Whew! More posts! I was worried there for a bit that I’d killed the thread
Knives. Being a former agnostic and big fan of Sci-Fi, I completely get the “all sentient life is equal” view. The argument made in Twilight, and also in a not insignificant amount of Sci-Fi work is that sentient life with a moral/ethical foundation is, in many regards, a “higher” form of life than those without and that respect for the sanctity of life of fellow sentient beings is viewed as a prime example of this moral foundation. While Ender defeated the Buggers, his realization of their sentience combined with his inherent morality resulted in his self-imposed “exile” as told in the books that follow Ender’s Game. Star Trek’s Prime Directive has this as a foundational principal as well.
In Twilight, the “typical” vampire is portrayed as certainly sentient, but lacking that moral/ethical foundation as illustrated by their disregard for the sentience of humans. To them, humans are considered as typical humans consider sheep, cows, or pigs.
Stephenie Meyer uses the Cullen’s as the bridge between the two species, in effect, granting them a higher form of sentience through their respect for the sanctity of human life, effectively recognition of human sentience and moral equality. A similar treatment was done in SG-Atlantis (albeit poorly done), when Michael was created as a Wraith-Human hybrid; there are in fact many parallels between the Wraith and Meyer’s vampires – sentient life without the moral foundation to respect other sentient life.
So, part of what Meyer is trying to portray in Twilight, admittedly with strong religious overtones, is that the typical vampire is a lesser form of life than humans because they lack that moral foundation and respect for the sanctity of life of a fellow sentient species. The Cullens are shown as both a contrast and to show the potentially higher form of life that Vampires could, and arguably should, aspire to be. Whether taken as a religious, moralistic, humanistic, or scientific argument, the argument is that the highest form of sentient life is one in which other sentient life is respected.
Jazz Girl. I completely agree with you; Bella’s decision was NOT about life vs. death, but between life in two separate forms. One argument, Edward’s argument, was that the vampire form was inferior, that it lacked the moral and ethical foundation that humans have and spiritually, that it was a spiritual dead-end, with no possibility of a positive after-life, if any after-life at all. Bella believed/believes that vampires have equal potential to humans and are merely another form of life.
I do, however, have to respectfully disagree on your view of Bella’s decision and how SM handled it. My only personal “beef” is that she was allowed to “have her cake and eat it, too”, that she was allowed to have the best of both forms, bear a child and still gain the benefits of “vampirehood”, that in the end, she had to make no sacrifices. i.e., it was too well wrapped up and not tragic enough, especially when you throw the Jacob-Nessie relationship in there – a very happy and emotional ending, makes us all feel good but in “real life” things never work out THAT well
I don’t see Bella’s choice being taken away at all, nor any slight on the Cullens. She made the choice to become a vampire and then that decision was overridden by the decision to risk her … existence, to save the life of her child. Had she not, it would not have been consistent with who Bella was (and certainly not with who SM is), but I don’t see it as cheapening the Cullens at all. Looking back, knowing Renesmee as they do, none of them would question her decision after-the-fact, even if Bella had not survived to make the change. They had feared the fetus would grow into something without morals and ethics, something that was representative of the worst aspects of “vampirehood”. Had they known from the beginning of the outcome in that regard, none of them, not even Edward, would have begrudged Bella the right to risk her life to bring that life into the world. As they view “sentience”, as in sentient life with that moral foundation, they wouldn’t have been able to condone ending an innocent sentient life to save another, not and still be who they are.