December wrote:HOFJ wrote:Bella's safety and protection were, of course, Edward's main focus. But his need to keep her entire life completely risk free at the expense of her free will - that was selfish. It scared him, he didn't like being scared, and he eliminated the thing that was scaring him.
That's a very lucid way of expressing the paradox of this relationship (and love in general). When two people care passionately about one another, selflessness and selfishness get caught in a kind of reflexive loop. Bella cares more about Edward than she does about her own well-being. She would give her life for him (or just to be with him!). Selfless or selfish? After all it's what she wants more than anything else. As for Edward, Bella's well-being is paramount to him, overshadowing all thought of his own needs. It's all he wants. So is he trying to ensure it for her sake or for his own? To my mind there's no simple way to distentangle the two. The infinite regress of true love -- I want your happiness, because it is my happiness, which is your happiness... -- carries on indefinitely. "More than your death, I fear my own," a character in Dorothy Dunnett's Checkmate says to his beloved, "because you would be left here to mourn."
If Bella is more willing to put her life at risk than Edward is (as you rightly point out, HOFJ, the thought paralyzes him with terror), if he needs her safe more than she does, I'm not sure that whether that makes his trying to keep her safe selfish -- or simply bossy ("I know better than you do what is in your best interest"). Certainly he is trying to get his own way, but bossiness is a different vice from selfishness. And, yes, he is trying to get what he wants (not to be in constant terror) even if it means thwarting her. But most of all he wants it for her. The two motives can't really be extricated.
It's worth noting this same selfish selflessness (or selfless selfishness) underlies the larger issue of Edward's opposition to Bella's becoming a vampire. Tennyo cogently argued long ago (and anyone interested in debates over Edward's selflessness might enjoy reading her Ed-Con thread) that there was a kind of selfishness to Edward's seemingly selfless determination to give Bella up in NM rather than risk her becoming a vampire. Yes, the driving thought behind his decision was "I can't bear the idea of seeing her life destroyed; I'd put myself through anything to avoid that," but it's also "I can't bear the idea." If you will suffer acutely over someone else's pain, protecting them is protecting yourself too. Selfless or selfish?
Sorry -- for some reason I seem to have missed the last page of posts. Apologies that this is now about 18 hours out of date.
December~ Tis true, too true. The argument over whether Edward is selflessly selfish or selfishly selfless is the very definition of a paradox. He essentially cannot be one without being the other. And, in the end, it will all boil down to how Bella sees him vs how he sees himself. He will always, no matter what, see what he did in turning Bella (despite all the happiness they gain at the end of BD) as the single most selfish thing he ever did, taking her mortality and her life and condemning her to what he sees as life as a monster so that he will not have to be parted from her. Bella will always see it as the single most selfless thing he has ever done, saved her existence and that of their daughter by doing the one thing in the world that he absolutely did not want to do. Hopefully, they are able to find a middle ground, at least in terms of the argument of it.