If you will all forgive me for slipping in here with a post of my own....For what it’s worth, I have to say I take Knives’ point about how little Bella’s inner life, as we are shown it, resembles that of an ordinarily, lively, inquisitive, bookish girl. Contrast her with, say, the Austen-obsessed heroine of Polly Shulman’s delightful YA novel Enthusiasm, and the difference is stark: this is not a mind teeming with original observations or wry literary allusions. You never get the sense of a girl who goes through life with the urgent ghosts of a dozen books dogging her every footstep and whispering in her ear. Yes, at pivotal moments, Bella thinks of literary protagonists whose predicament resemble of her own. Yes, she’s comfortable and competent drafting a (presumptively) well-written high-school English paper. But this isn’t a girl whose mind is filled with Milton, Shakespeare, Eliot and Dickens. This is a girl whose mind is filled with Edward Cullen.
And you know, I wonder if this is in fact the point -- why Stephenie ISN’T showing us the lively, literary intellect we are asked to believe in. Why Bella’s thoughts seem so stripped of richness and intellectual vigour. What we have here is the portrait of an obsession, of emotional and psychological possession so powerful it pretty much stuns Bella into a state of total preoccupation with Edward and Edward alone. Whether Stephenie did this deliberately or not, I can’t say; but there’s no doubt that it’s an effective way of depicting the “intense private little bubble” of romantic obsession her lovers are bound in. So it doesn't bother me, or feel like authorial failure.
I should perhaps emphasize that in saying this, I’m not making a judgement about whether there’s something unhealthy about Bella’s preoccupation with Edward. The way I read this story, that isn't really the right question to ask in the first place -- any more than one should enquire into Snow White’s mental health. For me, Twilight is a fairy story. Realist considerations don’t apply.
And this is of course the other reason why artistically, there’s a point to leaving Bella’s inner life so stripped-down of the concrete particulars which would make a convincing portrait of a bright intellectual girl. Bella, as JG observes, is an archetypal heroine, deliberately under-specified to allow every girl to project herself into the character’s place. Not to say that readers don’t identify with fully-drawn characters in realist novels; but by her own account, that’s not what Stephenie set out to create. Bella was deliberately constructed as a placeholder, like a character from Arthurian legend or Greek myth. So I’m just not sure whether the standards of realist-novel characterization apply. Maybe we need to think of Bella’s bookishness more like Homeric epithet: Far-throwing Zeus or Brilliant Agamemnon. An attribute which sets up this mythic character in its place. We don't expect to be shown Agamemnon's brilliance though constant repartee -- it's not that kind of story. Perhaps the same goes for Bella?
Just a thought....
“When did you ever promise to kill yourself falling out of Charlie’s tree?”