Wednesday, April 8, 2009

And finally...

Spoiler Warning: The following entry may contain spoilers for all books in the Twilight Saga, including Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn. If you have not read this series run, do not walk to your nearest bookstore or library and sign up to get them because in all likelihood the books will be on back order or on a waiting list.

Now, I have enjoyed reading this series as much as the next person, and there is a great deal to like about the story. It has a strong and well written female lead character, a well rounded cast so to speak, plenty of dramatic tension and surprising plot twists. I must admit I have not been so riveted by a series since Stephen King's Dark Tower series. That being said there are some quite disturbing elements to this particular set of books, and I don't mean all the vampires and killing and such. The first book seems fairly straight forward: girl meets vampire, girl loves vampire, yadda yadda yadda. But even so I began to detect a few tendencies towards something deeper. I could not help but notice that most of the main vampires became so at the brink of death and were turned for the sake of saving their lives. What I found interesting was the pattern of having to be in a death like stupor for three days and then emerging as a new and reborn creature. Hm. Who else in history was dead for three days and came back all shiny-like? Related to this the vampires also have intentionally chosen a life against their nature in that they have committed themselves not to harm or take the life of any human. So even though they are constantly craving human blood, they sustain themselves on large wildlife like mountain lions and elk and what not. I found it mildly amusing that they also choose to live in areas with animal population control problems, so they don't mess up the eco system. So not only are they good vampires, they are eco friendly environmentally conscious vampires. He he. I digress. But the lifestyle choice seemed to be a parallel to persons of faith, who are choosing to deny their human or "sinful" nature and strive to be a better, more enlightened person. It is later revealed that this lifestyle choice permits the vampire family to create stronger relationship ties being more like a family than other groups of vampires. I also couldn't help but notice that the main character, an ordinary girl with a tendency towards clumsiness, has the name of Bella Swan, Bella being the Italian word for "beautiful". As the books progressed I did begin to see a bit of an 'ugly duckling' parallel in the arc of the overall story. I am curious to compare the meanings of the other names involved, specifically Edward Cullen and Jacob Black.

What disturbed me specifically about the first book, and became more apparent in the following books, was the tendency for Edward to be so very protective towards Bella. At the begining he wants nothing more than to stay away from her for the sake of saving her life. He seems to be over come with a pesky desire to kill her whenever she is around. Then out of the blue for some reason he decides then that he is in love with her, touching again on the theme of denying ones baser desires. As the story progresses, Edward exhibits behavior which would be nearly criminal in real life to the point of following Bella to another town when she goes shopping with some girlfriends. This of course is revealed when he swoops in to rescue her from a random group of thugs. His protectiveness teeters between sweet and cloying as the story continues. In later books he actually puts down an edict that she cannot be friends with certain people because they might be a danger to her, since they are werewolves and all. This coming from the vampire who is constantly struggling not to kill her. In one case, when Edward is out of town on a 'hunting trip' he even goes so far as to pay off his sister to kidnap Bella for a girls night sleepover, to prevent her from visiting said friends. All of this behavior is painted in such a way as to be a reflection of the great concern he has for her safety and evidence of how much he loves her. His affection for Bella is used as a way to justify the possessiveness and authoritative manner that he perpetually exhibits. Though, to the credit of Stephanie Meyer, Bella does stand up to Edward's behavior to the extent that she is able, but the result is usually that she is won over by his crooked smile, his smoldering gaze, and vampiric charm, which is described ad nauseum.

There are quite a few redeeming qualities in the story as a whole, and many points that I have been curious about for a while regarding vampire lore. For example, the question of what happens to a vampire's soul or what happens if they decide to try to live as a good vampire as the characters in this book do. I have been surprised that no writer has addressed these issues so far. (To answer my mother's inevitable question "Because I don't have time,"). Stephanie Meyer's take on the vampire legends is certainly unique. It is unfortunate to me at least that the characters have these questionable qualities, and I wonder now what effect the actions of the characters are having on the young female teen readership of these books. I heavily encourage parents of young girls (and boys for that matter) to read these books if your children are and be aware enough to discuss the actions with your children. My own daughter is only two but I am already hyper aware of societies brainwashing into what behavior she is supposed to exhibit. But that is fodder for a post on a different day... and I will continue my review of the Twilight Saga as well.

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