Monday, November 29, 2010

Twilight Chapter 4: Invitations

1. The chapter opens on Bella having a symbolic dream of Edward walking away and her never being able to catch up to him. What the dream doesn’t do is give anything to indicate why she’d want to be within fifty feet of him in the first place.

Bella’s picked up another unwanted admirer as Tyler, the guy who almost splatted her with his van, is still going all-out trying to make it up to her. Things between the two of them actually become some kind of extremely awkward running gag. Mike and Eric are even more hostile to him than they are to each other, and Bella worries over picking up another “unwelcome fan.” I have to wonder whether “unwelcome” refers to Mike and Eric not wanting him around, or Bella not wanting any of them around.

Despite Bella saying over and over that Edward saved her, nobody even seemed to notice him at the accident. With “chagrin” Bella realizes the reason for that: she’s completely obsessed with him. “No one else watched him the way I did. How pitiful.” That could be an interesting observation if it actually went somewhere, instead of being a momentary observation before plowing on exactly as she had before, occupying every minute of her day with thoughts of Edward.

As if things couldn’t get any worse, the Cullens never look her way at lunch anymore. Because most people are perfectly willing to reveal their deepest darkest secrets to teenagers they have no idea they can trust. And the Cullens’ secrets are deeper and darker than most, which Bella already suspects.

2. To clarify the last point, Bella’s upset Edward won’t trust her with the truth about himself, but what exactly did she do to earn a measure of trust? She can’t even stay mad at him, “the heat of my anger faded into awed gratitude.” Let us know when you grow a backbone, Bells.

3. Our heroine’s depression at the pretty boy not letting her in was starting to show in the emails to mom, who “called a few times, worried.” Moving in with Charlie so mom could enjoy the new marriage is working out great, huh?

4. Mike at least is enjoying the distance between Bella and Edward, especially with the “girls’ choice spring dance” coming up. Wouldn’t that be the Sadie Hawkins dance? Whatever.

Mike, Eric and Tyler are so crazy about Bella they all flat-out ask her if she’s going to ask them to the dance, not really getting the point of it at all. She turns them down by prodding Mike to accept Jessica’s invitation and arranging a spontaneous trip to Seattle that weekend to duck the other boys. She spends a lot of energy “trying to push the guilt and sympathy out of my head.” It’s a full-time job being a Mary Sue, isn’t it? Why is anybody interested in Bella? Meyer talks about how her work was inspired by all these classical love stories, you’d think she would’ve found a couple satisfactory answers for that question she could use.

Edward lets her taste the bitter pill of denial for herself when he tells her it’s better if they aren’t friends, making Bella acidly retort he regrets saving her life. He even twists the knife by blocking her way out of the parking lot, giving Tyler his chance to stop Bella and ask her about the dance. Edward even laughs as Bella awkwardly turns him down. Really, we’re supposed to like these characters and want them to get together, you say?

Like I said Meyer has compared her love story to others like Romeo and Juliet, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, The Princess and Bride and all that, but I think I’ll refer to an example the people who read review sites are more likely to be familiar with: Han Solo and Leia Skywalker.

They both initially despise each other and eventually romance blossoms, but we’re given reasons to like them. Han might be cynical, but he does have the urge to do the right thing. Hence why he joins the Rebellion even after he’s been paid for the job he was hired to do in the first place. Leia seems hard-headed and argumentative, but that’s because she’s a tough woman who’s in charge of her own life and has dedicated it to toppling a tyrannical government. We’re given reasons to care about them so we hope they’ll get together once the seeds of attraction show up.

Now, let me stress the participants in a fictional coupling don’t have to be laser-toting space commandos for me to give a rat’s patoot, but they do have to be characters who are likable and in some way compatible. Bella’s a whiny little puke who follows Edward around like a puppy because he’s pretty, and he’s an arrogant jerk who enjoys seeing her powerless. When they bicker, I sure don’t feel like there’s any underlying sexual tension. And if you're expecting them to change and become more likable as the story plays out, well, in Edward's own words, I hope you enjoy disappointment.

5. Bella finally decides she’s had it with Edward and is going to ignore him, do well in school and earn a scholarship to someplace warm. You go, girl. Of course, the fact that there’s four of these bullet-stoppingly thick books opens up the possibility she MIGHT go back to secretly admitting she likes the sound of “Mrs. Edward Cullen.”

6. Getting her mind off Edward, Bella continues to settle into her role as Susie Homemaker. “It was fun to watch as he slowly began trusting me in the kitchen.” I guess I wouldn’t mind if she had any other interests, anything else she wanted to do with herself. Something like writing poetry in her spare time would be, well, something. Meyer's aware of how a regular person surrounded by werewolves and vampires can't really do anything to participate in their escapades, but it's like she revels in how powerless she can make her supposed heroine.

She tries to mention her trip to Seattle as gently as possible to Charlie. “I didn’t want to ask permission — it set a bad precedent.” Yeah that’s the thinking of a typical teenager, but Bella seems to be consciously taking every chance to lose sympathy she can find.

7. Charlie brings up the dance, and she thinks he ought to know better since she didn’t get her balance issues from her mom. And this guy’s a cop? In fact he’s the head of all the cops in the area? Yeah Forks is a tiny town where nothing happens, but if he’s anything like his daughter how did Charlie ever end up with a job like that?

8. Edward meets Bella the next day, insults her a little (for one thing admitting the thing with letting Tyler ask her out was completely deliberate), then despite all the “we shouldn’t be friends” gunk from before asks if she’d like to make her trip to Seattle with him. “He enunciated every syllable, as if he were talking to someone mentally handicapped.”

About “we shouldn’t be friends” he explains “I said it would be better if we weren’t friends, not that I didn’t want to be.” I love how he’s the one that calls Bella “utterly absurd” when he’s the one who’s giving up on trying to stay away from her yet refuses to open up. He’s been around for a hundred years, he doesn’t really think she’ll just forget her questions and be satisfied with his company, does he? Maybe the Cullens don’t interact much with normals, but they still live among them.

When she asks what business it is of his, he retorts her truck’s a real gas-guzzler and “The wasting of finite resources is everyone’s business.” He can’t even extend an offer to hang out without sounding superior. Boy I wish I was friends with Edward Cullen.

He ends the conversation by asking again if she’ll go with him to which she nods numbly, then repeats she really should stay away from. Grrrr! Look, I read the rest of the book, I know why he supposedly acts like this. But it’s annoying for a character we’re supposed to like, even fantasize about, to contradict himself in practically the same breath. Especially when the reason he says they shouldn’t be friends is he might lose control of himself and eat her.

1 comment:

  1. Strange, my first boyfriend said things like that; "The wasting of finite resources is everyone’s business" sounds very much like him.