Ambivalences

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Re: Ambivalences

Postby Tornado » Mon Jul 25, 2011 2:45 am

I always thought her way of handling vampires thoughout the series was (as someone else here as also pointed out) a little like they were an alien species, rather than vampires as we know them. As you said, more like just heightened human beings.

Also, I always thought they were the classic example of choice. Almost like being born into the mafia. You are expected to stay in "the family business", as it were. But they all decided to go against it, even though the drive to live the way the others do is so strong. No, they were going to make the choice to be something different, no matter how hard it was, because they believed it was the right thing to do. They didn't let the idea that they had no choice rule them: they just weren't going to be that way. They refused to be stereotyped and do what everyone expected them to do. A classic case of standing your ground (especially in Carlisle's case) and decreeing that, because everyone else is that way, you don't have to.

I think it's a great message. Just because you're born in a lower socio-economic area, it doesn't mean there's no hope for you. Just because you're born into an abusive family, it doesn't mean (as some people think) that you have to grow up an abuser yourself. It doesn't mean because we have a particular fault in our personalities that we can't rise above it and say that we're not going to be like that. We CAN defeat those things if we really want to, but it's not going to be easy. But if it's the right thing to do, does it matter if it's hard? People can overcome anything if they really want to, even though it may be something that will be a struggle every day of their lives, like giving up smoking or drugs. Hard, but worth the struggle.

Am I rambling?
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Re: Ambivalences

Postby smitten_by_twilight » Mon Jul 25, 2011 3:30 am

OMG, so many thoughtful things going on, and I don't even have time to read right now! (12:30 am local.) I have been absent for a while because RL is kicking my behind, but look very much forward to re-entering the convo ASAP ... whenever that will be.
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Re: Ambivalences

Postby corona » Tue Jul 26, 2011 1:47 pm

December, I'm absorbing your comments, and you have succeeded in getting me to see your point. And it does seem to be going there near the end of EC, doesn't it? Especially for Edward, it was so difficult for him, but he seems to be ready.

I think you are right, there is a different story in NM and EC, and you can actually catch some glimpses of the evolution in her outtakes. New Moon was originally not quite so dark, with some comic levity thrown in concerning Bella's reaction to the medication, and a huge pressure release through the attempts by Edward to establish a scholarship fund for her. Most significantly, Jacob appears to be the same character hinted at in brief comments by SM concerning Forever Dawn; Jacob is primarily a friend with a crush on Bella.

It is clear to me that SM is very tender-hearted. Removing the Scholarship sub-plot was the correct thing to do, although I can see why she wrote it in the first place because it put a smile on my face. And removing Edward completely opens up the door to expanding Jacob's role.

"I didn't realize until I was working on the resolution how much my characters had gained from this experience."

I see that comment and I wonder how much rewriting there was between NM and EC once the direction of NM was finally settled on. What was EC like as originally envisioned? Because Bella does not fall in love with Jacob in NM in the original draft, or at least it was not nearly as evident from what little I have seen.

I can see the possibility where Swoonygirls may have actually hit on Jacob's original role. I confess that although I loathe TGDS, it is superior to simply having Jacob represent the humanity that Bella is leaving behind without the kiss. Hmmm, no impact, doesn't work. However, suppose that was the original plan. I look at the original ending to New Moon and I can't see TGDS happening in EC. Perhaps the signficance of Bree and Charlie was highlighted more in the original conception (I personally felt Charlie got short shrift in EC).

What I do see is New Moon being a huge story. Nothing is going to have the same impact as Edward leaving. Once the changes are made and NM becomes so powerful, what is left for EC?

Here is my valentine to you December: you are absolutely correct, it really does take the sting out of the TGDS if it is truly has the meaning you give it. That is an absolutely brilliant interpretation, although one has to wait for BD to realize the full payoff (whoops).

And yet, SM returns to her original ending, the one she always wanted. And she makes it clear that she was "fighting for Nessie" the entire time. I'm not sure that she would really have to fight for her, that sounds more like an acknowledgment that things began happening in the other books that weren't quite aligning with BD. Or maybe she is referring to Bella being too eager and messing with her timing. I wonder what she meant by that?
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Re: Ambivalences

Postby December » Tue Jul 26, 2011 8:19 pm

Corona wrote:I see that comment and I wonder how much rewriting there was between NM and EC once the direction of NM was finally settled on. What was EC like as originally envisioned? Because Bella does not fall in love with Jacob in NM in the original draft, or at least it was not nearly as evident from what little I have seen.

I wish I knew more about the precise timetable of the composition of NM and EC. Not to mention The Host, which chimes in spooky ways with the story EC seems to be setting up for us (only it all comes to nothing in BD). Just how far did The Host wind up channelling ideas and impulses raised by EC which couldn't be developed further because Stephenie was locked into what she "knew" happened next to Edward and Bella?

But I digress....

About NM, when you say Bella does not fall in love with Jacob in the original draft of NM, are you thinking about the outtakes? (Stephenie: "It was a shorter book back then, missing the crucial seventy pages wherein Jacob and Bella share all their secrets and cement their relationship into something that transcends friendship"). I guess I always (naively?) assumed that this development was simply deferred till the next book. Hmmm. I suppose it's also possible that at this stage in writing, Stephenie hadn't envisaged the friendship ever developing into anything deeper.

We know that TGDS itself -- the actual kiss, I mean -- was a very late interpolation inspired by a Muse song; I always assumed that Bella would have gone a long way towards falling for Jake even without that clinching revelation. But I guess the evolution of their relationship in Stephenie's head may have been a long slow process, starting from pure friendship (as in the outtake NM version) and culminating in TGDS.

although one has to wait for BD to realize the full payoff (whoops).

Er, "whoops" as in: the payoff we never actually get? (Because instead we loop back from EC to the end of TW and pick up from there...?).

And she makes it clear that she was "fighting for Nessie" the entire time. I'm not sure that she would really have to fight for her, that sounds more like an acknowledgment that things began happening in the other books that weren't quite aligning with BD. Or maybe she is referring to Bella being too eager and messing with her timing. I wonder what she meant by that?

Well....hard as it might seem to believe now, I think Stephenie had a genuine battle with Little Brown, back in the day, to get BD published. (Much as I would love to believe that deep down, she also had a struggle within herself over the gulf between where she had got to and where she'd been planning to go....)*

Understand, I'm speaking in ignorance here -- but as far as I can make out the sequence was this:

When LB bought TW, they expressed an interest in sequels. Stephenie offered them FD; they rejected it as insufficiently YA and signed her up with a contract for three books: TW and two suitably YA sequels. Exactly how much of FD her publishers expected would make it into that trilogy I don't know, but it's clear (cf. the Chicago BD signing) that Stephenie herself hoped to hang onto the main plot points, like marriage, pregnancy and the birth of Nessie.

Then, as she was drafting NM and EC, she realized it would take another book to do justice to all the story she wanted to tell. (And if you look in her TW FAQs she's already declaring that as far as she's concerned, she needs more than three books to do Edward and Bella's story justice). But there seems to have been a period of uncertainty about whether LB would agree to extend the series to a fourth book. (I swear I was reading some old convo recently in which she's telling fans she hopes to write four books, but it depends on her publishers -- and now I can't for the life of me remember where!). She basically says as much at the Chicago signing, though tactfully: "they said ‘we’d just really just like it to be three books, and end with Eclipse.'"

As I understand it, this is what she's referring to when she talks about fighting for BD and Nessie: Little Brown thought she could make a good series within three books (presumably by jettisoning the pregnancy and everything that follows from it); Stephenie put up major resistance.

In one sense of course, publishers have the upper hand in a situation like this (and remember that LB had no inkling at the time of the blockbuster literary property Stephenie would become). On the other hand, you can lead a horse to water but....

You can't force an author to write the ending you want. LB hold the levers of real-world power, but only Stephenie has control over what happens to Edward and Bella. That's the power that really matters -- and she exerted it. Where her characters are concerned, she's uncompromising; and it would seem she REALLY wanted Nessie. (And Openhome has been doing her darnedest to persuade me she was right *grin*). She got her fourth book out of LB, and the ending she needed.

That's my understanding of it, anyhow....

ETA
Agh, this got way too long, but I'm too tired to edit it down tonight. If you come back tomorrow, it might be down to a tidier, readable length!

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*Insofar as she did, I suspect it got sublimated into writing The Host, that story which came out of nowhere and mysteriously hijacked her attention at the time she was supposed to be knuckling down to starting on BD...)
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Re: Ambivalences

Postby Openhome » Fri Jul 29, 2011 11:22 am

I hope this is the right thread to post this on. Between Explorations and Ambivalences, I'm a little confused. ;)


I’ve been lurking. I admit it. Sorry.... I should have come on and posted long ago.

In both Explorations and Ambilivances, you all have been discussing some incredibly deep concepts. On the side, December and I have also been discussing them (what IS it about this story that has two otherwise normal middle-aged women discussing the nuances of it five freaking years after it was published?!?!?)

Anyway, on both threads you have been discussing the spiritual aspects of the series. For a year now, I’ve been trying (unsuccessfully) to convince December that Nessie was indeed important to Stephenie’s story. Nessie wasn’t some wish made up out of Stephenie’s hormones or a twisted plot device. She was intended from the beginning. For Edward.

Caveat: just because she was intended from the beginning doesn’t make Nessie a good idea, just and intended one. In fact, Stephenie ended up creating a plethora of shaky mythology to cover up the impossibility of it all. However, I don’t think Nessie was a mistake. She is there for an important reason.

So, why all the religious inference? Why did a DOG tell the most important part of the story so that we completely lost our final glimpses of the Edward and human Bella we loved? (Why, yes, I am a bit bitter about that. Can you tell?) And, why the baby?

The religious inference isn’t as present in Twilight as it is in the other books. I don’t believe it was as present in FD either. When SM wrote the original story (as December pointed out) it was a love story between a girl and a vampire. Their love culminates in Bella becoming a vampire and giving Edward “life” through a child. That was the wonderful sacrifice and the child was the gift. Jacob was not a part of that story. He came in later, when Renesme was older.

As you have all noted, a few things changed when she expanded the story. That’s why we don’t discuss the eternal questions of the first book much, they weren’t intended to be there.

Also, I agree with everything you all said about Jacob and choice and religion. Jacob came to give Bella an honest choice and to show just how deep her love is for Edward. Jacob is Stephenie’s voice of moral dissent from Bella’s choice. (LOVE that one Corona). We see Bella’s death and Edward’s unbearable torture through his eyes as a plot device. THAT is my hang up with the story. I wanted those weeks with Bella.

And all that happened (as you have discussed) because Stephenie began to 1) understand that when you play with dead people, it’s not just about love any more, and 2) have moral issues she hadn’t yet worked out about what was happening. To add to the mix, her characters changed and deepened and her story did as well. Once she wrote New Moon. the story became riddled with spiritual references.

Everyone in the story except Jacob needed to be “redeemed” in a way. She couldn’t show the agonizing choice of becoming a vampire without giving Bella a good alternative in the form of Jacob. The vampires, especially Edward, viewed themselves as “good” but damned. They were lost in a half-life, frozen and unchanging -- dead. Even Bella was “lost” as a human and needed to find a way to come to terms with her own life. She no longer could discuss the love without discussing eternity, and for a religious person, that is a big, big issue--probably bigger than she wanted it to be. The love story became so much more than that. Which is why we are here.

I said, a very long time ago, that Stephenie viewed the baby, and Bella’s constant struggle to show her love to Edward, as a redemptive gift -- to Edward.

Everything was for Edward.

December wrote me a note that put my thoughts in a much clearer path. She has the most wonderful way of doing that. I want to share it here.

December wrote:Ok, so I just got it.  What the whole damn NM/EC sequence is for.  All that futile agonizing and negotiating and choosing, before fate steps in and preempts the whole issue.

It's nothing to do with what Stephenie or Bella needs.   It's entirely for Edward.

Because Edward is the one person whose HEA isn't assured by the events of FD.  In fact, we know from NM (as Stephenie interprets it in her FAQ) that Edward is so horrified by the realization that if Bella were dying he'd be unable to stop himself saving her (and damning her soul) that this thought drives him to leave her.  From which we can assume that he'd have a pretty hard time living with himself after the events of FD.  

Bella doesn't need to know that she would have chosen to give everything up for Edward.  She'll be happy if fate makes her a vampire because (as we know) it's the right choice for her.

It's Edward who needs to know that. The balanced structure of those two middle books makes it seem as though the point of NM is settling Edward's doubts and the point of EC is settling Bella's (after raising them).  But they're both actually about laying to rest every last lingering scruple Edward might later have about what he's done to Bella.  By dangling before Bella the perfect human life she could have had without Edward -- offering her as ideal a human lover as she could ever hope to meet even if she waited years and years -- EC presents Edward with the final proof that becoming a vampire with him really is Bella's HEA.  So he doesn't have to spend eternity beating himself up for not having tried harder to get her to leave him before (one way or another) loving him killed her.


Isn’t that beautiful? I loved how she put it.

I can only add that the baby is here for that reason as well. Yes, December, I understand she’s not a viable plot device and she is forced on us rather than adding to the flow of the story. But she is just as much a part of the religion of Twilight and the salvation of Edward as any of it. The baby, the great gift that was to be given from the beginning, stayed in the story because she is important to the story Stephenie was trying to tell.

But not for Bella. Yes, I believe it is Stephenie’s way of letting Bella earn her eternity. She deserved it because she was worthy of it. But all her suffering, all the pain and all the unbearable angst wasn’t for Bella to make her choice. She’d done that, over and over again.

Nessie is for Edward.

I’m sorry you didn’t get the bite and all the romance that entails, but the bite meant a lifetime of guilt and doubt for Edward. Now, Edward is free and “redeemed” and no longer fears that he killed a soul to have a sexual partner. Nessie is not only the means, but the proof.

As we have said, Stephenie needed to give Bella her reward but have her do it without “sin.” Voila, death by baby. She makes Bella’s choice not about love but about saving another, and in doing so SHE OFFERS EDWARD REDEMPTION AS WELL. Edward didn’t kill Bella, he saved her and the innocent life of his child through his immeasurable anguish and sacrifice. No foul, no sin.

Nessie is proof that Edward is now redeemed, that vampires are not dead and damned, and that life eternal is now possible in more than one way. She is the gift that all children are intended to be--our heritage, our mark, and our way to continue to live after we die. Nessie can have children and Bella and Edward will live again through them as well. The story is complete for Bella and Edward, not just because they are in love, but because they are in love and redeemed.
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Re: Ambivalences

Postby December » Fri Jul 29, 2011 11:41 am

Agh, houseguests arriving imminently for the week and the beds not yet made! I SO want to reply to this, of course, but haven't even had time to read it properly -- need to get off the phone and onto the laptop, fat chance.... I will get back to this, though, even if it may not be for another ten days! Nice to have you back, Openhome.

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Re: Ambivalences

Postby Jazz Girl » Fri Jul 29, 2011 12:26 pm

Oh Openhome, how you overwhelm me!! I have so very much I want to say, and absolutely no time in which to say it. Suffice it to say I both love you and kind of hate you for that argument. ;) Why do I foresee that I will be composing my response while I'm "participating" in a webinar in a half-hour?
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Re: Ambivalences

Postby corona » Fri Jul 29, 2011 3:22 pm

Openhome wrote:
December wrote:Ok, so I just got it.  What the whole damn NM/EC sequence is for.  All that futile agonizing and negotiating and choosing, before fate steps in and preempts the whole issue.

It's nothing to do with what Stephenie or Bella needs.   It's entirely for Edward.

Because Edward is the one person whose HEA isn't assured by the events of FD.  In fact, we know from NM (as Stephenie interprets it in her FAQ) that Edward is so horrified by the realization that if Bella were dying he'd be unable to stop himself saving her (and damning her soul) that this thought drives him to leave her.  From which we can assume that he'd have a pretty hard time living with himself after the events of FD.  

Bella doesn't need to know that she would have chosen to give everything up for Edward.  She'll be happy if fate makes her a vampire because (as we know) it's the right choice for her.

It's Edward who needs to know that. The balanced structure of those two middle books makes it seem as though the point of NM is settling Edward's doubts and the point of EC is settling Bella's (after raising them).  But they're both actually about laying to rest every last lingering scruple Edward might later have about what he's done to Bella.  By dangling before Bella the perfect human life she could have had without Edward -- offering her as ideal a human lover as she could ever hope to meet even if she waited years and years -- EC presents Edward with the final proof that becoming a vampire with him really is Bella's HEA.  So he doesn't have to spend eternity beating himself up for not having tried harder to get her to leave him before (one way or another) loving him killed her.


Isn’t that beautiful? I loved how she put it.


Let me say it, that is the most deeply satisfying explanation of Eclipse I have ever heard. I never really did understand what Bella was getting out of the whole thing. I could try to make intellectual arguments, but they never seemed to have the gut truth behind them. Becoming more keenly aware of the sacrifice she would have to make resulted simply in more pain. And that WAS something that Edward finally understands at the end of EC.

That just makes one hell of a lot of sense.

And Nessie in BD? It wasn't until I read Alphie's comments concerning the FD draft that I really started thinking about it, and then her description of the scene with Nessie as being so beautiful. I went back to the text and put myself in Bella's and Edward's minds and tried to imagine what they were thinking. And then it struck me what Edward must have thought when he first heard Nessie's thoughts.
"It will take an amazing amount of control,” she mused. “More even than Carlisle has. He may be just strong enough…the only thing he’s not strong enough to do is stay away from her. That’s a lost cause.”
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Re: Ambivalences

Postby Tornado » Fri Jul 29, 2011 6:26 pm

December wrote:By dangling before Bella the perfect human life she could have had without Edward -- offering her as ideal a human lover as she could ever hope to meet even if she waited years and years -- EC presents Edward with the final proof that becoming a vampire with him really is Bella's HEA.


The only problem I had with that is that I still don't think Bella and Jacob were that suited as people. They didn't have very much in common at all. I could see their relationship having trouble down the track, even if they'd met with no Edward and no supernatural interference or anything like that. So I don't see him as her ideal love - and that honestly has nothing to do with my dislike for him. I liked him well enough in the first two books. They're complete opposites. So although I believe that she and Jake were in love, it doesn't strike me as being the be-all end-all of all human type relationships. Although I suppose it couldn't be, or perhaps Bella would have stayed with him. Edward was her ideal match whether he was human or vampire.
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Re: Ambivalences

Postby December » Fri Jul 29, 2011 8:10 pm

Posting a quickie while the frittata bakes -- JG has expressed my plight perfectly! Just wanted to pop in a thought about this:

Tornado wrote:The only problem I had with that is that I still don't think Bella and Jacob were that suited as people.

The funny thing is, I've heard so many crowbars say the same about Edward and Bella. Sasha was very eloquent on the subject, back on the old Lex. We are witness to Bella's obsession with Edward, certainly, (ad nauseum, they would say (*grin*)), but we actually see precious little in the way of shared interests, hobbies, cast of mind etc. Edward is keen on fast cars, expensive toys, medicine. Not much common ground there.

Partly this comes back to our earlier discussion (here? on Explorations?) of Bella's supposed bookishness. If you see this as a defining part of Bella's personality, then yes, it's hard to imagine she'd be happy forever with Jake (and easier to see common ground with Edward). But Bella's intellectual side often seems only skin deep. And one reason is precisely that pretty much the only things we see Bella do beyond fixating on Edward are the very unintellectual things she does with Jake. In a way it's a classic instance of an author telling us one thing but actually showing us another: "Jake's Bella" is a much more spontaneous and earthy young woman than the introverted A-student we're told Bella is -- the brainy girl we briefly glimpse swapping slides with Edward in Biology class. People have many sides; no reason that these can't both be aspects of Bella's personality. But at the very least, Stephenie got much more interested in sketching out the side of Bella which Jake brings out. The side which consorts better with Edward generally gets swamped in the general drama of their relationship.

I guess what I'm saying is that if you really pick apart what we are told and shown of Bella's temperament and interests, they're not enough to justify identifying either Jake or Edward as her ineluctable life-mate. All we have to go on are Bella's report of her feelings -- and of course the choices she in the end makes. (If you love someone enough to give up your life for them, that doesn't necessarily guarantee that you'll go on loving them so intensely -- unless of course you're a vampire, or become one! -- but it does at least attest to extraordinary strength of passion at the time). So just as I'm willing to blindly take Stephenie's/Bella's word for it that Bella's love for Edward is profound and permanent (because in the end her word is really all we've got), I'll accept that the comfort, love and companionship Bella feels for Jake are on a scale that genuinely makes him her earthly soul-mate, and as good a human alternative to Edward as she could desire. However frail the external corroboration may be in both cases.

ETA
Waiting for the kettle to boil now. Another 5 minutes .

corona wrote:I never really did understand what Bella was getting out of the whole thing. I could try to make intellectual arguments, but they never seemed to have the gut truth behind them.Becoming more keenly aware of the sacrifice she would have to make resulted simply in more pain. And that WAS something that Edward finally understands at the end of EC.

That just makes one hell of a lot of sense.

Well, thank you.

And yes, I'm so glad you agree with me that this is one thing Edward grasps at the end of EC. As for what Bella gets out of it....well, to me that made sense because I assumed she was getting to make an informed choice (innocent days, those!). And the more she had to give up, the more poignant and romantic the choice was. To quote something I wrote somewhere long long ago:


It seems to me that you can be alive to the dark implications of the choice that Bella is (apparently) making, and still think it's a wonderful ending to the story. Tragic and glorious all at the same time: a thoroughly equivocal happy ending, because what she is embracing for love is in many ways so terrible, and yet it's also the apotheosis of their love for one another. What makes that love so transcendent is magnitude of the sacrifice Bella is prepared to make for it. And Edward's recognition of that love -- and thus his willingness in the end to accept that sacrifice -- is the measure of their perfect understanding.

So for me, what didn't make sense wasn't EC but BD, because it made that glorious, romantic choice irrelevant.

I guess now maybe it all makes sense. And yet....

...Sorry Kayla, I'm still not happy.

And if I have to come up with a 5 minute guess at why not, I suppose it comes down to this: I love the way this series entwines the spiritual and the romantic: the somber threads gleaming through the weave of this light-hearted love story. But for me, Twilight was and is a love story illuminated and sustained -- deepened -- by spiritual insight. Not a story of the spirit told through teen romance. For me, the love story is not the vehicle; it's the destination. And for this reason, it's not enough for me that the conclusion we reach in BD is spiritually and morally satisfying, and in its way romantic. I want it to be the most romantic story it could possibly be. And for any number of reasons I've rehearsed here and originally on the new Choices thread, I think that romantically, BD is a second best. Yes, Nessie's birth is a splendid culmination to Edward and Bella's romance, but it is premature; it pre-empts the resolution of their love story and muddies the story line. And taking from Bella the chance to lay down her human life for Edward, transferring that sacrifice to their child, inevitably dissipates the romantic intensity of the love story Stephenie lays out in TW/NM/EC.

But give me a week and maybe I can come up with something that addresses your excellent post properly.
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