The book Twilight by Stephenie Meyer has been talked about a lot among my friends lately and seems to be making its way through our society. The book has made #1 on the NY Times Best Seller list (even though it isn’t on that list now) and two movies have been produced that are based on the first two books of the series (Twilight and New Moon).
I had intended to hold off on reading Twilight until I could find it in a used book store. There is a certain aversion to supporting something that is controversial until I know more about it. Well, someone bought me the first three books because they had enjoyed the series immensely. The fourth is still available only as a hard-cover book and that would not look right next to the other three.
With a three day long train ride, I read the first book of the series.
The voice of the opening chapter or two reminded me of Dick Tracy except with a lot of teenage drama involved. It did not make me miss highschool, but then that was the authors intent. The main character of the plot, Bella (short for Isabella), is bored with school. She was one of the more advanced students in the Phoenix area that moved to a small town in the state of Washington.
Having lived in large cities and small towns, I think her melodramatics were very overdone. Perhaps that is simply my opinion.
In that small town lives a family of “vegetarian” (animal-only) vampires and within a couple months one of them, named Edward, and Bella have fallen in love with each other.
This is the part of the story that most of the reviewers have problems with. The family of vampires is viewed as heroes, with special emphasis on Edward. He is described repeatedly as having an angelic appearance to Bella.
What I find odd is that the front cover of the book sports an apple held in two hands. There is no doubt that this is intended as a reference to the fall of mankind in Genesis 2. Immediately after the table of contents is a quote of Genesis 2:17. It is even the King James Version.
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Nevermind that it probably wasn’t an apple (that idea is derived from Song of Solomon 2:3). That fatal decision in the garden is the intended message of the book, that this is a forbidden thing (drinking blood is—whether from humans or animals). After she learned about Edward’s family, Bella never had a doubt that she wanted to be with him and to become a vampire.
Edward himself, at least in the first book, plays a contradictory role in this. He refuses to allow Bella to become a vampire because it disrupts the natural order of life. He dislikes who he is and at one point tells how he did hunt humans for a time—those who were committing atrocities in back alleys. He stopped when he realized that there was still a moral penalty on those who killed humans. He was partially right about that.
I am told that Edward does not believe vampires have souls but that must come from a later book. He does bring up a question over whether God may have created vampires. Then he mentions that evolution might have created him. If it were evolution, what moral obligation does he have to not kill humans and drink their blood? What could a soul possibly matter if there is no God to create a heaven?
One of the female vampires can see the future. We are told that if she had been born in another century that she would have been burned for this. The implication is that it is also something natural.
For that matter, we are told that Doctor Carlisle Cullen is the one who turned each of his family members into vampires to save them from death’s door. He did this because he was lonely as one of the few who did not prey on humans. There is no mention of the moral beliefs before they were “turned.” In other words, at the end of the first book in this series, it seems that he has let his loneliness override his desire to protect people from the power-hungry.
The author does keep to some of the traditional elements of vampires. They have no heart beat. They can go without breathing for indefinite periods of time. Their speed and agility is unmatched.
Oddly, the “father” of the family is a medical doctor. He ought to know that what is being described is medically impossible. The cells have to regenerate. That pushes this into a supernatural sphere.
The ability to stop breathing bothers Edward only because he can’t smell when he doesn’t breathe. At the same time we are told that the scent of Bella makes him want to feed on her. His struggle to overcome this does take up a fair amount of space in the book. Why doesn’t he simply stop breathing around her?
Bella is a klutz. She tells this to everyone. But she thinks she can be a good vampire with super-human reflexes. She’s smart, I’ve got to hand it to her.
With our dating culture, there is a promotion of the idea that others cannot understand what the couple in a relationship are experiencing. That view is very present in this book, and the main character is given an excuse for it. Nobody else is dating a vampire. I have to wonder if this form of escapism isn’t a large part of the reason the books are as popular as they are.
In my opinion, the age difference is not adequately addressed either. At nearly a hundred years old, Edward is supposed to be enamored with the teenage melodrama of a 17-year-old in her first crush—on him. Yes, I’m being harsh. For simplicity in math, let’s make the age difference 1:5 (20:100). Suppose Bella were to fall in love with someone who is 3 1/2 years old (17/5). Perhaps the difference isn’t quite that large, but there are some major mental differences that would have to be overcome. None of those are mentioned.
Edward and Bella have a lot more touching and feeling than is wise. That is another big complaint among conservative reviewers. The book is about as modest as a bikini in some areas. It could stand some improvement. With that said, the movie has the actors making out while the girl is in her panties (she is wearing a shirt still).
The book is illogical and has some philosophical problems but, all in all, I don’t think that it is much worse than the next book out there. After this book, I read The Golden Compass, which bothered me more.
Stephanie Meyer created the controversy she wanted by referencing the Bible and then refusing to commit between it and popular secular ideas. I don’t advocate playing into her hands but I also don’t think reading her books is a sin.