The Twilight Review, Part 4

Characterization!

Most of my grievances with Twilight lie in the area of characterization. Which is why I’m splitting this section up into segments. In the first, I’ll discuss Steph’s characterization in general. Introduce some of the more minor characters you’ve never heard of, and probably never will. Wednesday will be all about Bella, followed by Edward on Friday.

A word on character development: show, don’t tell, and show early. If, for example, we’re told a character may be an artist, that’s something we need to learn soon after she’s introduced, rather than a couple of chapters before the climax. Seriously, I don’t know how good of an artist Alice is. I’d expect her to be talented, if Bella can recognize a scene from her visions, but that’s only an assumption. Maybe Alice is just adequate, or bad. But show us early!

This is the unfortunate trend with the entire Cullen clan, though. None of them are significantly characterized until at least chapter fifteen, and even then Emmett and Rosalie are relegated to stereotypical jovial jock and jealous beauty queen, respectively. And the Cullens are the most important characters in the series!

Speaking of the Cullens, despite the fact I kinda like Carlisle, I have a serious issue with him. Specifically, his propensity to disregard free will. He turns people into vampires without consideration for what they really want. Consider Esme, who was killed through suicide. Do you really think she’d want to come back, even as an overpowered vampmeyer? Please, Carlisle, let them choose whether to die or to become a monster.

At the beginning of the novel, Meyer introduced three characters: Bella, her mother Renee, and her father Charlie. I found I liked Bella’s parents much more than I liked Bella. Part of this might be due to the presentation of the characters. Almost from the beginning of the story, Bella is complaining about Forks. I think the only time she displays positive emotion is when she is comforting her mother in the airport, and when she thanks her dad for getting her a truck. Meanwhile, Renee is presented as a mother bird who wants to keep a close eye on her chick, and Charlie is presented as a poor, lonely man excited to have his long-lost daughter come to live with him.

However, by chapter two, most of this positive representation evaporates when Steph depicts an angry email from Bella’s mom, revealing a terribly overprotective side to the character.

Charlie’s character took a similar turn for the worse. Apparently, after sixteen years of living by himself, the only thing he can took is bacon and eggs. So, naturally, Bella begins cooking. And apparently, she’s a great cook, which leads to an odd arrangement between the two of them: Bella cooks the meals and buys the food and washes the dishes. In other words, she acts as a housewife.

By page 12, Bella arrives for her first day of school. Here, we are introduced to fifteen new characters. Don’t worry, though, only eleven will be mentioned by name at a later point, only nine play some part in the plot, and seven are the Cullens. All in all, that’s a total of eighteen characters introduced over the course of the chapter. I think the only book I’ve heard of that could beat that number might be Game of Thrones.

In fact, most of the characters in the novel are rather gratuitous. Consider the car wreck scene. Initially, Steph introduces us to three students: Mike, Eric, and Jessica. However, who is the one to nearly kill Bella? Tyler. Who had no previous characterization or introduction, and surprises us even more than his uncontrollable car. Additionally, Eric fades to nothing soon afterward, and Mike and Jessica are relegated to a sub subplot.

Even worse, Steph tries to show us other characters from Bella’s school, who have little more characterization than Tyler or Eric. Angela is a tall, quiet, nerdy girl who seems only to exist in the book to make Bella look compassionate. Lauren exists only to antagonize Bella when the guy she likes, Eric, falls for Bella. Fortunately, by chapter thirteen, most of these characters have faded to nothing, and receive a brief note in passing in the epilogue. I guess my biggest question about them is why Steph bothered to include them in the first place.

I think though, that all this leaves out room for characterizing the really important people in the novel, namely, the Cullens. As I mentioned, Emmett, Rosalie, and even Esme are relegated to stereotypes; Carlisle isn’t characterized much, except as the wise leader of the group; Jasper just sits around quietly and wanders around with Alice. Alice is the only other Cullen to have a personality, besides Edward. I actually kind of like her – because she’s realistic, and rather bubbly.

And then, of course, there’s the bad vampmeyers. Laurent (the “olive-skinned one”, which apparently means he’s black), turns out not to be so evil. Victoria is only described as feral. It’s a good thing that James’s characterization makes up for the lack of it in the other two (that seems to be a thing with vampmeyer groups). He actually seems smart, with his strategy to get Bella. However, he’s described as physically “normal”, which seems to once again contradict the idea of the vampire (see part one of this review).

Largely, all these characters seem only to exist to complement the main characters. At least they are heavily characterized. However, I don’t know if you’d necessarily like them once you get to know them…

Part 5 here.

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2 thoughts on “The Twilight Review, Part 4

  1. Rob says:

    If you were to describe the main characters and their purpose within the context of the story, could you then re-imagine the story without all the ‘gratuitous’ characters and still have a meaningful tale?

    • I believe so. Granted, I believe you’d need some additional characters outside Bella’s family and the Cullens, but they need to have some kind of purpose throughout the entire plot – like Jacob.

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