Saturday, February 18, 2012

Eclipse Chapter 14 - Declaration

1. “You can’t be serious!” Bella exclaims as we open. What can’t who be serious about? Alice has no plans to call off her big graduation party, because her entire “personality” seems to consist of super-girly things like throwing parties, or exasperating Bella by doing super-girly things like throwing parties.

“There’s no reason not to go through with it,” sayeth Alice. I guess not. Certainly it’s not as if someone’s raising a newborn vampire army nearby, one they think is probably intended to attack them, and against which they have no allies, no plan of action and quite possibly no forewarning. Let’s remember there’s another vampire or two in the area, one out to get Bella, and one who seems to be aware of Alice’s visions and how to get around them. Even if they aren’t avoiding Alice, it sounded like she’s watching for so much stuff, things are starting to slip past her anyway. Yeah, no big deal.

Alice is unmoved. Thinking that “a party is so appropriate it’s almost passe.” Why does Alice want to do it, then? I get the feeling Meyer thinks “passe” means something else. I always thought it was a fancy-pants way of saying “so five minutes ago,” and all my checking bears that out.

Another part of Alice not changing her plans is this is the only time Bella will get to graduate from high school for the first time. And as a human. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime shot.” It would matter if you enjoyed high school and passing from it meant something to you, or you had something after it you were looking forward to. Bella is looking forward to Edward, and hardly seemed to notice anything else about her academic career at Forks High. Speaking personally, I hated high school, and the only reason I cared when I got my diploma was it meant I was freed from that awful place and the awful people I knew there. I’m not planning on attending any reunions. I refuse to believe Bella doesn’t have similar thoughts.

You can’t force somebody to enjoy something. It sounds like Alice is throwing this party because she wants to, and using a line of bull to try to make it sound like she’s trying to do a friend a favor to justify not changing her mind. Boy I’m believing in this thing between the two of them.

And all this “human experience” crap might add up to anything if it wasn’t snatched away as soon as Bella started thinking there might be something to it, by her having to become a vampire in order to be not-dead. For all this talk, you’d hope Meyer could at least have done something with it.

2. Edward comes in and mentions other attempts to gather reinforcements, but I’m not going to dignify this book by acting as if the names he mentions belong to anyone. Although it is worth mentioning that most of the other vampires the Cullens are friends with don’t share their dietary habits.

Rather than do something moronic like explain who these people are and why the Cullens respect them in spite of their decision to feed as they always have, Alice just says “They’re friends,” and that’s apparently that.

Bella gets worried about losing any of the Cullens to their nameless enemy. “I couldn’t stand this -- the idea that someone might not come back.” She’s such a wimp she can’t even say “die” in her head. I know that’s the point, but it’s yet another sign Bella hasn’t grown one bit this far in the story. “What if it was Emmett, so brave and thoughtless that he was never the last bit cautious? Or Esme, so sweet and motherly that I couldn’t even imagine her in a fight?” Don’t say that like I’ve gotten to know them and have any good reason to care about the possibility of losing them (which there isn’t. A possibility of losing them). Are these sound bites supposed to count as characterization?

“It’s going to be fine, Bella. Trust me,” Edward tries to reassure her. “Sure, I thought to myself. Trust him.” Feel the love! “He wasn’t the one who was going to have to sit behind and wonder whether or not the core of his existence was going to come home.” You’re right, he’s the one who’s actually going to do something, being out there fighting tooth and nail against enemies stronger and more numerous than his group for the sake of his whiny true love. Who’s useless at literally anything and is just soooooooo tempting to vampires, and as such will have no chance if any bad guys get anywhere near her. Plus there’s no assurance that help is coming or that they’ll have any advance warning when or from where the attack comes. He’s got no fucking idea what real worry is.

3. Bella tries to take advantage of the occasion to get vamped, only to be given the obvious reminder that there isn’t enough time to teach her to helpful and not just another problem. You’d think she’d be so used to losing arguments she wouldn’t even bother anymore.

4. But who cares about vampires fighting, you must be saying, how many people are coming to Alice’s party? 65. “My eyes bulged. I didn’t have that many friends” I bet you don’t, smiley. Turns out one of them isn’t her mom, though. “She was going to surprise you for graduation, but something went wrong. You’ll have a message when you get home.” Bella’s relieved because if mom paid a visit, “I didn’t want to think about it. My head would explode.” I know I’m sounding like a broken record here, but I don’t care about the fate of someone we’ve seen two whole times up to now, once of which was in a fucking flashback.

“The message light was flashing when I got home.” Thanks for having the faith in me to not remember something you said a paragraph ago.

Mom’s baller husband broke something and she just can’t get away with him in that condition. Bella calls to talk to her mom about the incident, or rather, to listen to mom talk about the incident and not say much herself, because you can tell she’s really mature and stuff because she doesn’t have to hog the conversation. Or that her life is so damn empty she wouldn’t have anything to talk about if she ever wanted to.

Except for how pretty Edward is, of course. “He was so beautiful that it made it hard sometimes to think about anything else, hard to concentrate oh Phil’s troubles or Renee’s apologies or hostile vampire armies. I was only human.” For being so not entrapped by teenage hormones, Bella only seems to notice Edward’s outside.

They kiss, which Edward breaks after a while. “I know you think that I have some kind of perfect, unyielding self-control, but that’s not actually the case.” You can say it as much as you want, that won’t make it untrue. You can show it just a few times, and that will.

5. Edward announces they’re going to be going out hunting, because having fed recently makes them a little stronger. Human blood even more so, but even though that would help, “It doesn’t matter. We aren’t going to change who we are.” Pretty good statement on the series’s attitude toward character growth, really.

Which is sad because right then Bella has an appalling thought that could’ve actually been milked for some interesting situations if it hadn’t been immediately dropped; Bella realizes she’d be okay with Edward killing somebody to make him strong enough to survive the upcoming fight. On the other hand, if she can’t deny she’d be willing to trade the life of a stranger for better odds on Edward’s survival, I’m not really sure why the books ask me to hope a bunch of characters I hardly know as anything more than a set of recurring names don’t die. Here and elsewhere. (Actually, I kind of do, but that’s for later).

That’s something to do with why newborns are stronger; because they haven’t learned to rein in their instincts and drink so much blood. I’m not going to try to follow Meyer’s explanation. The crap about what makes vampire skin refract and doesn’t is bad enough. Bella asks how strong she’ll be as a vampire, though, and Edward asks her to challenge Emmett to arm-wrestling if and when she ever gets her own sparkles.

6. Edward helps our lovable protagonist cram for finals “since he knew absolutely everything.” I get there’s a sensible explanation for this, what with the Cullens going to school multiple times for some reason, but this perfection isn’t helping me doubt their chances in the upcoming fight.

Later Bella calls Jacob to hang out, and he agrees. “I was pleased to have an option besides being babysat.” And she’s eager to spend eternity with those people?

When Bella and Edward talk after tests and she’s unsure about how well she did on some, he laughingly talks about bribing the teachers into giving her A’s. We already know he’s bribing college officials to overlook late applications for her, how unbelievable is it that he would? And what, exactly, is the point of going to school over and over if you’re not going to socialize or join activities, and you pay people to give you good grades?

7. Edward drives Bella out to La Push and gets upset (oh, there’s a change-up) over some of the things Jacob’s thinking. “That’s impolite,” he can’t resist saying out loud. So’s kidnapping your girlfriend and taking away her say in any decisions. If Bella actually were the character she’s supposed to be, it’d look even worse on Edward.

As she gets into Jacob’s car she looks back at Edward, “and, from that distance, it looked like he was truly upset about the honking thing…or whatever Jacob was thinking about. But my eyes were weak and made mistakes all the time.”

Despite thinking she was just imagining things, Bella goes back on her kick of wanting the two to be able to make friends and see each other as Jacob and Edward instead of the werewolf and the vampire. Maybe that would work if that wasn’t exactly what they were. Edward’s the (basically) civil monster, and Jacob’s the crass, barely-contained monster. Those are exactly the stereotypes I think of when I think “vampire” and “werewolf.” Even in this stupid series that does its best to venture from the regular depictions of those creatures, that’s still what I see. And that in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, but when you’re trying to argue that they should see beyond that when there’s nothing beyond that to see…

8. “Jacob’s house was vacant, and that felt strange. I realized that I thought of Billy as a nearly permanent fixture over there.” Why? Because he’s nothing but Jacob’s dad? Because he doesn’t get out and do anything because he’s in a wheelchair? No, Billy Black isn’t a deep character, nobody in the Twilight series is, but Bella’s not helping with the way she seems to think of him as an object. Just because she has no life outside of the two boys in her life, that doesn’t mean nobody else has nothing going on.

Turns out he’s “Over at the Clearwaters’. He’s been hanging out there a lot since Harry died. Sue gets lonely.” Poor Sue. Who’s she, again? See what I mean? No, “That’s nice. Poor Sue,” and, “Sure, it’s got to be hard on Seth and Leah, losing their dad….,” don’t make me care any more. Maybe if we actually met these characters and saw how it's hard on them...naaaaaah.

9. Bella notices that Jacob’s acting really tired (and before anyone says anything, no, that’s not really something it would take a genius to notice). “Sam’s being difficult. He doesn’t trust your bloodsuckers.” And when the guy representing the group is Edward, why would he? Consequently, Jacob’s running double patrols for Bella’s sake and hasn’t had much of a chance to sleep.

She asks why he’d run himself ragged to look out for her. He reminds her of his joking promise of eternal servitude, but she replies she doesn’t want a slave. He, rather understandably, asks what she does want from him, and she replies she wants her best friend Jacob. Because she’s so worth all of her crap, he agrees.

He asks about current events and she mentions the graduation party, and Jacob’s a little upset that he wasn’t invited. Bella then invites him because it’s her party, and she figures she should have some say as to who’s on the guest list. Oh, now she cares. “ ‘Thanks,’ he said sarcastically, his eyes slipping closed once more.” I’m curious as to why he’s being sarcastic; is it because he doesn’t think the family of vampires would really let him attend? That he’s supposed to enjoy a party thrown by Alice? That he finds the idea of Bella standing up for herself against them laughable and doomed to failure?

Or maybe it’s this bit: “ ‘I wish you would come,’ I said without any hope. ‘It would be more fun. For me, I mean.’ ” Oh, so the only reason she wants him around is so it would be more bearable for her? Is the guy she’s planning to spend eternity with no good for that? That, among the many, many deficiencies of her relationship with Edward, is the one that probably galls me the most. She can lean on Jacob to make trying times more bearable, but the guy she plans to forsake her species to be with, let alone marries and has a child with, seems to be no good for that.

Then again if he were, then at least one of the men in Bella’s life would be totally pointless. It’s kind of unsettling that, as things are, it’s the one we’re meant to hope our heroine gets together with. That’s all I’m saying.

10. Even when she’s hanging out with Jacob, Bella can’t keep her mind off Edward. Specifically, her wanting him to be the one to vamp her. She thinks things like “And I didn’t want to be practical,” and “It wasn’t a rational desire,” and “It was childish, but I liked the idea this his lips would be the last good thing I would feel,” and “It was hard to define, even to myself, why it mattered.” Well, it’s hard to define to me, who can’t understand what the hell the attraction is to either of them. Especially since like I just said, her twu wuv doesn’t seem like someone she can go to for emotional support. If she really does intend to spend forever with this guy because of she luuuuuuuuuuuuurves him so much, well, isn’t that the explanation for why she wants him to be the one to seal the deal?

Although this line has me scratching my head: “It would make me belong to him in a tangible, quantifiable way.” Okay, ignoring how she wants to “belong” to Edward, if she wants their relationship to exist in measurable terms than it kinda sorta hurts the defense for their “love” that love isn’t rational, love isn’t something that can be quantified, and that excuses the lapses in good sense on our protagonists’ parts.

11. Jacob falls asleep while Bella halfheartedly watches TV while really having the above mind trip. He wakes up when she’s thinking it’s time to go, but he has a major announcement to make. One he’d hoped to save for a properly dramatic occasion, but doesn’t feel it can wait.

What could it be? “I’m in love with you, Bella. Bella, I love you. And I want you to pick me instead of him. I know you don’t feel that way, but I need to get the truth out there so that you know your options. I wouldn’t want a miscommunication to stand in our way.”

The situation’s so dumb I have to skip ahead and couple it with Bella’s reaction from the next chapter: “I stared at him for a long minute, speechless. I could not think of one thing to say to him.”

Because we all thought Jacob’s interest in Bella was purely platonic, right? In a romance, when he only became a major character after Bella was left an incomplete person because her inamorato had run out on her. When pretty much every uncoupled guy in her age range expressed an interest in her at some point. Hell, remember the first chapter? “Friendship doesn’t always seem to be enough for Jake.” Anyone?

I don’t want to sound like some kind of literary rules Nazi who thinks there’s only one right way to tell a story, but guidelines are there to help us. Not straightjacket creativity. In general, a well-told story will surprise us by having us find things out at the same pace as the characters. If it’s a surprise for them, it’s also a surprise for us. Thing is, if we’re halfway through the next book and the revelation that Jacob making a play for Bella too is supposed to come as a shock, well, the question “how fucking stupid does the author think we are?” comes to mind.

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