First published in Midwest Christian Outreach Journal, Vol. 16, No. 1, 2010; it has been slightly altered for the website.
The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer has sold over
85 million copies in 50 countries (http://www.stepheniemeyer.com/).
Eager fans have stood in line to get the first copies of each succeeding
book, and have excitedly queued up for the movies.
The books depict the romance between Bella, age 17 in the first book, and a vampire, Edward, whom she meets at school. The obstacles and dangers in the romance, along with Bella's deepening bond with Edward's vampire clan, are the focal points of the story. A secondary plot involving Bella's friend Jacob, a Native American who is genetically a werewolf (though called a shape-shifter in the last book), ties into the romance and ultimately is resolved, though rather bizarrely. Bella's longing to become a vampire leads to explosive drama in the fourth book based on the fulfillment of that desire.
What was author Stephenie Meyer's inspiration for this tale of a
human-vampire romance? Meyer, an observant Mormon, had a dream in 2003
(Lev Grossman, "Stephenie Meyer: A New J K Rowling?" Time Magazine,
April 24, 2008,
In the dream, she saw a young girl talking to a sparkling vampire in a
meadow; they were in love, and he was explaining to the young girl how
hard it was not to kill her. This dream was the impetus for the books,
and Meyer quickly wrote the first book, Twilight, later following up
with the three sequels. There was another dream to come, a terrifying
dream, which will be discussed later in this article.
One of the earliest praises of the Twilight books
was based on the fact that Bella and Edward do not have intimate
relations. While it is true that they refrain, the reasons are not
moral. Rather, Edward, as a vampire (which Bella discovers in the first
book), is afraid that in his passion he will actually kill Bella.
Although Bella often tries to persuade him to cross the line, Edward,
aware of his vampire strength and what it can do, resists.
The romance that is the linchpin of these books is somewhat tainted by the fact that the reason Edward is attracted to Bella is the smell of her blood. This plays a significant role in the first book. Bella meets and gets to know Edward's clan, who are called his "family" in the books. This group has sworn to drink only animal, not human, blood; nevertheless, they are still attracted to human blood and must control themselves when they are around people. In fact, Edward is so fiercely drawn to the smell of Bella's blood that he continually struggles with the urge to attack her. He even says to her, "You only have to risk your life every second you spend with me" (Stephenie Meyer, Twilight, [NY: Little, Brown and Company, 2005], 305).
As time goes by, Edward's control is better but not total. In a harrowing scene at the end of the first book, when Bella has been attacked by a "bad" vampire, she lies badly injured and bleeding on the floor. Edward and some of his clan get there just in time to save her, but Edward and his "sister" Alice have to hold their breath to keep from smelling Bella's fragrant blood and attacking her. Two other vampires in the clan, Emmet and Jasper, are unable to contain their bloodlust and leave the room. There is a similar scene in the second book, New Moon, where Bella has cut herself, and the smell of her blood is too much for the entire clan, save Carlisle, the "father" who is also a doctor (he has mastered his appetite for human blood).
Despite the abstinence, the books are fraught with sexual innuendo and an undercurrent of physical passion steaming just below the surface. After Bella discovers that the pallid Edward has been watching her at night in her room, she allows him to get in bed with her. Although nothing untoward happens, Bella hides this from her father. Is this the kind of behavior that parents would hold up as a model for their children?
Eclipse, the third book, offers one rather racy scene. Edward, in bed with Bella as usual, reaches down Bella's leg and then, as Bella recounts it, he "pulled my leg up suddenly, hitching it around his hip" (Stephenie Meyer, Eclipse [NY: Little, Brown and Company, 2007], 186). After kissing, Edward "rolled till he hovered over me. . . I could feel the cool marble of his body press against mine," and then, "Cold as ice, his tongue lightly traced the shape of my lips" (Eclipse, 187).
In the same book, Edward, Jacob (a werewolf/shape-shifter who loves Bella), and Bella are in a tent during frigid weather. It falls to Jacob, a warm-blooded creature vs. the cold Edward, to keep Bella warm by getting under the covers with her and holding her all night. Edward, who is able to read Jacob's impure thoughts, becomes sullen and angry, and Jacob taunts him with suggestive remarks and double-entendres. Later, there is a near-bodice ripper scene when Jacob imposes himself on Bella in the tent in Edward's absence. Jacob kisses Bella "with an eagerness that was not far from violence" (Eclipse, 526). The scene is non-graphic but quite erotic, and continues with Bella giving in and responding fervently to Jacob's advances (Edward, how soon they forget, huh?).
After three books of passionate abstinence and innuendo, Edward and Bella marry in the fourth book, Breaking Dawn. In spite of Edward's fears and the fact that Bella is still human, they give in to the desire for marital relations. This leaves Bella horribly bruised all over her body, but alive (the description is uncomfortably reminiscent of a battered woman).
Noticeable in the first three books are the unending descriptions of
Edward's physical magnificence. Edward, being a vampire, is actually
dead. He has no heartbeat and does not eat or sleep; he only drinks
(animal) blood. Since he is actually a walking corpse, he is quite cold
to the touch. This does not bother Bella. For her, Edward, has
"unbearable beauty" even to "an excruciating degree" (Meyer, Twilight,
Edward is described in terms reserved for the ancient gods or for angels: "Edward as he hunted, terrible and glorious as a young god; "Edward has an "angel's face," a "gentle angel's smile," and "exquisite face;" Edward is the "beautiful one, the godlike one" (Twilight, 343, 262, 341, 340, 459, 357). Bella cannot imagine how "an angel could be any more glorious," and she finds herself so captivated by him that she cannot move: "His golden eyes mesmerized me" (Twilight, 241, 263).
Edward does not disintegrate or burn in the sun; he sparkles. "His skin, despite the faint flush from yesterday's hunting trip, literally sparkled, like thousands of tiny diamonds were embedded in the surface" and Bella notes his "sculpted, incandescent chest" and "scintillating arms" (Twilight, 260). The breathless description of Edward as an angel or a god, and having a beauty almost beyond bearing, even possessing a "seraphic face" (Twilight, 283) as well as his sometimes glistening body, makes it nigh impossible not to think of "an angel of light ("No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light," 2 Cor. 11:14).
In a later interview, Meyer recounted a subsequent dream of Edward which frightened her: "I had this dream that Edward actually showed up and told me that I got it all wrong and like he exists and everything but he couldn't live off animals... and I kind of got the sense he was going to kill me. It was really terrifying and bizarrely different from every other time I've thought about his character" (MovieFone, "Stephenie Meyer Reveals Details of New Dream About Edward Cullen," March 29, 2009, http://www.twilightgear.net/twilight-news-and-gossip/stephenie-meyer-reveals-details-of-new-dream-about-edward-cullen/2493).
Could Edward possibly be an unbidden spirit guide for Meyer? She first saw him in a dream, and then sees him again in this dream where he actually threatens her. It is impossible to know but it is not totally unlikely.
According to Meyer, every vampire has a special gift, usually supernatural. Edward can hear others' thoughts; his sister Alice can see possible futures; Jasper can influence moods; Aro, the head of the Volturi (a sort of vampire ruling elite), can gather people's memories and thoughts by touching them; Jane, a member of the Volturi, can cause people to feel burning pain. The list goes on, especially in the last book when more vampires enter the story.
Throughout the first three books, Bella longs to become a vampire. She wants to shed her humanity and family to enter Edward's world, which will give her immortality. This entails losing one's soul as well. Edward speaks of this possible change as "bartering your soul in exchange for an eternity as a vampire" (Eclipse, 541). Bella thinks of losing her soul as "almost insignificant" in light of her fear that Edward might not want her (Eclipse, 528).
Once Bella becomes a vampire in the fourth book, her memories as a human seem vague and indistinct. She exults in her ability to move so quickly that she is a blur to human eyes, that she is powerful and strong, that she never tires, and that she can detect multi-layers of odors no human can smell. "I was never going to get tired . . . We didn't have to catch our breath or rest or eat or even use the bathroom; we had no more mundane human needs" (Breaking Dawn, [NY: Little, Brown and Company, 2008], 482-483). After Bella becomes a vampire, Bella and Edward, who as vampires do not need to sleep, have what is implied to be non-stop intimate relations, and this fact is touted repeatedly.
There is an almost-Gnostic downgrading of the human body and mind in favor of the vampires, who are described as godlike, brilliant, angelic, and are immortal. One cannot ignore Meyer's Mormon roots and faith in these passages, since Mormons believe that everyone on earth was once in heaven as a spirit child begat by Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother, and good Mormons one day will be gods ruling their own worlds.
Moreover, Mormon marriages "sealed" in a Mormon Temple are supposed to last forever. One reason Bella wants to be a vampire is because she wants to be with Edward forever; since Edward will not do this without a marriage, the future for them is to be together in an eternal marriage as vampires.