Knives wrote:I dunno, maybe it has to do with my lack of religious conviction and, more accurately, my longstanding misunderstanding and mistrust of faith.
You betcha. (*grin*)
But less flippantly -- and I should perhaps note that as far as my own religious affiliations go, I’d have to tick the “Agnostic” box -- I think you’ve put your finger on one key reason why you may feel you’re talking apples and other people on this thread are talking oranges. As you so cogently put it:
Knives wrote:You know, I never thought about that - I've spent so much time analyzing psychology, writing non-humans, roleplaying as non-humans and thinking in non-human fashions that I forgot that someone might think it's, y'know, sacred to be human....
This is simply FOUNDATIONAL to Stephenie’s own world view -- and more important, to the world view which Twilight both presumes and articulates. And it’s a view that many of her readers share. For many (including Stephenie) this is a view with theological underpinnings, but I think it can be intelligible to the non-religious as well. Maybe I would want to extend the definition of “humanity” to embrace other thinking, feeling, living -- and dying -- forms of life (Star Trek Federation-style).* But the idea that life, if you like, is precious, and that vampires are not quite alive any longer -- that these beings are not just tormented by murderous desires; they are frozen in a barren and static changelessness -- certainly makes sense to me. The quiet joy of being alive, of seeing the seasons change and changing with them (as Bella puts it), is lost to the Cullens forever. This is what gives Edward pause in NM (enough that he leaves); this is what gives Bella pause in Eclipse (enough that she is tempted by the human alternative Jake presents); and I think it’s what gives Stephenie pause in BD, and drives her to snatch from Bella the chance of deliberately walking down the road she chose in Eclipse (ie coldbloodedly laying down her human life for Edward).
Certainly this view is not always at the forefront of Stephenie's narrative (look at happy-go-lucky Alice and Emmett and it can be hard to see at all -- though I think that's meant to be a sign of grace and not imperviousness). But Stephenie is quite unequivocal: every one of the Cullens would give anything to reclaim their humanity. Even though it means giving up immortality. You couldn't really ask for stronger testimony to the value they see in being human.
As for whether Stephenie’s ambivalence harms her story...I’m of two minds about this. There’s no question that at times the unclarity and contradictoriness undermines the storytelling. But I think the tension between these two understandings of what loving Edward will mean for Bella: irreparable loss -- and elysium beyond imagining; bitter sacrifice -- and a sparkly, eternal happy ever after, is actually the heart of her story. It’s the magnitude of the sacrifice she’s prepared to make for Edward that truly establishes, beyond all the cliches of godlike beauty and breathless passion, the transcendent character of their love.
That's my view, anyway.... (*grin*)
*though Stephenie makes an interesting case in the Host for the specialness of humanity, at least in contrast with the eerie altruism of the Souls. If not humanness itself, then the particular human knack for loving is obviously something she places untold value upon.