So, I've caught up on both the Explorations and the Ambivalences entire threads, and RL is doing all right. The threads, especially Explorations, remind me of those really great conversations I sometimes had with college friends, between about 10 and midnight, when everyone was reasonably sober and no one was too tired to talk ... except this conversation has been going on for years. Wow.
I wanted to address my thoughts about my perceptions of SM's intentions with Twilight and religion, or spirituality, or whatever. First I should mention that I have already written more about religion than I usually say in a year, which seems a natural segue into briefly talking about my religious/spiritual orientation.
I was born and raised cafeteria Catholic and continue to practice that way. I say "born cafeteria Catholic" because my father was Methodist (and remained so) and my parents didn't exactly shove religion at me - Lenten practices were totally new to me when I began to attend a Catholic high school. I had a long lapse of not attending Mass at all - partly because when I did I would cry, feeling overwhelmed with presence - but I married Catholic, so here I am (still cafeteria style). Of my husband's 5 sibs, all raised Catholic, 2 are now agnostic, 1 converted to pretty fundamentalist Baptist, 1 converted to Pentecostal, and 1 is still searching very, very hard. 1 of the agnostics has a daughter who is a Druid - great wedding. So lots of tolerance and surface familiarity, but still, I'm coming from a Catholic orientation when I speak about religion.
After I got past the first insane blush of love with the books and could look for deeper content (or read into it), I began to try to understand what SM meant when she talked about vampires being dead, because obviously they move, think, eat (drink), have feelings, etc. Along about the 9th re-read and after much reading of interviews, etc, I came to the belief that she really meant d-e-a-d dead. As a doornail. I don't think they meet the high school biology definition of life - for one thing, they don't reproduce within their species. Vampirization seems to be more like infection - they only pass on two chromosome sets. And that's not within species anyway. They need humans to reproduce (or infect, whichever).
In a deeper sense, they are no longer part of the life cycle of this planet. They consume blood, and they use it, and they consume more. They do not excrete at all, tears, sweat, other excretions. They don't even give off heat! When ripped apart in the books, they don't spill recently drunk blood. There's a part in either NM or EC where Jacob describes them as parasites, and I think this is an accurate view. Even the Cullens, who arguably contribute to society through Carlisle's medical practice, Esme's restorations, etc, do not biologically contribute to the planet. We don't know if the ashes are useful, but somehow I don't think that stone, burnt up by highly flammable venom, would make a useful fertilizer. I think it is valid to consider them a sentient alien species, but one that is not life as we know it.
This implies that when Bella chooses to become a vampire, she is literally choosing death - she will be leaving life-as-we-know-it. She will become a member of a species that is parasitic on this planet, and inevitably lose everything that was a part of her old life. She will lose it permanently, for an eternity that she literally cannot fully comprehend as a human. This is what she commits to, and what Edward does not want for her. I don't think he ever wanted it for her, but I'm going to get to that slowly.
The fatal pregnancy allows them both to behave in a manner consistent with their love for each other and with a believer's view of correct Christian behavior. Had they freely gone ahead with the transformation without this kind of pressure, they would have been making false idols of each other - placing their love of the other above their love for God/their souls.
Tornado wrote:I'm not sure I agree with that. Not unless you assume that Edward still believes that Bella will lose her soul by joining him.
Not personally attached to the term "false idol," but yes, I think that he at least still thought that her soul would be at risk if she deliberately lost her human life only because she wanted to become a vampire. I hope that you can see my statements as fleshing out my own thoughts, rather than arguing. Much has been made of Edward's comments when Bella runs into him in Volterra (and of course, the movie either confused you if you saw it first like me, or I'm sure enraged you if you already knew the books). "Carlisle was right.... So maybe this is
hell. I don't care. I'll take it." Although Edward did not think that he believed that he had a soul, he certainly would have thought he would go to hell if he had one, having committed oh, probably thousands of murders. Now, I'm not sure about other Christian faiths, and I personally would like to believe that a merciful God could be understanding of someone despairing enough to take their own life, but in classical Catholicism at least, people who suicide go to hell. Edward believed, based on Rosalie's report of Alice's vision, that Bella had jumped, not fallen, off a cliff and died. Hearing about it without the context of her increased risk-taking, and knowing that she would have been at least a little distressed when he left, he believed Bella suicided. Therefore, according to my hypothesis that Edward has really conservative spiritual views, Bella was in hell, with him, which was acceptable to him under the circumstances. I know, I know - later in her bedroom he says "But I can't imagine what you could have done to wind up in hell. Did you commit many murders while I was away?" He knows now
that she didn't set out to commit suicide, but he didn't know then
. I won't quote the whole paragraph where Bella points out to him that he must be hopeful that he has a soul, but that seems to me to be a crack in the wall, not an overturning of his beliefs. The soul resolution between them seems to me as if it doesn't move much from the end of NM to the middle of BD. Edward continues to believe that, if he does have a soul, then he is probably damned, and that Bella has a soul that will probably either be lost or damned when she is vampirized. It's just that he also recognizes that she literally cannot live without him, and has persuaded his family to vampirize her if he won't. So he will accept her sacrifice (which does make him happy in another way), and plays for time.
December wrote: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.
Totally agree, December
. I think the storyline of EC has a lot to do with getting Bella to really understand Edward's POV on vampiric immortality.
So then it is strange for me when BD goes into this fairy tale connection again in the third book, especially when she sees her house for the first time. I tend to see much of what happens in BD as SM loving her characters not wisely but too well. I can certainly sympathize with the worry that characters that you create might be living out the life you write for them somewhere! And of course, the possible desire to model correct behavior. Saving Bella and Edward from the sin (using Catholic terminology again here) of killing Bella, giving them and all the Cullens a perfect baby, giving Jacob a miracle HEA, and ending the conflict with the Volturi (for now) with hardly a life lost, all strike me as great examples of this loving too well, or the Angel of Destiny (I thought that was a great bit too, corona
and Jazz Girl
!), or deux ex machina techniques. I have trouble respecting it, but I can understand and enjoy, because I want them to have heaven forever, too!
newborntwifan wrote:So many thoughts, conversations, and choices seemed out of character to me and inconsistent with the themes of the rest of the saga.
Absolutely. I tend to just read BD for the parts I really enjoy - and there's lots that I really, really enjoy - and gloss over the parts that I just have to accept.
I enjoyed the conversation on Jacob, but I'll reserve my comments for some future post! Hope this thesis fits on one page.