Ambivalences

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Re: Ambivalences

Postby Jazz Girl » Fri Jun 24, 2011 11:53 am

corona wrote:I'm posting mainly to bump this up for the active topics. I'll post more in-depth later.

Jazz Girl, I'm going to pay you what I hope you consider to be a compliment. Your outlook sometimes is very Edwardian.
:D



Oh, believe me, Corona, I consider that the highest of compliments. :blush:

Tornado wrote:The choice of accepting Edward, with all the stuff that goes with being a vampire, would be an extraordinarily difficult decision to make. I wouldn't think less of SM, or of her feelings for Edward, if she honestly said she wasn't brave enough to do it, especially since that makes it an issue of the difficulty involved in that choice (in giving up family, etc), rather than that Jacob is preferable as a person. I don't think it devalues Edward or gives Jake a superior position. In fact, I think it's telling that she let Bella make the opposite decision. She's honest in saying she wouldn't be brave enough for that, if this was a real situation, but she makes Bella brave enough for it, because she believes Edward deserves her. She is his reward. She makes Bella do what she probably wishes she was brave enough to do.


December mentioned that this is a close parallel to the Explorations thread. And this is an issue I raised there as well. And, I may be the only person who has this hang up, but it goes along with what I mentioned before about the main conflict of the love story. Yes, I recognize that I may be dealing with semantics here. But, to my mind, Bella does not actually get to make that choice. Yes, she makes a choice that she knows will lead to her transformation. She knows Edward, and she knows that when it comes down to watching her die or changing her, he will choose to change her and give her the life he has. But, it's not the same as Bella and Edward freely choosing together to move forward with her change. No other pressures. No outside dynamics playing a part. No threat hanging over their head that amounts to, "let her die or change her." They are never allowed to say, "I love you and us more than I fear anything else."

As I said, I think that this is the one central issue that Stephenie could not reconcile to her personal beliefs. I am by no means a religious scholar. But, I don't think you have to be to understand that protecting one's immortal soul is done by living a moral life. Most moral codes are dictated by what most believers see as living by God's commandments. Given all the questions Edward raised about the loss of his soul and taking Bella's soul if he transformed her, for him to then change his belief 180 degrees would essentially be saying that he loved his wife more than he loved God and valued their love more than he valued their souls. To most believers, that is an unacceptable decision.

However, even though so many have a severe moral disagreement with the idea of killing as an act of mercy, if Edward was forced to take her life as a way to save her, and if Bella gave her life in order to bring a life into the world, then the issue becomes much less black and white, doesn't it? How does Bella choose to die and leave her child motherless? Easy, she accepts that her transformation at least protects her child and gives her the opportunity to redeem her soul through further goodness. How does Edward stand by and refuse to prevent the death of his wife and daughter (who is at this point free from any sin)? In my mind, the dilemma of protecting Ness muddies the waters just enough to at least make the choice an acceptable one.

Is this a conscious consideration in SM's writing process? That I don't know. While I don't know Stephenie's writing process, I rather doubt it. But the reality of the writing process in general is that we write what we feel and our spiritual beliefs certainly play into what we feel. I'm not maintaining at all that Stephenie said to herself, "I can't just let them choose X. That would be morally wrong." What I'm saying is that, in her story development process, she might have seen having a mitigating factor to necessitate the final choice as just what had to happen.
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Re: Ambivalences

Postby December » Fri Jun 24, 2011 1:44 pm

Ugh, I really want time to address this properly -- and instead I need to be madly packing to leave on holiday tomorrow morning! So again, these are scattered thoughts.

Esme Echo wrote:I don't believe authors typically feel the need to reconcile the actions of characters they've created with their own personal values....Authors who have deep religious convictions may avoid certain topics, language, or situations, but certainly the differences in story telling would end there.

I totally agree that an author can forgive, even condone, their characters’ making choices which transgress their own (ie the author’s) personal values. Stephenie, for instance, has said how natural it seems to her that Bella would be keen to have sex with Edward -- Bella shares the norms of her culture and has no reason to think otherwise. On the other hand, I think it’s fair to say that Stephenie, who clearly loves her characters deeply, and (by her own account) “likes happy endings”, wants to save them from mortal sin. And whatever their beliefs, sin and salvation are real to Stephenie. I just can’t imagine her allowing either Edward or Bella to damn themselves -- one reason I think she really wrestled with her own theological commitments once she started exploring Edward and Bella’s future beyond the events of TW. She needed to come up with a happy ending for them in this life which wouldn’t jeopardize the next. I'm inclined to think that when Stephenie takes us through Edward’s qualms about Bella’s soul in NM, she’s recapitulating her own original misgivings (though she obviously came round to Bella and Carlisle’s view of the matter).

Also, Stephenie clearly likes writing about characters who are not only sympathetic but admirable. Flawed? unquestionably -- and she’s the first to point out Edward’s and Jake’s and Bella’s weaknesses. But fundamentally Stephenie sees the good in them, and clearly she has hoped we’d do likewise. So although there are many authors who are comfortable writing characters with serious moral defects, I think it’s safe to assume that Stephenie’s own deepest moral beliefs are going to be reflected in the choices she lets her hero and heroine make.

So in that sense, I guess I do think that the story of Twilight is bound to express Stephenie’s personal values. Does that make sense?


Tornado wrote:She's honest in saying she wouldn't be brave enough for that, if this was a real situation, but she makes Bella brave enough for it, because she believes Edward deserves her. She is his reward. She makes Bella do what she probably wishes she was brave enough to do.

So much to be said about this! Is Stephenie forcing Bella's hand or vice versa? What exactly are we watching in the Great Dog Snog -- Stephenie telling Bella she has to marry Edward, and Bella protesting that she'd rather choose Jake and live? Or is it the other way around: Stephenie urging on Bella the other good choices she could have, in the futile hope of persuading Bella not to lay down her life for Edward? I've gone around and around on this one, in my head and in print. I suppose in a way it's necessarily both. It is Stephenie the author who decided how this story had to go, and Bella has no choice about it; but equally, it is Bella -- the girl who fell irrevocably in love with Edward back in TW -- who is who she is, and stubbornly tells the author what she is going to do.....


Tornado wrote:It's her way of "redeeming" them, but I can't see it as being an issue for her as late as in book three and four. I believe it would have been dealt with, in most respects anyway, before she made the decision to publish Twilight.

You could even stand this on its head and suggest that one of the things that Stephenie was really gripped by, as her story moved beyond her original meadow dream, was the possibilities for writing about that kind of goodness which self-denying vampires presented. In other words, it wasn’t just a way of rehabilitating vampires for a Christian audience; it became a central part of the story she wanted to tell.

As for her having had to make her peace with the demonic aspect of vampire fiction to write it in the first place -- well yes, certainly. That’s why for someone like Knives, Twilight doesn’t come across as a vampire story at all: Stephenie effectively abstracted her story from all the demonic aspects of traditional vampire myth (vampires as undead monsters sleeping buried in the earth, rising out of the dark to suck unholy life from the blood of the innocents etc.). As we discussed earlier on Explorations, Stephenie’s “vampires” are more like a cultural shorthand used to give life to moral abstractions like temptation, self-denial, danger.

But surely the crucial religious issue for Stephenie was the Faustian bargain Bella is striking by choosing immortality with Edward over her natural, mortal life. In fact, I think this issue has EVERYTHING to do with the storyline of the third and fourth books. I see these two books as two different alternatives Stephenie worked out for tackling what I've always imagined was a major sticking point for her in her desire to grant Bella an eternal happy-ever-after in Edward's arms. Jazzgirl has splendidly articulated just how BD’s story absolves Edward, Bella and Stephenie of the sin of swapping Bella’s human life for immortality. (And remember, as far as this aspect of plot development goes, BD isn’t the fourth book in the series -- it’s the second, effectively laid before NM and EC were ever dreamt of).

It seems to me that the story of EC is equally driven by Stephenie’s qualms over Bella’s choice -- only it solves the problem another way, by re-imagining the sparkly superhero fairy-tale destiny which Bella (and the reader) once naively supposed vampire immortality was into something darker and more difficult. So it becomes a sacrifice Bella is making for love of Edward rather than some glittering first prize in life's lottery. In other words, the sin of throwing away her humanity is to be redeemed by the loss and suffering entailed -- and the fact that it is done for love. Selfless love clearly ranks very high in Stephenie’s values (indeed in LDS theology generally). And the epigraph to EC certainly suggests that she wishes us to see Edward and Bella’s love as morally equivalent to the love of a mother for her child (ie carrying comparable moral weight to Nessie in balancing the moral scales).

Now this is obviously radically different from Stephenie’s original solution (eg. take the choice away from Bella, so it’s not her fault) -- one reason why many early Twilight fans, the ones who had way too much time to digest the implications of EC before BD came out, find it very hard to reconcile EC and BD. But it’s arguably much the most romantic one, because it makes Edward and Bella’s love story about giving up everything for love. Which is why, like JG, I find it so frustrating that Edward and Bella are in the end denied the chance to make that sacrifice together (and it is as much a sacrifice for Edward as for Bella).

Jazzgirl wrote:Yes, I recognize that I may be dealing with semantics here. But to my mind, Bella does not actually get to make that choice. Yes, she makes a choice that she knows will lead to her transformation. She knows Edward, and she knows that when it comes down to watching her die or changing her, he will choose to change her and give her the life he has. But, it's not the same as Bella and Edward freely choosing together to move forward with her change. No other pressures. No outside dynamics playing a part. No threat hanging over their head that amounts to, "let her die or change her." They are never allowed to say, "I love you and us more than I fear anything else."

Sigh. What can I say? Oh so totally yes, yes, yes..... For me this will never be a matter of semantics; it’s the heart of the love story which Twilight presents. I guess I’m glad that for most other readers, it doesn’t feel this way, because it makes it hard to read BD. But oh, I am totally with you on this one.
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Re: Ambivalences

Postby corona » Fri Jun 24, 2011 5:48 pm

I am trying to digest this, and for once I have nothing to add.

I came into the series late, and so was able to immediately read BD following EC. This condition that Edward keeps telling Bella about, going through that change without having a sword over her head, without being under pressure, is something that I didn't ponder too much about.

Now I get what you mean. The light bulb is coming on. I'm going to have to think about this for a bit to see how I would have felt if I had had to wait a year between the books and what my expectations would have been.
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Re: Ambivalences

Postby Tornado » Fri Jun 24, 2011 6:21 pm

Boy, there's so much to read here! I wish I had time to sit down and read it all indepth, but I've got about five minutes at the moment ...

One of the things I love about these stories is the intricacy in its morality in relation to the characters. It's so fascinating and I get so much out of it, and so many people get different things.

The only comment I would like to make is on something Jazz Girl said:

Jazz Girl wrote: I don't think you have to be to understand that protecting one's immortal soul is done by living a moral life. Most moral codes are dictated by what most believers see as living by God's commandments. Given all the questions Edward raised about the loss of his soul and taking Bella's soul if he transformed her, for him to then change his belief 180 degrees would essentially be saying that he loved his wife more than he loved God and valued their love more than he valued their souls. To most believers, that is an unacceptable decision.


For a start, I'd like to say that the Christian religion does not preach that you save your soul by living a moral life, although you probably can't always tell that from what some Christians say. Christianity preaches that nothing we do, no matter how good, can make up to God for the wrong we have done. That's why he sent Jesus Christ to die in our place. Because Jesus lived a life with no sin, he was able to take the penalty for our sin upon himself and die in our place (because sin leads to the death of our souls through separation from God in hell). Christians live moral lives because we know that that is the way Jesus lived and we are called to model our lives on his, out of gratitude for what he has done in saving us. That is the heart of the Christian faith.

I don't think that, in changing Bella, Edward is saying that he loves his wife more than he loves God, so much as that his view of God has changed. He no longer believes that simply because Bella is a vampire she is hell-bound, but that she has as much chance as anyone else for redemption, whether human or vampire, because her salvation (in the books) depends on what she does with her life (remember that the morality presented in the Twilight books is the simplistic "good" people go to heaven and "bad" people go to hell model). So he believes she can achieve redemption whether she is a vampire or a human.

This is even true from a Christian perspective since, as I pointed out above, salvation is not dependent on what we do. If there were real vampires I believe that they would be perfectly capable of being redeemed because they have the ability to make a conscious decision to follow Jesus Christ and model their lives on his. I think this is what SM believes, which is probably another reason why she was able to let the story go the way she does. Her vampires are like "Christian" vampires (in the simplistic model I previously mentioned). Carlisle certainly has faith that redemption is possible, although he's not 100% sure. in New Moon, Edward has no faith at all, but by the end of Breaking Dawn I believe he has found faith. Too much has happened for him to believe that changing Bella will destroy her chance of going to heaven. He thought he would kill her - he didn't (in the normal vampire way, that is). He thought if she was changed she'd hate him for what he'd done - she didn't. In fact, she thrived on it. So by the end of the book, I believe his last objection has gone. He doesn't believe even death will stop them now. He has faith that this was the right thing to do.
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Re: Ambivalences

Postby smitten_by_twilight » Sun Jun 26, 2011 5:14 pm

I really have to go back and read this whole thread AND Explorations SOON, when RL lets up for a minute. (I'm on a break right now.)

Tornado wrote:(remember that the morality presented in the Twilight books is the simplistic "good" people go to heaven and "bad" people go to hell model)

SM does briefly discuss that her characters have differing points of view on morality - Bella has never thought much about it (and consequently has simplistic thoughts), Edward thinks about it simply (quite likely the result of the particular era during which he was originally taught morality), and Carlisle, who was an original thinker on morality even as a human, has thought the most and seems to have the most complex views, also the most unusual among vampires. One of the ways that I see Edward as evolving through the series is the change in his moral view - in NM, accepting that he believes in the possibility of a personal afterlife for himself (when Bella runs into him), even though in Hell, and in EC and BD, accepting that Bella has a right to make moral decisions for herself (when he accepts her choice to become a vampire, risks her life by continuing the pregnancy, and honors her choice to become a vampire when he envenoms [?] her).

Jazz Girl wrote:Given all the questions Edward raised about the loss of his soul and taking Bella's soul if he transformed her, for him to then change his belief 180 degrees would essentially be saying that he loved his wife more than he loved God and valued their love more than he valued their souls. To most believers, that is an unacceptable decision.

Tornado wrote:I don't think that, in changing Bella, Edward is saying that he loves his wife more than he loves God, so much as that his view of God has changed.

It is absolutely not my intention to deny anything that has been said, much (most? all?) of which I agree with, but I have an additional perspective. In a Christian worldview, the believer's love of God is mirrored by the love of each other, especially spouses, and vice versa. It is not possible to love anyone without also loving God, and one does not love God more than one's wife, or one's wife more than God. In fact, the more you love your spouse, the more aware you are of your love for God. Love for God is also mirrored intensely in the parent-child relationship.

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. Bella, morally simplistic as she is, shows the beginnings of awareness of this when she agrees to postpone her transformation for a chance to experience committed (and sexy) human love with Edward. It also gave them the chance to fully experience God's love for them, and theirs for God, in the context of a full family - a uniqueness in the vampire world, and absolutely a gift from God. Although it seems like it re-introduces the sword hanging over Bella's head, it never really felt like that to me, because I always thought that vampirization was the accepted eventual plan anyway, regardless of the contemplated postponement.

Jazz Girl wrote:They are never allowed to say, "I love you and us more than I fear anything else."

Again, Christianity really comes down to love, not fear, and it's huge that Edward can move forward to a place where he can place his love of Bella (respect for her choice to be vampirized) above his fear for her soul. It's kinda huge that Bella can place her love for their child together, and trust in Edward, above her fear that she will die, thus not only losing out on eternity with Edward but inevitably killing him as well. Maybe I'm prejudiced, but making the committment to have and raise a family together is one of the most romantic things I know, cuz it's tough, people. And thinking this out - I hope it makes sense, I'm not sure my writing is too linear - actually makes me feel even more like it's a romantic ending.

Now my break has been 75% longer than planned. I swear I'll read the whole thread before I post again.
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Re: Ambivalences

Postby Tornado » Sun Jun 26, 2011 5:25 pm

Smitten, that was an excellent post.
:clap:

Now, I'm just in the process of reading back over a few things, so I'll just add them as I read. I hope that's okay. Sorry if this all gets a bit messy.

Alphie, I am so jealous of you having read any part of Forever Dawn, even just a plot outline. One of the hardest things I found about book two of BD (and I found it VERY hard) was the fact that the character through whose eyes we were looking was so bitter and resentful. Now, I understand why he was, and that he was jealous and all that, and that having his viewpoint in that section was appropriate because of all the things that were happening with the pack, but it made it a very unpleasant read for me. I too, would give a lot to read that version, and to see Edward and Bella experiencing those things in that way.

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. He's around more than Bella is in book two, and in book three the only time he's not there is when Bella goes to see J Jenks. Perhaps people just think, because there aren't so many romantic moments, that they find it hard to experience him. I didn't have that problem.

I too, hope SM continues Renesmee's story one day. Even though I don't really like Jake at the moment, I believe he is still the good kid that he was in Twilight. I think that some of this does come out in BD, for example, where Bella comments that she's not used to Jake using Edward's name without bitterness. It's clear that their relationship has changed. This is also clear in what Edward says to Jake when they're preparing to hand Renesmee over to him. Jake and Edward have been reconciled somewhat. We just didn't get to see it, because the narration switched back to Bella, and we missed it. So in a way, Jacob was supplanted in book three of BD too, because we couldn't see his reconciliation to the Cullens, or at least Edward, and that leaves me in a difficult position in regard to him. I want to see that reconciliation. I want him to take responsibility for his misjudgements and apologise for them.

All that I asked from Jacob was a simple acknowledgement that there were times that he crossed the line himself, but there is nothing.


This is exactly what I want from Jacob too.

Edward hurts Bella = Bad. Jacob hurts Bella = Noble


I think essentially that the reason that Jake seems to have no consequences to his actions and Edward does is because Edward has the kind of personality that feels a lot more. He is an intellectual type who will labour over all his decisions and mull long and hard about whether they're right or wrong, Whereas Jake just jumps in boots and all, and, as with a lot of people these days, thinks it's a crime to say he regrets anything, so says that he regrets nothing. What we are seeing is not SM making Edward suffer while Jake gets a free ride, but simply demonstrating the differences in their characters.
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Re: Ambivalences

Postby Jazz Girl » Tue Jun 28, 2011 12:13 am

But, if it comes down to "a Christian world view", of which one are we speaking? Using the term "Christian" covers a lot of ground. Where perhaps Smitten, you have been raised in one version, others have been raised with completely different versions. For instance, when I say that were Edward& Bella to choose each other over what they [he] views as a risk to their immortal souls, I have been told point blank by a member of the clergy that there is in fact a hierarchy and God comes before your spouse, and that it is possible to essentially make a false idol out of your spouse if you value the love of your partner above that of God. 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 disgards her immortal soul for earthly love and lust. So, while I don't argue that, in certain view points, the argument over soul might not carry as much weight, it certainly does from others.
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Re: Ambivalences

Postby Tornado » Tue Jun 28, 2011 2:24 am

Jazz Girl wrote:But, if it comes down to "a Christian world view", of which one are we speaking? Using the term "Christian" covers a lot of ground. Where perhaps Smitten, you have been raised in one version, others have been raised with completely different versions.


Plenty of people do have different interpretations of the Bible, that's true. However, most groups who follow the Bible do have primary doctrines that we all agree on.

Jazz Girl wrote:For instance, when I say that were Edward& Bella to choose each other over what they [he] views as a risk to their immortal souls, I have been told point blank by a member of the clergy that there is in fact a hierarchy and God comes before your spouse, and that it is possible to essentially make a false idol out of your spouse if you value the love of your partner above that of God. 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 disgards her immortal soul for earthly love and lust. So, while I don't argue that, in certain view points, the argument over soul might not carry as much weight, it certainly does from others.


It is certainly a Christian viewpoint that God should be loved more than your spouse (your spouse can't save your soul; they are in as much need of saving as you are). However, the person in Twilight who places the least value over her soul is Bella, and it's clear from the books that she has no real belief system. So it's not surprising that she would respond to Edward in the way she does. Of course, that's only one viewpoint covered in the books. It's clear that Edward does believe in God from the start, although he has no hope for himself in the beginning, by the end of it he seems to have found some. I don't think Bella ever does, but then, it's not really an issue for her.

There are plenty of reasons why Christians have stopped their kids from reading the saga! I keep waiting for one of my Christian friends to frown when I mention it and tell me off, so that I can give them all my prepared arguments for why it's all right to read it, (such as that the moral viewpoint of one character, Bella, for example, is not necessarily the moral viewpoint of another, like Edward or Carlisle). While there are certainly books out there that I think are not good to read, I think the saga has enough pseudo-Christian viewpoints for Christians to get a lot out of it.

And I haven't met any opposition so far. I'm still waiting to find that friend who frowns at me. Everyone so far has either smiled indulgently at me for being sucked into the craze, or has immediately told me which team they're on! Most of my Christian friends are Team Jacob, though :cry:
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Re: Ambivalences

Postby corona » Tue Jun 28, 2011 10:20 am

There are too many good points flying back and forth! I feel so rude jumping in again without acknowledging all of them, but it's becoming nearly impossible without a really, really long post.

First, though, I want to thank Alphie for jumping in and giving us some additional info. Trust me, I've thought about it a lot.

Wouldn't it be great to read Forever Dawn? And not just to experience her original ending, but to be able to glean from that story the original driving motivations for our characters. I'm really pondering just how much Nessie drove the whole story, and how certain aspects of the story we know could easily be explained by SM's overpowering desire to give Bella and Edward a child. Maybe that is the key to the great Dog Snog, where the lasting image with me is that sense of losing family and those children who run off into the forest.

Imagine Bella experiencing Edward's revelation of hearing his daughter for the first time, and the undeniable implication that Edward's soul is fully intact and what that would mean to him. And imagine Edward finally understanding his wife again, and that she is willing to give her life to bring this truth to him, that her faith in him and his soul never wavered. Imagine that moment of pure clarity. And we have to imagine it, because that initial moment is seen through the eyes of Jacob who immediately leaves.
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Re: Ambivalences

Postby Tornado » Tue Jun 28, 2011 5:14 pm

I agree, Corona. What I wouldn't give to read some of it, no matter how rough an outline it is! It would be amazing to experience that pregnancy from the inside, and the love Bella has for the baby during the pregnancy, in spite of what it's doing to her.

I've known a couple of women (just acquaintances) who were advised to terminate their pregnancies because the doctors were worried that it might take their life. I remember hearing one saying how she sat down with her other children not long before the baby was due, and talked to them about what they would do if mummy wasn't there anymore, because it was a very real possibility that she wouldn't survive. Imagine having to do that! But she couldn't destroy her child. Fortunately, this story had a happy ending, and both she and the baby survived and thrived.
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