And now for the post you’ve all been waiting for.
There is a term in literature for a character who has a perfect life and is a perfect person. When that character is female, the character is called a “Mary Sue”. Consider this description of Bella: she has loving parents who stereotypically don’t understand her, she’s incredibly smart and intelligent, everyone at school loves her, and she’s dating the boy of her dreams. There’s only one drawback: she’s clumsy (but only in gym and when she thinks about it). Despite all this, Bella hates her life, hates her school, and cries in her car after what I would have considered a rather successful (albeit awkward) first day of school. Her life is fine, but she seems to have some pent-up hate against it for some reason.
Compounding on this, though, is Steph’s poor skills at characterization. As I stated in part four of this review, traits must be shown, not told. We are told rather consistently that she’s smart, and shown once or twice, but her character seems to contradict that completely. I would expect an intelligent person to be less controlled by her emotions, and act more logically, or at least think things out. Instead, we get pages and pages on how beautiful Edward is, and how much he “dazzles” her.
I suppose, though, that one could argue that how quickly she figures out Edward’s not human points to her intelligence. And to some degree, it does. But only his demonstration of his super speed when he saves her from Tyler’s car. I know I would be questioning him about it as much as she would.
However, I wouldn’t come to the same conclusions as she does. Almost immediately, she guesses he’s some kind of Marvel superhero. It’s almost as if she wants him to be supernatural.
A word on urban fantasy. In this genre, the main character is thrust into some underground society of mythological figures. However, it usually takes a bit for the character to accept that what he/she has seen as fiction for most of his/her life really exists. For example Neo, from The Matrix, even after waking up in the real world and then being introduced to the Matrix, still has trouble handling reality. Percy, from Percy Jackson and the Olympians, doesn’t accept the existence of Greek myths until it’s all explained to him by Chiron and Dionysus – after he’s discovered his best friend has goat legs, his teacher turns into a fury, his other teacher gives him a ballpoint pen sword, and he kills a minotaur. In Harry Potter, Harry doesn’t accept that his parents are wizards and that he is too, until Hagrid zaps a pig tail on Dudley and explains Harry’s family history. I like to compare it to converting to a different religion, often because the worlds of urban fantasy so contrasts with the general understanding of how the world operates.
What about Bella, though? How much does it take her to accept that vampires exist? What does she encounter with the supernatural?
Well, just a super-fast movement from Edward (not very convincing), a ghost story involving the Cullens (mildly convincing), and some comments that might be stretched into creating a theory that Edward can read minds (not convincing). Hardly anything compared to Percy or Neo, or even Harry. At least these three see hard evidence for the supernatural world. It’s almost as if Bella wants there to be a supernatural world, since she’s so insistent on her “superpowers” theory after Edward saves her from the car wreck. Plus, I don’t know how she gets “vampire” from all this. The only thing pointing to a classic vampire is Jacob’s story. And, of course, I don’t know how she even theorizes that Edward can read minds.
A word on character flaws. Clumsiness is a poor excuse for a character flaw. First of all, it’s rather cliché. Second, it has absolutely no relevance to the plot. Consider Harry Potter: he’s rather mediocre, but this allows his strengths – his friends and his unique talents – to shine. Percy Jackson is impulsive and not very scholarly, and this gets him in trouble. Or, since Twilight is a romance novel, think about Lizzy Bennet. Her prejudice is what keeps her from finding love in Mr. Darcy. Emma’s folly as a matchmaker causes most of the conflict in her story. And that’s really the difference between these memorable characters and Bella. Their flaws help define them, and affect the movement of the plot. That’s just not true with Bella.
What I think her real character flaw is, is the control her emotions have over her behavior, even more than Edward. At least his love for Bella makes him try to be a better person. Bella goes from hating cloudy days because she prefers the sunlight reminiscent of Forks, to loving cloudy days because it means she can be with Edward. And then her favorite color becomes dependent on the color of his eyes.
Speaking of eye color, Bella keeps track for weeks and weeks on Edward’s. Now, I understand that it would be natural to be suspicious of someone because they have an odd eye color (as in this case), but I once tried to keep track of my friend’s eye color, and I only succeeded for three or four days. Perhaps I had too much else on my mind, unlike Bella, who seems only to have Edward on hers.
Sometimes, Bella’s emotions make her downright dangerous. Especially to herself. As I mentioned in part two of this review, she takes off a neck brace after the car accident. Later, when she’s tired, she takes cold medicine in order to fall asleep. Yes – instead of doing what she did last time (heavy metal slamming into her ears), or trying something safer, she takes unnecessary drugs to make her fall asleep. I’m surprised the overdose didn’t kill her. (Granted, this could just be liquid medicine, but even so, that sets an awful precedent).
Bella also seems to have a problem when dealing with people. You want to know how Jacob Black even enters the love triangle? Because Bella flirts with him in order to get him to tell her a local ghost story, about how his grandfather made a treaty with the Cullens. While packing to run to Phoenix, she concocts the perfect plan to get Charlie to “let her go”: tell him she hates his guts. She even uses Renee’s parting words. What a low blow. Has she considered telling him the truth? And if that’s not possible, why not just announce she’ll be gone? Perhaps on a camping trip with the Cullens. It just annoys me that Bella parts with Charlie in the most hurtful way possible. I bet he cried afterward.
But it wasn’t until Bella was lying in the hospital for the second time that I realized the awful truth: neither Bella or Edward learned a single thing, or grew at all, over the course of the novel. This is a problem, because there was quite a bit of room for growth. Bella is still too pretentious to think she needs to be in the hospital, and Edward wants to leave Bella to protect her, still. I know that this is the first part of a series, but that doesn’t excuse the lack of growth. Katniss Everdeen suffers from PTSD following the first game, and develops a reluctant relationship with Peeta. Harry Potter obtains the Philosopher’s Stone and learns the value of friendship, courage, and love. Percy Jackson becomes a confident, hardened warrior. Lizzy Bennet abandons her prejudice and finds she can love the humbled Mr. Darcy. Bella Swan … finds out she really does like Forks?
So that’s Twilight. I’m supposed to get to the rest of the series, but I’ve realized I have about 1,500 pages to go, and the first 500 in Twilight were rather difficult to slog through. So don’t expect anything soon. In the meantime, I’ll be putting up plenty of short fiction, so please stop by and enjoy it.