanie Meyer a wide berth. The only reason anyone should read these books or watch these movies is because of how bad they are; for those of the proper temperament, The Twilight Saga is a perfect so-bad-it’s-good piece of work. If that’s your thing, you’ll laugh more at this twaddle than you’d have thought possible.