Ambivalences

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Re: Ambivalences

Postby Jazz Girl » Tue Jul 05, 2011 9:34 pm

Tornado wrote:I would be interested in knowing the Mormon position on this suicides in hell is, actually, as it would be the most telling point, as it would reveal what SM's viewpoint was, which likely leaked over into this scene. If Mormons do believe that people who suicide automatically go to hell then Edward's belief that Bella is in hell would probably be significant. If not, then I think it was more just his assumption that, if he went anywhere when he died, it would have to be hell.


Honestly, what did we do before we had all of these handy little resources at our fingertips? A very interesting question, indeed. Through the miracle of the magic Google box...

MormonWoman.org wrote:First, in this article, Elder M. Russell Ballard (a current member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) shares quotes and thoughts that help explore this question further. He says:

I feel that judgement for sin is not always as cut-and-dried as some of us seem to think…. I feel the Lord recognized differences in intent and circumstances: Was the person who took his life mentally ill? Was he or she so deeply depressed as to be unbalanced or otherwise emotionally disturbed? Was the suicide a tragic, pitiful call for help that went unheeded too long or progressed faster than the victim intended? Did he or she somehow not understand the seriousness of the act? Was he or she suffering from a chemical imbalance in their system that led to despair and a loss of self-control?

Obviously, we do not know the full circumstances surrounding every suicide. Only the Lord knows all the details, and he it is who will judge our actions here on earth.

When he does judge us, I feel he will take all things into consideration: our genetic and chemical makeup, our mental state, our intellectual capacity, the teachings we have received, the traditions of our fathers, our health, and so forth….Suicide is a sin—a very grievous one, yet the Lord will not judge the person who commits that sin strictly by the act itself. The Lord will look at that person’s circumstances and the degree of his accountability at the time of the act.


While I did not, in my limited and quick research, find a specific post that stated, "The Church of JC of LDS feels X about suicide...", this website is officially recognized as a learned resource by church leadership. It's validity is yours to judge. It does make the current debate very interesting in light of the stated position that there is, in fact, no black and white delineation of suicide within the church. Raised a "cafeteria Catholic" myself, the idea that Edward might have feared for Bella's sould based upon the consequences of what he might have seen as a suicide never really occurred to me. But, it is certainly a possibility, depending on Edward's learnings of religion. There's really no way to truly know, is there? But, all other arguments aside, many Judeo-Christian religions do see suicide as a sin. The consequences vary, but there is at least a general belief that delineates suicide as taking human life, which is frowned upon. So, it is a valid argument. Interesting.


Tornado wrote: I think that just shows that Bella never believed for a moment that Edward was a monster, and that he had lost his soul.


I think this is what Cullenists refer to as gospel truth. ;)
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Re: Ambivalences

Postby Tornado » Tue Jul 05, 2011 10:18 pm

Okay, I'm about to get REALLY technical about the Christian faith. And this is just a lot of musing here, not really trying to make a point, even with myself. You have been warned ...

Christians definitely believe that suicide is a sin, no doubt about that. The difference comes when you consider that everyone is a sinner anyway, so does committing suicide mean that hell is inevitable? The extreme fundamentalist viewpoint would suggest this, as, since it's the last thing a person does, then they have no time to repent of it (repentance being necessary for salvation). However, the same could be said for any number of things regarded as a sin. If a Christian is walking down the street, thinking how much they hate someone (which is a sin), and they get run over by a bus, does that mean they go to hell because they didn't get to repent before they died? Christians are told to constantly examine themselves and confess anything that they think they have done wrong. If they don't get in in time before they die, does that mean that hell results?

People sin constantly, all the time. That's why none of us deserves to go to heaven. That's why Christians believe that we need Jesus to save us. And when he does, he cancels out every sin, not just that we have already committed, but that we will commit in the future, so that none of them are held against us. Now, this doesn't mean that Christians have a license to do whatever they like after they have sought forgiveness, although some people conveniently forget that. God knows those who are serious about following him, and he knows that those people will do their best to do what is right.

So even when they commit sins and don't get time to repent of the individual sins before they die, these sins will still be forgiven. This would include suicide.

From what you've quoted, Jazz Girl, (why didn't I think of googling it?) it seems that this is the LDS position, too. But I really think it's reading a little too much into it to think that this was what made Edward think Bella was in hell with him when she found him in Italy. The spirituality in the books doesn't get that technical.
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Re: Ambivalences

Postby smitten_by_twilight » Sun Jul 10, 2011 10:36 pm

Tornado wrote:
smitten_by_twilight wrote:This implies that when Bella chooses to become a vampire, she is literally choosing death - she will be leaving life-as-we-know-it. She will become a member of a species that is parasitic on this planet, and inevitably lose everything that was a part of her old life. She will lose it permanently, for an eternity that she literally cannot fully comprehend as a human. This is what she commits to, and what Edward does not want for her. I don't think he ever wanted it for her, but I'm going to get to that slowly.

Dead in the biological sense, yes. But in the spiritual? Perhaps not.

No, I don't think she would be dead in the spiritual sense, but I think Edward had strong questions about this. Also choosing to be a vampire seems morally questionable at best, when you want your love to not end up in Hell ... and we know how overprotective, overcautious Edward is. :D He tends to avoid the slightest risk to Bella - I'm sure sometimes he's thought about just wrapping her up in bubble wrap.

Tornado wrote:
smitten_by_twilight wrote:Not personally attached to the term "false idol," but yes, I think that he at least still thought that her soul would be at risk if she deliberately lost her human life only because she wanted to become a vampire. I hope that you can see my statements as fleshing out my own thoughts, rather than arguing. Much has been made of Edward's comments when Bella runs into him in Volterra (and of course, the movie either confused you if you saw it first like me, or I'm sure enraged you if you already knew the books). "Carlisle was right.... So maybe this is hell. I don't care. I'll take it."

You know, I hadn't even noticed that before. Yes, I guess it is a little at odds that Edward says, "Heaven" in the movie. Does he really believe that's where they are? I would really like to know if SM approved of that line, or if it was added on location.

It is odd, isn't it? It took me a while to notice, and I was pretty upset, because it really changes it substantially. How I interpreted it was (a) he has a soul after all, (b) because his throat is still on fire from her scent, and he still lusts for her blood, which is the part where I wrote dot-dot-dot, he thinks it must be Hell, and it's kind of a side note that Bella would be in Hell because she committed suicide, and (c) the moviemakers inserted this line as a speedy way of summing both Edward's reaction to meeting Bella again, and Bella's line which I think is in her bedroom with Edward at the end of NM, where she says something along the lines of "Not that it matters. If I have you, I don't need heaven." (This might have been Eclipse.) See how Bella is willing to gamble on Heaven, as long as she gets Edward, and Edward is only willing to risk her soul through vampirism because he sees the greater harm of either suicide or lifelong misery if he doesn't? Also, she deliberately trapped him with that vote at the end of NM, really taking the decision out of his hands.
Jazz Girl wrote:Honestly, what did we do before we had all of these handy little resources at our fingertips?

JG, you're a genius! (I remember what we did - we struggled, guessed, went to the library, or did without.) I actually did do a lot of Internet research - did you that the last name Masen can be attributed to people of English, French, Italian, and possibly Norwegian backgrounds? Thus giving me almost no clue as to Edward's human family's religious background. Anyway ... thank you for looking up current LDS thinking on the topic. Although the current perspective is more tolerant, it does seem to suggest that there is a history of thinking that the morality of suicide is more cut-and-dried, as Elder Ballard put it. Maybe Bella is SM's way of introducing modern, forgiving, loving spirituality to Edward, and bringing him to a more optimistic place.
Tornado wrote:Christians are told to constantly examine themselves and confess anything that they think they have done wrong. If they don't get in in time before they die, does that mean that hell results?

Conservatively, yes. (Purgatory for conservative Catholics.) I think this is where Edward starts off. Remember, he believed that he lost his soul because he was turned into a vampire - he didn't even do anything. Well, until the murders. But he clearly believed that he was soulless just by virtue (odd context for that word to pop up in) of being a vampire.
Tornado wrote:People sin constantly, all the time. That's why none of us deserves to go to heaven. That's why Christians believe that we need Jesus to save us. And when he does, he cancels out every sin, not just that we have already committed, but that we will commit in the future, so that none of them are held against us. Now, this doesn't mean that Christians have a license to do whatever they like after they have sought forgiveness, although some people conveniently forget that. God knows those who are serious about following him, and he knows that those people will do their best to do what is right.

So even when they commit sins and don't get time to repent of the individual sins before they die, these sins will still be forgiven. This would include suicide.

The modern perspective, although I think Carlisle is a good representative for this, thinking that they might get some credit for trying, although that's not why he's good. See? He is good because he believes that is the best way to be, aware that he will sin sometimes (although he at least avoids murder), and hoping as a sideline that trying his best will offset the vampire thing a bit. Hoping that Jesus extends salvation to vampires? Maybe.

Bella's definitely much too simple for this. But she seemed to have caught onto the part about love. Maybe this is why she never sees the Cullens as soulless monsters ("you could never be damned" to Carlisle - movie I think. Something similar in book?) Because they are so loving, they must have redeemable souls.

*sigh* Another thesis without much of a cohesive point. I haven't even thought this much about religion at least since I went through pre-Cana (don't ask but more than 15 years ago). But it's really fun thinking about this stuff with you guys! :D
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Re: Ambivalences

Postby Tornado » Sun Jul 10, 2011 11:38 pm

smitten_by_twilight wrote:No, I don't think she would be dead in the spiritual sense, but I think Edward had strong questions about this. Also choosing to be a vampire seems morally questionable at best, when you want your love to not end up in Hell ... and we know how overprotective, overcautious Edward is. :D He tends to avoid the slightest risk to Bella - I'm sure sometimes he's thought about just wrapping her up in bubble wrap.


Yes, certainly in Twilight he is like that. That's why he leaves at the beginning of New Moon. But in my mind, the scene in Volterra is the beginning of the end of this belief. And he didn't believe in any afterlife for vampires, not even hell. Carlisle says in his conversation when he's stitching up Bella, "Edward is with me up to a point. Heaven exists ... so does hell. But he doesn't believe there's any afterlife for our kind. You see, he thinks we've lost our souls."
So Edward does not believe he will go anywhere when he dies. So even thinking that he might be in hell with Bella is a sign of a change in his thinking. Maybe there is an afterlife for his kind. I think, more than a reference to the fact that he thinks Bella committed suicide, this is where his comment "maybe this is hell" comes from. I'm sure at that stage, while he is now considering the afterlife as a possibility, he thinks hell is where he would end up. I think that's why there's a question in it ("maybe this is hell"). He's not sure. He thinks that's where he'd go, but he can't believe Bella would be there. But just the fact that he is considering an afterlife for himself is a step forward for him, because prior to this, he didn't expect to go anywhere.

smitten_by_twilight wrote:It is odd, isn't it? It took me a while to notice, and I was pretty upset, because it really changes it substantially. How I interpreted it was (a) he has a soul after all, (b) because his throat is still on fire from her scent, and he still lusts for her blood, which is the part where I wrote dot-dot-dot, he thinks it must be Hell, and it's kind of a side note that Bella would be in Hell because she committed suicide, and (c) the moviemakers inserted this line as a speedy way of summing both Edward's reaction to meeting Bella again, and Bella's line which I think is in her bedroom with Edward at the end of NM, where she says something along the lines of "Not that it matters. If I have you, I don't need heaven." (This might have been Eclipse.) See how Bella is willing to gamble on Heaven, as long as she gets Edward, and Edward is only willing to risk her soul through vampirism because he sees the greater harm of either suicide or lifelong misery if he doesn't? Also, she deliberately trapped him with that vote at the end of NM, really taking the decision out of his hands.


It would be interesting to know what SM thinks of that line. I think that the "heaven" line is a summation of what her dialogue in the books suggest, and that is that they are in an afterlife together, and because Bella is there, although he thinks he belongs in hell, he is contemplating heaven because he can't imagine her anywhere else, in spite of her apparent suicide. But it would depend whether that was one of the things she approved of, or something that just ended up in there.
I do know that Chris Weitz seemed to run everything passed her. He even phoned her when they were filming the scene where Edward's face cracks in his fight with Felix to check that that was something that could happen. Given his desire to stick to the book and interpret it correctly, I really can't imagine him including something like that without at least running it past her.

The line about Bella not needing heaven is in New Moon, just after she's told him that he doesn't believe he has no afterlife. And although she has trapped him in a sense, you've got to remember that, at this stage, he is bartering an offer to change her himself. I can't imagine him doing that if he was totally against the idea. I suppose he may realise at this point that it's inevitable, and perhaps he is just buying time. But if that's the case, why the offer of marriage? I do not believe for a moment that he makes that offer to delay her. He may be pleased that it does delay her, but it's a serious offer.
So I believe that Bella is right in suspecting that hope in an afterlife, both for him and for her, is in him, he just doesn't realise it until this point. He still wavers, though, as we see in Eclipse ("I know you believe I have a soul, and I'm not totally convinced on that point"), but it is something he's considering. And I believe that, by the time we get to the end of BD, he's a convert.

smitten_by_twilight wrote:Maybe Bella is SM's way of introducing modern, forgiving, loving spirituality to Edward, and bringing him to a more optimistic place.


That fits.

smitten_by_twilight wrote:Conservatively, yes. (Purgatory for conservative Catholics.) I think this is where Edward starts off. Remember, he believed that he lost his soul because he was turned into a vampire - he didn't even do anything. Well, until the murders. But he clearly believed that he was soulless just by virtue (odd context for that word to pop up in) of being a vampire.


Yes, but that's loss of soul, rather than hell as a destination. And that would have just been because of the traditional belief that that's what happens to vampires. The reality (if I can put it that way!), as with most things spiritual, is more complex than that, and I think that's something he comes to believe as the books go on.

smitten_by_twilight wrote:Bella's definitely much too simple for this. But she seemed to have caught onto the part about love. Maybe this is why she never sees the Cullens as soulless monsters ("you could never be damned" to Carlisle - movie I think. Something similar in book?) Because they are so loving, they must have redeemable souls.


With Edward I think her belief comes from the fact that she can't imagine someone as wonderful as him not going to heaven. I think it stems more from her love of him as a person than because he is particularly virtuous (although I guess it could be argued that that is one of the reasons she loves him).
That quote is from the movie. In the book she comments to herself that she can't imagine anyone, deity included, who would not be impressed by Carlisle. It doesn't really go as far, but Bella doesn't have much of a spiritual belief system anyway.

smitten_by_twilight wrote:*sigh* Another thesis without much of a cohesive point. I haven't even thought this much about religion at least since I went through pre-Cana (don't ask but more than 15 years ago). But it's really fun thinking about this stuff with you guys! :D


There's nothing like a good, indepth conversation! :D
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Re: Ambivalences

Postby December » Fri Jul 22, 2011 7:07 pm

Oh my goodness. (*deep breath*) Trying to catch up with this discussion. And gosh, so many different things to reply to I may need to do it in a whole flurry of separate posts. What a week to have been away.... I think the only way to do this is to work my way forward gradually from where I fell off the convo. Here's a down payment anyway.

Smitten by Twilight wrote:When SM muddied the waters of Bella's choice by introducing a fatal pregnancy, it did more than speed up the plot (obviously) and avoid the appearance of suicide (did anyone mention this one and I not see?), which Edward could respect as Bella's choice, but which on Bella's part would be a denial of God's gift of life to her.


Oh ABSOLUTELY. I’m not sure we’ve talked about this explicitly as “suicide”, but certainly for me and many others something like this is implicit whenever we talk about Bella’s “throwing away her precious human life” or the way Twilight presupposes there's something sacred about being human. Just how closely one equates transformation with dying is something people differ over (we had a whole Great Debate discussing it back 2008), but I personally think we’re invited to see what Bella is choosing as a kind of death -- though I grant you that Stephenie is equivocal at times about whether it’s just species-hopping. (I think JG and I discussed this on Explorations).

And I definitely agree that absolving Bella of throwing away her God-given life was a major issue for Stephenie. But there's a further complication here: Bella's choice is doubly suspect because it's not just tossing aside the human life she was given; it's also (on the face of it, anyway) snatching at a forbidden immortality. Both sides of this Faustian bargain look problematic: she is giving up what isn’t hers to give, to gain what she shouldn’t have.

And this perhaps gets to the nub of why the ending of BD bothers me, Smitten. Yes, Bella’s courageous readiness to risk her life for her unborn child is an act of selfless love that is probably enough to “earn” her that eternal happy ever after. (And deep down, I admit I love the idea that Edward and Bella are blessed with a family). Nonetheless, the way BD plays out, Bella is at most risking death, with a decent chance that Edward will save her. Whereas the ending Bella seemed on track for at the end of EC would have brought her immortality at an clear price: forfeiting a fulfilled and happy human life -- and for an eternity of painful thirst. Which (for me) would solve the problem of absolution more satisfyingly: by wholly reconstruing that Faustian bargain as a bitter sacrifice. The worrying spectacle of Bella carelessly tossing away her life for a fairytale immortality is banished: watching her mourn the life she is leaving and gird herself for the newborn’s ghastly struggles, we can see her transformation as pure sacrifice made for love.

So I guess I’m stuck where JG is: with the problem that so long as Bella is changed on the point of death, becoming a vampire isn’t in fact a sacrifice for the people she loves; it’s winning the lottery. In place of death, the gift of endless life. Yes, she’s off the hook where suicide is concerned. But conversely, as I read the story, the willing sacrifice of her humanity was the one thing which could absolve her of reaching for that gift of eternal life. The price she's willing to pay is her absolution for the unholy trade she is making. And of course the more perfect that gift turns out to be (no unbearable bloodlust, no childlessness, no separation from beloved friends and family), the more Faustian the gain looks.

That said, these moral calculations aren’t my biggest problem with the direction BD takes. Bella (and Edward) suffer enough for Nessie that the story’s moral structure is perfectly intelligible (even if I personally liked the one laid out in EC better). It’s more that it diffuses the sheer romance of Edward and Bella’s original love story. To quote something I wrote a while back:


If Edward’s hand is forced, the integrity of his and Bella’s choices will stand, but it ceases to be a story of unconquerable love and two lovers who willingly walk into the flames of hell to claim one another for all eternity. It becomes a story about two lovers who would have claimed one another, whatever the cost -- but now everything is changed, at a single stroke. Appalling self-sacrifice becomes miraculous salvation. With one foot in the grave, Bella has nothing to lose -- it’s all gain, becoming a vampire. In fact, immortality in exchange for death. Which indeed reopens the theological pitfall that has obviously been exercising Stephenie (and Edward): the sinfulness of becoming a vampire in order to escape from mortality. If Bella is changed to save her life, the moral lines become blurred. Yes, he was going to make her a vampire anyway; yes she was just as eager to be changed when she still had her whole life before her; yes she wants immortality only to be with him. But the story loses its clarity.

And the story as it has been laid out for us at this point [EC] is exquisitely clear. Bella will become a vampire because their love for one another outshines anything life can offer: human joys, peace of mind, freedom from pain. This is the measure of the grandeur of their love: that they will sacrifice everything they possess for one another. Bella is giving Edward her life for a dowry; he is giving her his conscience for a bride-price. Pure romance....

But I realize there's a whole lot more of this thread I haven't reached yet, and it may make what I've written beside the point. Forgive me for not taking it into account here!


Tornado wrote:I too, never thought of Edward as absent in BD. When I first saw that some people thought that, I wondered if we had read the same book.

Ha! I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve wondered exactly that. But that’s the beauty of this series. There are almost as many Twilights as there are readers. For what it’s worth, I’m one of those who really struggles to find the old Edward in BD. It’s not so much that he doesn’t get his allotted time in the limelight; it’s more that even when he's onstage....he just isn’t there for me -- in that vivid, unmistakable, almost palpable way he feels present in the earlier books. Which is obviously a highly subjective thing!
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Re: Ambivalences

Postby Tornado » Fri Jul 22, 2011 9:38 pm

December wrote:though I grant you that Stephenie is equivocal at times about whether it’s just species-hopping. (I think JG and I discussed this on Explorations).


I think that's how Bella thinks of it. I mean, sure vampires are traditionally "undead", but here they're wandering around living reasonably normal lives, even if they never die! Sure, their heart doesn't beat anymore, and life is different in plenty of respects, but it comes back to what you consider living, I guess. I can see why Bella doesn't see anything wrong with the idea of joining them, apart from the fact that it will make it impossible to see her family afterwards.

December wrote:If Edward’s hand is forced, the integrity of his and Bella’s choices will stand, but it ceases to be a story of unconquerable love and two lovers who willingly walk into the flames of hell to claim one another for all eternity. It becomes a story about two lovers who would have claimed one another, whatever the cost -- but now everything is changed, at a single stroke. Appalling self-sacrifice becomes miraculous salvation. With one foot in the grave, Bella has nothing to lose -- it’s all gain, becoming a vampire. In fact, immortality in exchange for death. Which indeed reopens the theological pitfall that has obviously been exercising Stephenie (and Edward): the sinfulness of becoming a vampire in order to escape from mortality. If Bella is changed to save her life, the moral lines become blurred. Yes, he was going to make her a vampire anyway; yes she was just as eager to be changed when she still had her whole life before her; yes she wants immortality only to be with him. But the story loses its clarity.

And the story as it has been laid out for us at this point [EC] is exquisitely clear. Bella will become a vampire because their love for one another outshines anything life can offer: human joys, peace of mind, freedom from pain. This is the measure of the grandeur of their love: that they will sacrifice everything they possess for one another. Bella is giving Edward her life for a dowry; he is giving her his conscience for a bride-price. Pure romance....


But they did make these decisions in Eclipse. We all knew it was going to happen. For me personally the story of BD never lessened that fact, because I knew the decisions were already made. By that stage, it was always going to go that way. Bella was going to give up her human life to join Edward, and he was going to accept that, and change her himself (now that she is willing to marry him). Bella does waver a little in BD, but ironically, it's because of sex (it's amazing that sex achieves what huge personal dilemmas and theological soul searching couldn't!). But that willingness didn't lessen the fact that Edward eventually had to do it to save her life. They were together - united. They were staying that way.

December wrote:..he just isn’t there for me -- in that vivid, unmistakable, almost palpable way he feels present in the earlier books. Which is obviously a highly subjective thing!


I must confess I felt like that ever since the beginning of New Moon. Once he made his huge error of judgement and took off at the beginning of New Moon (seriously, does he really think she's going to be safe? Of course not!), by the time he came back, he seemed much more human to me. I'd never seen him as faultless, but the overwhelmingly idiocy of this decision in NM, regardless of the noble reason which prompted it, made me feel that everything had been irretrievably destroyed. It wasn't so bad at the end of New Moon, but of course Jacob's increasing presence and interference in Eclipse increased this feeling, which continued throughout that book.
This is one of the reasons I like BD better than Eclipse. I felt we got a little of the Twilight Edward back again. He wasn't exactly the same, but he was more there for me than he was in either New Moon or Eclipse. And once Bella was a vampire their relationship seemed so settled that I couldn't help but enjoy it, and he certainly seemed "present" at that stage.
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Re: Ambivalences

Postby December » Sat Jul 23, 2011 10:06 am

Tornado wrote:I think that's how Bella thinks of it.

I think you're right.

And going by PC#13, it would seem that's how Stephenie thinks of it too. But, but, BUT....going by other things, I'm not so sure. I think this is something she's just plain equivocal about. At different times, seen from different perspectives, each one seemed to her...well if not true then at least most true or most important. In some sense the reality is clearly somewhere in the middle. Vampires are obviously not dead in the same way the dead are dead, but they're less alive in some important ways than we are -- at which point this becomes a matter of the glass half-full/glass half-empty. Bella certainly tends to take the positive view -- mere species-hopping -- of what she's choosing; but I think there are moments when even Bella feels the other, shadowed truth, even it it's not a fully-articulated thought. ("I was going for a wedding march, but it sort of sounded like a dirge").

I don't think Edward sees it the way Bella does.

And "If you want to know how Stephenie Meyer rather than Bella, Edward and Jacob feels about something, generally listen to what Edward is saying: because he tends to see the world the same way I do...." (Highlands Ranch EC Q&A)

So I'm not sure what to think.....


As for why "would have chosen" doesn't have the same emotional impact for me as actually seeing them choose....I suspect this is another one of those de gustibus questions. I agree with you that it doesn’t make much difference morally. Edward and Bella have chosen and that tells us everything we need to know: about them, and about their love for one another. It's just that for me it weakens the dramatic arc of the story, makes it less satisfying to read, if we have to settle as readers for merely knowing that they had chosen, rather than getting to see them actually carry out that choice (not necessarily literally see it, but know that it happens). It changes the story we're told, in the same way that if Isaac had tripped on the way up the mountain and hit his head and died -- or been rescued by a white knight -- so that Abraham was never called upon to make good on his choice, it would not be the same story. But whether one finds the new story less aesthetically satisfying than the old....well that does take us onto the treacherous ground of personal taste!
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Re: Ambivalences

Postby December » Sat Jul 23, 2011 4:50 pm

Double posting here as part of my rolling programme of catching up with this extraordinary thread....


Jazz Girl wrote:I have even heard that amongst the reasons given why Christian parents should not allow their children to read The Saga; it promotes a perspective where a young girl disregards her immortal soul for earthly love and lust.

Oh wow, JG. You know, one of the wacky defenses of TGDS I once wrote (can’t find it at the moment) rested on exactly this issue. Swoonygirls would plaintively protest:

“But why does Bella have to kiss Jake? Even if Stephenie wanted to make Bella's human life a true counterweight to becoming a vampire -- wouldn’t losing her best friend be a deep enough loss to put into the other side of the scales from Edward? Couldn’t Best Friend Jake embody the humanity she is sacrificing? Why did Stephenie have to give Jake everything Edward has? She kisses Jake, is excited by him, lies close to him; he enjoys every intimacy she has ever shared with Edward. Why, why, why?”

Ok, so I grant you the Jake Effect -- Stephenie’s own growing preference for the path Bella can’t choose -- almost certainly plays some part in this. (As Corona's delightfully put it: "SM was sending a valentine to Jacob by giving him a piece of Bella."). But I think the issue you alluded to is just as important. And suggests a more serious justification for TGDS.

To quote what I wrote then:


I'm sure it's deliberate. The whole point being to make sure that there isn't the faintest taint of lust to the choice Bella is making. That every physical passion she could dream of having with Edward could still be hers if she stayed human. And that she knows it. Stephenie needs to make no mistake about this. She needs to be sure that Bella is giving everything up for Edward because something binds them to one another that goes beyond every physical intimacy. That that intimacy is only the outward flourishes of a love so deep and perfect that even your perfect earthly partner could not weigh enough in the balance. (And that surely is the point as well about all this talk about "soul mates", no? (Another lightbulb moment!). We have to know that there is no one, no one in the whole world who could ever be to Bella what Edward is. That the alternative she has in Jake is the best she will ever be offered -- and still it is not enough.). Stephenie needs to present Bella -- in the form of Jake -- with everything that worldly love can be. Perfect companionship, perfect sex. (Particularly, in fact, the latter, given how erotic Bella and Edward's relationship is, as presented in these books -- or it will seem that she is wallking off the cliff for an eternity with a hot boy). You hit the nail on the head: Stephenie gives it all to Jake.

And Bella still chooses Edward....

Now I recognize that this won't necessarily cut much ice with the Christian parents you're citing, JG. If we’re literally talking about elevating human love above the love of God, it makes no difference if it’s lust or love. But in the loose theological framework Stephenie has set up, it’s pretty clear we’re meant to see Edward and Bella’s selfless love for each other as something pure and bright and good. Stephenie more or less scotches the notion that simply being a vampire per se imperils one’s soul. And obviously, in a non-Christian context like Twilight, the whole issue of elevating human love above the love of God has no bearing (Bella doesn't have a Christian relationship to God in the first place). I think the notion of false idols is a tricky one anyway. After all, a love one would freely die for (as Stephenie puts it in the dedication to EC) is not prima facie sinful. (Ok, I know I need to look at the earlier discussion here more closely! Still reading...).

But I think it does matter a lot to Stephenie that Edward and Bella’s love story is a love story of the spirit and not of the flesh. Twilight is brilliantly, breathtakingly sexy, but we are meant to look beyond the erotic to the romance: two souls fated for one another who would give up everything -- even sexual gratification -- to be together. (“I'm jealous of that that too” Edward tells Jake in the tent: Jake can give Bella things Edward cannot). Putting Jake into the balance ensures that we see the love which Bella is giving her life up for as something uncarnal and transcendent, the purest sort of human love.

Which is of course the only kind of love Stephenie is writing about in this series.
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Re: Ambivalences

Postby Tornado » Sat Jul 23, 2011 5:37 pm

Just wanted to say ...

:clap:
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Re: Ambivalences

Postby December » Sat Jul 23, 2011 6:05 pm

Heh. Any time....

Now then...any further thoughts about the dead, the alive and the undead?

I grant you that by the time BD has rolled through, there's really no question that far from being dead, Stephenie's sparkly superhero vampires are if anything more alive than we are in a "through a glass darkly" sort of way: keener senses, sharper reflexes, brimming with a supernatural vitality. Nevertheless, in some sense the vision played out in BD is not Stephenie's latest vision but her earliest one, dating back to before she'd even found a publisher for TW -- and doesn't necessarily reflect a kind of final, culminating word on the subject.

So what about NM, MS and EC? Can you see why I'm ascribing a different view to Edward (and Stephenie) in that phase of the series?
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