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Re: Bella Swan Cullen #3

Postby December » Tue Feb 02, 2010 6:39 pm

Jazz Girl wrote:we are taken directly into her heart and witness this love, almost from the inside of her emotions

Yes, exactly. Beautifully put!
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Re: Bella Swan Cullen #3

Postby holdingoutforjacob » Wed Feb 03, 2010 10:38 pm

I definitely think her inability to describe Edward is a symptom of her infatuation. She is too in love with him for words.

I completely agree with you, Jazz Girl, about how this inability makes her more relatable, and Edward more defendable. I think it works the other way too - if you can't identify with Bella very well, you don't have that sort of instinct (bad word, but I can't think of anything else!) to defend Edward so much. At least that's the way I've experienced it.
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Re: Bella Swan Cullen #3

Postby December » Thu Feb 04, 2010 7:56 am

hofj wrote:if you can't identify with Bella very well, you don't have that sort of instinct (bad word, but I can't think of anything else!) to defend Edward so much.

Makes sense. It's precisely by making us see Edward through Bella's eyes that Stephenie seduces her readers into falling for Edward. I mean, think about it: if someone merely told you the plot of TW ("So there's this vampire boy who falls for a girl he really really wants to kill etc etc."), you might think Edward was an intriguing character, but you'd hardly lose sleep over him. And if you simply can't get inside Bella's skin, if the whole narrative leaves you shrugging your shoulders and thinking "really?", Edward's charms are going to fall pretty darn flat.

Though now I think more about this, I'm not sure if by "identify" with, you meant "get pulled into her story" (the way we can "identify" with all kinds of protagonists who are nothing like us: middle-aged monks, Klingons, whatever), or if you meant more narrowly: "see Bella's personality in ourselves". Or at least: "be able to imagine ourselves responding exactly as she does to Edward." In which case...you're right, wanting to defend him -- as Bella does -- comes with the territory.
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Re: Bella Swan Cullen #3

Postby Knives » Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:53 am

Sorry about the delay in my return, folks! It looks like I have a few things to respond to ^_^

Twilight as an Epic - I avoid the use of the term "Fairy Tale" due to deeply-rooted childhood convictions about what Fairy Tales actually are (the explanation is inappropriate both for the topic and the Lex; suffice to say that I grew up on bloody morality lessons rather than Victorian garbage). It's certainly an interesting way to interpret the series, and it closes several of the plot holes which Ms. Meyer inadvertantly opened simply because of the medium, as well as explaining the hyper-realized focus on Bella's lust for Edward. By removing the expectation of realism, the series enters the same arena as, say, the story of Tristan and Isoldt. I'm reluctant to put it there myself, however, because so much effort is expended to root the reader in the 'real world' in the beginning of the story and even throughought it; Bella doing house chores, her boredom with Forks, fixing up her car - if the series was, indeed, written as an epic romance, then Ms. Meyer has a few things to learn on setting up her reader's expectations. The other reason I'm reluctant to categorize it in such a manner is the sheer number of fans who choose to interpret it as a character story - and Ms. Meyer is, by self-admission, one of them. Its impact on our culture involves it being judged as a character story, so that is how I choose to judge it; in a sense, I must judge it that way, if I'm to understand how it'll shape the literary world in the decades to come (and it will, if only in the sense of what people will publish and buy after the astounding popularity of this series).

Bella's Infatuation - You're right, December, in that I don't find Bella's infatuation with Edward - or Edward's with her - at all realistically portrayed - or even mythically portrayed with any degree of skill. On Bella's end of things, I've seen plent of girls fall head-over-heels in lust with guys and want to start dating them - or even start dating them. When the rush wears off, they usually break up, either because they drive each other insane, or because the girl realizes how shallow her attraction actually was and she seeks greener pastures. Only seldomly do two people brought together by chemical attraction actually end up becoming compatible - these are wonderful occurances, but unfortunately rare. On Edward's end of things, I don't understand why he came back after leaving school the first time. He didn't know Bella, couldn't read her mind, and wanted very badly to eat her - and with over a century of experience and self-control, he should know MORE than enough to get out of a bad situation. It's not like his family lacks for money, intelligence, or mobility; they could have moved somewhere else where Edward didn't have to constantly be around the physical embodiment of murderous temptation.

Furthermore, the idea that Edward failed to find anyone intelligent, deep, worthwhile or interesting in one hundred and eight years smacks me as both unrealistic and insulting. Look, I can walk into any high school in this country and find a deep, engaging, intellectual girl within 24 hours - 48 max. They're not that hard to track down. What's hard is winning one over, which Edward should be able to do with his combination of sheer physical attraction, telepathy, and a century of experience. Instead, Ms. Meyer expects me to believe that he managed to avoid every single worthy female in the nation for a hundred years - and that irks me. Severely.

In a realistically portrayed version of this relationship, either Bella or Edward would eventually have figured out that there was little more than physical attraction to their relationship. They may have been confused, and sought to heal the invisible - but growing - breach in their relationship. Maybe they would have even succeeded - but the problem would have been present. This becomes a non-issue if you interpret the series mythically, but see above for my opinions on that score and why I choose not to interpret the series in that fashion.

On Description - As a literary device, the vagueness was either very clever (Mythic/Escapist) or very lazy (Realist/Character Driven). Your mileage - and opinion - may vary.

Incidentally, I'm amazed that no one ever asked the obvious question - Can I (physically) describe my perfect dream girl? What about personality? Is she your fiancee?

The answers, incidentally, are yes, yes, no. But I love my fiancee dearly, and since my dream girl is an idealized fantasy which, if in existence, would likely have my fiancee in love with her as much as I was, I'm not too worried ^_^ For those who wish to indulge my pride (yay for the joy of conceit!), descriptions are available via PM, unless Ms. December would like me to pop it up in here.

Can't wait to hear replies!

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Re: Bella Swan Cullen #3

Postby Jazz Girl » Tue Feb 09, 2010 12:57 pm

As to fairy tale vs epic romance vs character story...does it really only have to be one of the above? Can't it be a combination of any of those. You have to realize that even the most classical and definitional tales in each of those and any other category are often combinations of different elements of each. We choose to define them in one category or another, but they can fit into many. That's what makes them classical and definitional stories. They have a broad application and appeal. Is there a specific reason, other than a resistance to change, that you can't have a realistic fairy tale, one containing elements of real life? Much as she rewrote vampire legend and mythology, finding a new literary niche I think would certainly be within SM's possibilities.

Regarding Bella's love for Edward, I think what so many of us keep trying to relay is that a huge part of what is so endearing and wonderful and upsweeping about the story is the very fact that, by the rules of everything we know about attraction and love, their relationship wouldn't and shouldn't happen. That's the whole point. It is a relationship that, against all odds, becomes this amazing love story. In the end, it can't be reasoned, broken down, analyzed or truly explained. Because it all boils down to the fact that they love each other, for their own reasons and their own want and need and purpose, they love each other. Your assertion that Edward should have been able to find someone worthy in the intervening 108 years goes exactly to the point. There are many of us out there, and I count myself proudly amongst them, that believe that maybe there is one person out there for us, and if we are lucky, fate will put them in our path. Even if you don't believe that, well fine. So much of the time, love does not make sense. Love isn't reasonable or logical or explainable. It is love. If you want a "realistically portrayed version of this relationship", then stick to non fiction. If you want to analyze and rationalize and break apart the relationship, than I'm more than happy to continue the debate. But, at some point, the argument is going to boil down to the fact that, no matter if you believe it or not, the story is written and in the story, they love each other and they have their perfect forever.
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Re: Bella Swan Cullen #3

Postby December » Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:24 pm

Only replying to the first part for now -- I need to think harder about the rest!

Knives wrote:I avoid the use of the term "Fairy Tale" due to deeply-rooted childhood convictions about what Fairy Tales actually are (the explanation is inappropriate both for the topic and the Lex; suffice to say that I grew up on bloody morality lessons rather than Victorian garbage).

I think we actually are talking about the same thing: for me Twilight is nothing if not a bloody morality tale -- though one intriguingly tangled up with the rose-petals-and-romance sensibility which characterizes the modern fairy tale. Old Faëry and new Fairy somewhat uneasily co-habiting the same story. I think this is one of the things which makes it hard to get a satisfactory grip on what's going on in Stephenie's story: it's fluffy AND it's dark, though the darkness is shot through with an insistence on the possibility of joy. (Which brings it closer to Tolkien's notion of Faëry than to European fairytales or classical myth). I don't think this was necessarily conscious on the author's part but I do feel it's what is "going on" for me as a reader. (Though I certainly can't claim that's true for everyone!). To explain WHY (or how) I read the story this way would take us even more outside the scope of this discussion -- it's something I've written about at length long ago on the old Choices thread. But yes, I'd agree that medieval Romance (another term lost nowadays to its frilly pink connotations!) like Tristan and Isoldt comes closer to the mark than the modern realist novel.

The story's realist trappings don't significantly change this picture for me. Those random details Stephenie throws in about the lasagna Bella cooks or the Macbeth essay she's writing may be an artistic error, but for me it's a minor one. Maybe they're superfluous and a little lame -- but they don't in the least disrupt my response to the mythic shape of her story. My expectations remain unclouded: the myth comes through loud and clear. Not to be facetious, but it really does almost feel like incidental, epithet-like attributes: Red-Pickup-Driving Daphne, Piano-Playing Apollo....

To put it another way....I've often wondered whether as modern readers, steeped in a literature which is certainly oriented towards the novel rather than the Romance/Myth/FairyTale (*gestures unprofessionally at some kind of dichotomy*), we have trouble with the austerity of a truly minimalist, myth-like narrative. We want more help from the author in bringing the characters to life. Even if they are basically functioning as archetypes, we get bored if they don't sound like people. No depth, of course, but we want plenty of surface. (I think the characters in Harry Potter work much the same way, actually, but that really is another subject!). So I guess I don't see the fact that Bella and Edward, for all their thinness as characters, feel "real" to so many readers as presenting a problem of misdirection, because I have the feeling that modern "myth-making" actually depends on this kind of enrichment -- or maybe hybridizing -- of the genre. I'm talking through my hat here, really, but that's how it "feels" to me, if I try and examine my own response to these books. Does that make any sense to you?

The other reason I'm reluctant to categorize it in such a manner is the sheer number of fans who choose to interpret it as a character story - and Ms. Meyer is, by self-admission, one of them. Its impact on our culture involves it being judged as a character story, so that is how I choose to judge it; in a sense, I must judge it that way, if I'm to understand how it'll shape the literary world in the decades to come (and it will, if only in the sense of what people will publish and buy after the astounding popularity of this series).

Now that's another question. I don't myself mind what Stephenie herself thinks she's doing. For one thing, (as I was saying above) I'm not absolutely convinced this is a matter of either/or. No doubt it's true, as Stephenie often says, that these characters just presented themselves in her head, and wrote themselves out on paper; no doubt it's the vividness of their voices which makes them seem "real" to so many readers, even if they are terribly flat in other respects. So yes, in this respect, a character-story. But on the other hand, look... this story began with a dream. A stunningly potent, almost primal, image of love and danger entwined, balanced on a knife edge, which obviously grabbed Stephenie by the throat and impelled her to pursue this story. Notwithstanding all the other stuff that gets into the picture (parental divorce, sparkly vampire baseball, the social dynamics of the high school cafeteria), I think this is the story she in fact went on to tell, even if the means she uses are character-based. I don't myself think there's a contradiction there. And if you go on to look at the turn which the series takes in NM and EC, it seems to me that the bloody morality tale, in all its mythic force, only gathers strength. Even if the movie makers and the marketing men prefer to cast it as a cheap romantic tussle between the cold pale boy and the warm russet one....

As for how other people respond to the story.... Well it's an interesting question whether the passionate, almost seismic, impact Twilight has had on a mass readership is wholly rooted in a realist reading. Certainly it's the easiest aspect of the story for us to recognize, squee about, relate to, dissect, explore through fanfic etc. But does it explain why this series has bowled over half the reading population of the United States? I don't know. I think if I were as gripped as you are by Twilight's shortcomings as a character story, I'd be inclined to think there must be something more in play (unless you're happy to suppose that most of the reading public are simply idiots!). Ok, to be fair, the explanation I've offered -- that there's some pretty powerful myth-making at work here -- is only one of many. The books do a pretty good line in sheer escapist fantasy: not hard to see the appeal. The fantasy of lover as perfect guardian angel may not float your boat, still less the fantasy of a love which will kill you, but it works for some people. Spin them together into a single narrative thread....well, that's pretty heady stuff. Add the lure of immortality and you've got an extraordinarily combustible mix.

None of which actually addresses your critique of Twilight as a realist character-story. And I don't mean to suggest that critique isn't worth pursuing, or interesting in its own right. I guess I'm more trying to explain why I don't see it as necessarily decisive. That depends whether you're right that the series' success really does rest on its merits as a realist story. I suppose what I do think is that one can't rely blindly on readers' -- or indeed the author's -- own unreflective account of what makes Twilight work. That's the beauty of stories, after all: it's not like a math problem. You don't have to understand why it works for it to work. So the sheer number of fans who judge Twilight as a character story doesn't necessarily weigh with me.

In a way, I wonder whether we've come to opposite conclusions from a shared starting point (the series' shortcomings as realist fiction). You read these books, find yourself totally unmoved by them, and seeing good reason why (the characters & relationships are unrealistic) are baffled by the fandom's insistence that this love story feels real to them. Nevertheless, you take at face value their apparently realist response to the story. I, on the other hand, read these books, find myself unexpectedly bowled over by them, and seeing no good reason why, am driven to look deeper for a possible explanation. After all, the whole question becomes very much more urgent when it's one's own inexplicable response that needs accounting for! (*grin*)

And now, that's quite enough from me for today! Sorry to leave for now the other issues you raise; they're well worth thinking about as well....

ETA
Crossed posts with you JG. Going to post now because I'm out of time; apologies where I'm simply repeating what you already said!
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Re: Bella Swan Cullen #3

Postby Jazz Girl » Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:42 pm

December wrote:ETA
Crossed posts with you JG. Going to post now because I'm out of time; apologies where I'm simply repeating what you already said!


Ah, yes, but December, you said it so much more intelligently and specifically then I could ever hope to. I stand in awe. And, thank you.

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Re: Bella Swan Cullen #3

Postby December » Tue Feb 09, 2010 7:14 pm

Well, more long-windedly, certainly! (*blushes*).
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Re: Bella Swan Cullen #3

Postby Knives » Tue Feb 09, 2010 9:56 pm

A very interesting post, December - I can't wait to see your response to the rest of my reply.

Incidentally, maybe part of the reason I have issues accepting/recognizing the series (Why do so many of the fans insist on the incorrect use of the word 'saga'? The poor word has been beaten down enough by fantasy trilogists - don't add to its pain!) as mythic is the lack of, well, mythic elements. Yes, the paranormal abounds, but it reads (and this is as politely as I can make this statement accurately) like fan fiction much of the time; Ms. Meyer's attempts at creating her own mythos/preternatural realm seem clumsy; her attempts to draw on real-world myths are literally nonexistent, to the point of having offended the real Quillettes (*Hopes he spelled that right*) by mangling their mythology. I grew up steeped in myth - Greek, Norse, Celtic, Egyptian, American Gothic, Urban Legends - the list goes on and on, and there's a little voice in my head that says that if I'm not recognizing myth in Twilight, maybe Twilight got it wrong. MAYBE, mind, being the key word.
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Re: Bella Swan Cullen #3

Postby Jazz Girl » Tue Feb 09, 2010 10:28 pm

Knives wrote:A very interesting post, December - I can't wait to see your response to the rest of my reply.

Incidentally, maybe part of the reason I have issues accepting/recognizing the series (Why do so many of the fans insist on the incorrect use of the word 'saga'? The poor word has been beaten down enough by fantasy trilogists - don't add to its pain!) as mythic is the lack of, well, mythic elements. Yes, the paranormal abounds, but it reads (and this is as politely as I can make this statement accurately) like fan fiction much of the time; Ms. Meyer's attempts at creating her own mythos/preternatural realm seem clumsy; her attempts to draw on real-world myths are literally nonexistent, to the point of having offended the real Quillettes (*Hopes he spelled that right*) by mangling their mythology. I grew up steeped in myth - Greek, Norse, Celtic, Egyptian, American Gothic, Urban Legends - the list goes on and on, and there's a little voice in my head that says that if I'm not recognizing myth in Twilight, maybe Twilight got it wrong. MAYBE, mind, being the key word.



To the use of the term "saga" to denote The Saga, by definition, we can throw out the Norse or Icelandic narrative definition of saga. So, that leaves either, "a narrative or legend of heroic exploits," or, "a form of the novel in which the members or generations of a family or social group are chronicled in a long and leisurely narrative". To the first, merely because you do not define Bella or Edward as heroes or find their actions heroic does not mean that they are not. And, to the second, well, I think you can at least agree that a story spanning some 15 members of a family, as well as their friends, confidants, conflicted observers and enemies at least meets that definition. Most here define it as such because we feel it is a heroic tale.

Now, as to the mythical elements in the story, first, let's get out of the way that the Quilleute Nation has been quite outspoken in their appreciation and respect for SM in her portrayal of their people, their way of life and their legends and history. Second, and this is an argument I've had with a few individuals over time, why does there need to be any reference or allusion to "real-world myths" (a term that, I'm sorry, is fairly ridiculous in its own right) to make the story mythic at all. The preternatural/mythical elements of vampire and werewolf lore are exactly that; MYTHS & LORE. Where is it written that you cannot create your own elements of them to create a new myth? Why is adding to or adapting existing myth about a non-existant world a negative thing? Yes, before you ask, I am well aware that much of vampire mythology leads back to Vlad the Impaler and his terroristic exploits, and that there is a long existing mythological record. In fact, we know that SM did include a large chunk of "real world" vampire mythology. She just included it as absolute bunk that humans make up to shield their fragile minds, although some of it turned out to hold a little water, did it not? The myth and misdirection of "real world" vampire myth turns out to play a large part in the story. And, in fact, the rewriting of those myths, making them unrecognizable within that context was the entire point. But, truly, you don't recognize the elements of vampire myth...sparkling in the sun is so much different from burning in sunlight how?

While I do love the literary critique, this is really the thread for it, though. There isn't really any way at all to tie this back to Bella and her heroic love for her vampire, other than to say that the mythical misdirection doesn't fool her one bit and her life becomes about nothing but myth and legend. But, then again, I suppose that isn't my call to make.
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