Monday, November 29, 2010

Twilight Chapter 3: Phenomenon

1. Our perky heroine “groaned in horror” on waking up to find it snowed a little during the night. Sweetie, you knew what this place was like. You're only going to get harder to like if you keep complaining.

On the upside Charlie’s gone to work already, and she finds herself “reveling in the aloneness instead of being lonely.” Considering she had few friends and no niche back home, and even thinks of her father more as that guy she lives with, you’d think she’d have learned to cope, yeah. In fact when she thinks about how the boys at school fawn over her, “I wasn’t sure if I didn’t prefer being ignored.”

2. All the same, she’s in a hurry to get to school because it means seeing Edward again. “And that was very, very stupid.”

Normally I’m willing to give a story a little less grief when it admits something is stupid, because at least the writer knows there’s a problem (although obviously I prefer it when they’re aware of a problem and fix it). Not when the problem’s with the driving force of the story, and in the Twilight series that’s Bella and Edward’s relationship.

She acknowledges her fixation on him is stupid. That’s fine, because it is. I’ve seen plenty of romance plots where two characters are attracted against their better judgment and devote a lot of energy to denying anything’s there at all. Generally those work because the writer has them you know, get to know each other and realize that once they get past the rough edges they’re more compatible than they thought. Not here. Bella’s just fixated on Edward, period, even though she knows practically nothing about him as a person aside from how he can be a huge jerk. The only things she really learns about him over the course of the book are the ways “real” vampires differ from the popular conception. Granted we do learn one sort of redeeming thing about him regarding his feeding habits, but that’s more than undone by the oppressive way he acts to the woman with whom he’s supposedly deeply in love in later books. On the other hand, he never gets any less pretty.

3. Once Bella gets to school she’s almost hit by a runaway van. Rather than everything slowing down, she’s processing everything a lot faster, like the fact that Edward was able to get over to where she is and get her out of harm’s way faster than any normal person. And he dented the van with one hand. And even though her mind shifted into high gear, the thought of getting the heck out of the way apparently never entered it.

Making Edward even more likable, he “sounded like he was suppressing laughter” when Bella realizes she hit her head. He even chuckles under his breath when he tells her to stay where she is and she complains about the cold.

And despite almost being crushed and taking a hit to the skull, still the only thing on Bella’s mind is Edward. Maybe Meyer thought it’d hurt Bella’s image as this intrepid heroine determined to unravel a mystery if she were to do something like go into shock after very nearly being reduced to a smear on the asphalt. Bella’s even nonchalant about it when they’re in the hospital and the guy who almost hit her, Tyler, is falling all over himself trying to apologize. Because that’s how people react after a brush with death, just one more thing that happened to them that day.

4. At least Bella acts a little like a real teenager when EMTs put her in a neck brace, and she’s thinking more about looking stupid than being hurt. On the other hand this is the real start of Bella having no survival instincts.

5. Bella’s fine, and I'm perfectly okay without who knows how many chapters devoted to her being resentful of people wishing her well while she recovers. Edward comes to get her out, thanks to his dad’s influence. But while Dr. Cullen’s asking how she feels Edward chuckles and shoots her a patronizing smile. Bella’s not actually distracted by Edward’s pretty into forgetting to be mad at him. Thing is, this is the routine for their relationship for most of the book; Edward being condescending toward her and Bella getting annoyed at him. Other than the pretty, she's got no reason to associate with him but keeps doing it anyway. Forgive me for thinking this might not really the truest love the world’s ever seen.

6. Bella finds out “most of the school seems to be in the waiting room” because gosh darn it if anything happens to Bella everyone in school wants up-to-the-minute progress reports. Since she’s such a modest soul and not a Mary Sue at all, Bella’s upset that everyone’s there worrying over her. It’s not quite as unlikely as the other attempts to make Bella modest but also an attention magnet–what teenager (in this case the well-wishers) needs an excuse to skip class–but Bella isn’t seeming any less like an author’s pet character.

7. When Bella remarks she’s lucky Edward was there to save her, Dr. Cullen quickly dismisses the subject and goes over to examine Tyler. From this it clicks in her mind that he’s in on it. Wow, she is on the ball! Or with how bad their cover act is, maybe it’s just that Dr. Cullen isn’t. He doesn’t really think he fooled her with such a forced effort to drop the matter, does he?

In any case he didn’t, as Bella tries to force an explanation out of Edward, to which he replies HE saved HER life, and he doesn’t owe her anything. He deals another blow to his family’s secrecy by feeding her a line that sounds rehearsed. To Bella, that is. And he stalks out leaving her so mad “it took me a few minutes until I could move.”

8. At this point I really have to stop and ask what Bella’s interest is in Edward. I have no clue what she hopes to accomplish by continuing to cultivate her interest in him, even with him being the key to “all the bizarre things I still could hardly believe I’d witnessed.” Yeah he saved her life, but he’s jerky and standoffish. And if she’s right that he really is superhuman, who knows what he might do to her if he found out she was onto him? Her, the weak-willed klutz. And since he’s the one telling her to leave him alone (even as he invites her to hang out), it’d be her own fault if anything bad happened.

And since she hates being the center of attention, it’s hard to see her revealing anything of what she found. At least in a town as small as Forks, where it probably wouldn’t be too hard to track her down as the source. Which goes back to what a guy who can dent metal with his bare hands might do to her if he finds out she knows his dark secret.

The best I can come up with is Edward’s the only interesting thing she’s seen since moving to Forks, hence her mindless fixation. And as there’s nothing to indicate she has any survival instincts, the possible consequences of learning more about him probably don’t even enter Bella’s mind.

9. The final insult comes when Bella meets up with her dad, who tells her to call mom and let her know she’s all right. Our heroine is horribly indignant that he would have the nerve to tell mom her daughter was almost hit by a van. I thought Bella didn’t want special treatment on account of being the police chief’s daughter. It wouldn’t matter whose kid it was, he would’ve called their parents if they were almost in a car accident. He’s a cop, stuff like that’s his job.

Plus it gets on her nerves that he looks at her anxiously as he drives her home. How dare you care about my welfare, dad?!

I know she doesn’t think of him as “dad.” That doesn’t change the fact that he is.

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