Friday, May 6, 2011
New Moon Chapter 9: Third Wheel
1. Because she’s latched onto a new good-looking guy, “time began to trip along much more quickly than before,” and “Charlie got his wish: I wasn’t miserable anymore.” Sure, having a good friend or a romantic partner does a lot to invigorate your outlook on life. But when that’s the only reason you have for any kind of enthusiasm about anything, and you don’t seem to care about any of the particulars regarding who that person is…
Furthermore, “When I stopped to take stock of my life, which I tried not to do too often…” Because Bella’s supposed to be smart but doesn’t like to think, not just about this but pretty much anytime. Which boils down to not being smart after all.
Lending weight to that theory of mine that the source of Bella’s disappointment is thinking of everything in the most grandiose terms possible, she thinks of herself as a lost moon whose planet was destroyed but who hovers in the same area, “ignoring the laws of gravity.”
2. The search for Edward’s clearing continues, but Bella is either lying to herself or lying to the people she’s telling the story, because “I tried to live as much in the present as possible, no past fading, no future impending.” If that’s the case, then why did she throw “myself into the search for the meadow with slightly frenzied intensity,” since it’s to remind her of someone who she thinks is gone from her life forever?
The punch line to this contradiction being that Bella doesn’t realize it’s Valentine’s Day until Jacob tells her. “You can be so out of it sometimes,” he says, though of course one has to ask when she’s with it.
With Jacob giving her candy and asking her to be his valentine, Bella “was trying to think of some way to make the boundaries clear. Again. They seemed to get blurred a lot with Jacob.” Once again I must call attention to Bella’s failings as a narrator because I don’t remember hearing anything substantial about “boundaries” with him. I can imagine what they are, that she doesn’t want to connect with anyone because no one can ever fill the hole Edward left and it’ll only hurt to try, but I still don’t see why this isn’t being described better. Or at all.
Maybe Meyer’s being so vague because otherwise it’d be even more obvious Bella’s exploiting Jacob the way she exploits everyone else. Not that Bella makes any attempt to mask her contempt for the rest of her “friends” when she tries to distract Jacob by inviting him to see a movie with her and the others. After all, she likes “the the idea of having his company for the ordeal--I had promised Mike, but didn’t really feel any enthusiasm at the thought of following through--was just too tempting.” Emphasis mine. She even gives him permission to invite Quil along without asking the other kids. When Jacob replies Quil will flip over getting to hang out with senior girls, Bella even promises to “try to get him a good selection.”
Maybe Edward and Bella do have the deepest love of all time, but she’s still the most selfish, manipulative bitch I’ve ever been asked to root for.
3. When she discusses the movie trip with Mike, who’s hitting on her again because he apparently has the same standards Bella does, she stresses she wants to go with a group, to see an action movie. “I’d done my homework this time--even reading the movie spoilers to be sure I wouldn’t be caught off guard.” Because the last movie she saw turned out to be exactly what she thought it was going in. Huh? If it was about seeing a happy couple at the beginning of the movie making her think it was a romance, I still say that’s Bella failing for not knowing how romances generally work.
Also, she talked like she had already made plans with Mike when discussing this with Jacob, but makes it sound like this was something he knew nothing about when she mentions it to Mike.
He suggests some of their other inconsequential “friends” along as well, but Bella tells him she’s already invited some friends from La Push along to so they’ll need to use his family’s Suburban. What an entitled brat. I know she turned down or resisted gifts from Edward, but when that happened I got the feeling she was trying to tell him there was only one thing she really wanted from him and it wasn't any of those.
In the end just about everyone they thought about inviting has to bail on them anyway, even Jacob’s buddy. Since Bella only wanted them around as protection from Mike, she probably wasn’t too broken up. Except for not having that shield. Which she even admits when it turns out it’s just her, Jacob and Mike (nice of Meyer to name the chapter after him).
4. Before the trip, Mike asks if Bella really wants to see the action movie. Her response? “I’m in the mood for action. Bring on the blood and guts!” That must’ve sounded so fake in person…
5. When Jacob says Mike, he describes him as “The one who thought you were his girlfriend. Is he still confused?” Bella’s reply, “Some people are hard to discourage.” Look who's talking.
This was established the first time we saw Jacob, on the trip out to La Push in the first book, but man. Is it some kind of requirement that the guys in these books make fun of a perfectly nice guy who doesn’t have supernatural powers? Actually, it probably is what with that “anti-human” thing and the kind of guys Meyer evidently finds attractive. Once again, you have my deepest apologies that we’re not as appealing as creatures you made up, Steph.
What can it mean that a woman in her thirties is still writing like a teenager writing down stories to live out their fantasies, and her avatar is supposed to be so mature she was born thirty-five?
6. During the drive Mike’s dumbstruck to find out Bella doesn’t like music. Why not? Wasn’t one of the reasons she started liking Edward because they liked one of the same musicians? Did she stop listening to music because she can’t hear it without hearing Edward’s heartbreaking piano recital anymore? Do Bella’s interests change at whim because Meyer’s a bad writer? I don’t feel like I’m in the wrong for wanting the greatest novelist of our time to explain discrepancies. “Why doesn’t Bella like music anymore” isn’t the kind of thing you leave mysterious to be thought-provoking. At least the way it’s handled by Meyer, where it seems like she just forgot the thing about Clair de Lune from the last book.
Once they get to the theater, “I almost wished that Mike had decided to bow out. He was still sullen--not much of an addition to the party.” Ah-ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha HAH! He forgave your shit when you were like that, Miss Swan! Why in the hell should I want a happy ending for this character? She never grows as a character, she only thinks her life has improved when she finally gets to shed her reviled humanity.
Once they’re inside Bella “settled in to endure the two hours, watching the colors and the movement on the screen rather than seeing the shapes of people and cars and houses.” Did it even matter what movie they went to see, then?
7. During the experience Bella actually starts to watch the movie after Jacob laughs to her about how implausible the action is. “How was I ever going to fight the blurring lines in our relationship when I enjoyed being with him so much?” It’s called moving on with your life, Bella. It’s a sane thing to do, and it’s what Edward wanted for you when he left so his family wouldn’t try to eat you anymore like he warned you they’d be wanting to do since almost the minute he started talking to you in earnest.
I love how Meyer defends this. “I can only say that we all handle grief in our own way. Bella's way is no less valid than any other to my mind. “ It’s “no less valid” that she tries to avoid closing the book on that chapter of her life even though she’s accepted Edward’s gone and isn’t coming back.
We get some glimpse into why she’s starting to move closer to Jacob when he makes no illusions about her taste in cinema: “You sure can pick them, Bella. This movie really sucks.” Also when Mike leaves because all the simu-carnage has made him ill and Jacob mocks him for his weak stomach.
With the competition gone, Jacob put his arm around Bella’s shoulders and when she’s not comfortable with that, “wrapping his other hand around my wrist when I tried to pull away again. Where did he get the confidence from?” Confidence's source isn’t external for everybody, you know. Considering she’s shown an ability to understand people’s thoughts that defies everything we’ve heard about her personality and background, you’d think she’d know that.
8. Jacob asks for confirmation that Bella likes him, and she complies, but stresses that it’s only as a friend. He accepts that. “That’s okay, you know. As long as you like me the best. And you think I’m good-looking--sort of. I’m prepared to be annoyingly persistent.” At least he’s more upfront than Edward.
“I’m not going to change,” Bella insists, and tells Jacob he’s wasting his time trying to move things up with her, “though I wanted him to. Especially if he was willing to accept me the way I was--damaged goods, as is.” Because people never recover from break-ups, the damage really is as permanent as it seems the first time it happens. I've been in love. It didn’t work out, but I wasn’t thinking the void would never go away as long after the fact as it’s been for Bella . Know what Meyer, yes Bella is a wuss for still being in recovery.
Oh, someone might defend this by saying Edward’s so much more fantastic than any ordinary guy, it’s extra dispiriting to break up with him! Once again, that might be believable if we’d actually seen an attraction. Instead of our only assurance being the characters saying how deeply in love Edward and Bella are.
“Detractors of her reaction don't always take into account that I'm talking about true love here, rather than high school infatuation.” That’s the problem, Steph. You’re talking about it, not demonstrating it.
9. As you might remember, Mike’s sick to his stomach and “the salesgirl” at the concession stand begs them to get Mike outside. “She was obviously the one who would have to clean the floor.” And I guess she’s not the one who’d have to clean it up if he puked on the sidewalk outside. Maybe Meyer doesn’t know but somebody would still have to clean it up even if he didn’t empty his guts on the ground inside the theater. Think about how much business the theater could stand to lose if people came up and thought “look at all the hurl in front of the doors! And they’re just letting it sit there!”
On the way to the car Bella notices it’s really cold but Jacob doesn’t seem affected at all. “ ‘You must have a fever or something,’ I grumbled.” Hey, if he’s interested in Bella fever-induced delusions seem like a pretty reasonable explanation.
Bella talks some more to herself about how it’s not fair to let Jacob think they could become something more because she’ll never get over being dumped by Edward blah blah you’re right Steph don’t listen to all those nasty people these books are genius.
10. Bella tries to fool us into thinking she feels bad about what’s happening with Jacob: “Heaven knows I had never wanted to use Jacob, but I couldn’t help but interpret the guilt I now felt to mean that I had.”
She twisted him around her little finger to get him to tell her what his people knew about the Cullens. She got him to fix the motorcycles and teach her how to ride for her own (sick) reasons which she never told him. And she may honestly be so clueless about people she doesn’t realize it, but she’s latched onto him to give her existence meaning after it got harder to reconnect with the memory of Edward. How has she never wanted to use him? Unconscious urges count too. You don’t usually decide to want something.
As I was saying, “Even more, I had never meant to love him.” Exactly. You don’t decide to find someone appealing. Although with how unconvincing things were with Edward I wouldn’t put it past Bella.
“But I needed him now, needed him like a drug.” Oh, so he’s your brand of heroin? Why am I willing to let Ami and Yumi get away with that kind of romantic imagery but not Meyer?
And despite saying again and again that even Jacob’s affections can never repair her broken heart, Bella tells us she’s going to let him try anyway. An admission that she’s fixable by the right guy after all, or more proof that Bella’s a thoughtless bitch even to the few people she admits to liking?
11. Anyway, it turns out Mike puking his guts out was actually due to twenty-four-hour stomach flu. She calls Jacob when he doesn’t call, only to get his dad who says Jacob got sick too and wasn’t up to calling her. “Billy sounded distant. I realized he must want to be with Jacob.” I understand how parents being concerned for their children is probably a foreign concept to Bella, but geez…
She asks about coming over to see him, but, “ ‘No, no,’ Billy said very quickly. ‘We’re fine. Stay at your place.’ The way he said it was almost rude.” Don’t like the taste when it’s going down your throat, huh?
Bella spends most of the next day on the floor of the bathroom when she comes down with stomach flu too. “Charlie claimed he had to work, but I suspected that he just wanted access to a bathroom.” Bella’s not a wuss, huh? Yeah I’ve been sick plenty of times that involved semi-regular vomiting, but I didn’t spend the whole time in the bathroom, denying other people use, in case I needed to puke. My family put a bucket next to my bed instead.
Bella keeps a close eye on the time, waiting for her twenty-four hours of sickness to be up. It’s nice that life works along perfectly even terms like that, doesn’t it? Except it doesn’t, and I’m finding it easy to believe Bella, maybe even Meyer, doesn’t know that.
12. Bella calls Jacob to see how he’s doing, but he’s still sick. She apologizes for getting him stomach flu, but he tells her, “This isn’t your fault.” Gee, that’s so unlike the perfect boy she fights to remember.
She offers to come over, but he tells her not to. Because not everything is about her. Not really, but it's not something she ever needs to learn.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you the reason Jacob’s still sick, the reason he’s never cold, and the reason the next time you see him he’ll be part of Sam Uley’s gang is because he hit werewolf puberty. I’d complain about how Meyer’s dragging the revelation out, but we actually get a glimpse of things happening next chapter.