Saturday, 20 June 2009

TwiSaga: Twilight story line

I posted recently about why I read the Twilight Saga (hereafter the TwiSaga, to distinguish from the first book of the series, called Twilight), and promised I would write a response to the books. Before I can discuss the books though, I need to give a summary of the events in each book so that the stuff I write in later posts makes sense. For Twilight, I am giving a blow-by-blow account of the book's events, but a somewhat shorter account for the others. Obviously if you have read the books yourself you won't need these post, but if you don't want to read the books, or don't have time to read them, these posts should be useful in allowing you to have an informed discussion with one of the many, many eager readers of this series, whether she be your daughter, your sister, or just a friend.

***WARNING: Lots and Lots of Plot Spoilers Ahead***


Bella Swan's ditzy mother Renee has remarried and Bella chooses to move in with her father Charlie, in order to give her mother and Phil space. Charlie is the town cop in a small, rainy town called Forks, in northwest Washington State. Bella is academically smart but physically very clumsy, and socially she expects to be a misfit at her new school. On her first day at school she is met with a surprising level of interest from the local boys and an almost equal level of jealousy form the girls. Only the stunningly beautiful and mysteriously pale-faced Cullen family, five adopted and fostered Junior and Senior students (Edward, Rosalie, Emmett, Alice and Jasper), remain aloof - as they are from everyone else in the school. Bella's interest is immediately caught by this family, in particular by Edward Cullen. Later, Bella sits next to Edward in Biology, and is shocked to find he is unaccountably furious at her. She gets the idea Edward is revolted by her smell. At the end of the day, Bella runs into Edward trying to switch out of the Biology class, and is further confused by his apparent instant dislike of her. So much for the first chapter!

Edward is missing from class for the next few days but when he returns he is courteous and even friendly, confusing Bella further. Then the next day Edward saves her from being squashed by a student's van skidding on ice in the school car park, and in doing so he demonstrates immense speed and strength, which he refuses to explain; he then keeps his distance for a month or so. Bella is invited by three boys to the spring dance, but turns them all down because of her physical ineptness and to prevent further jealousy from the Junior girls; when Edward offers to take her to Seattle that day ("I'm tired of staying away from you"), she jumps at the chance. The next day Edward invites Bella to sit with him during lunch, and then in Biology class Bella faints during blood typing, and Edward, who is wagging the lesson, drives her home; at some stage their hands momentarily meet and Bella is shocked by the coldness of Edward's skin. The mystery of Edward's nature deepens.

Bella goes to the beach at La Push, the nearby Quileute reservation, with some of the other students; in an attempt to avoid the persistent attentions of Mike, Bella goes for a walk with local Jacob Black, who regales her with Quileute legends of the "civilised" clan of blood-drinking cold ones who made a pact with the tribe (themselves descended from werewolves) to stay out of La Push in return for their secret being kept - and Jacob said it was the Cullen family who made that pact with his great-grandfather. Bella dreams of Jacob turning into a wolf and warning her to run from Edward, who murmurs "Trust me" through sharp, pointed teeth; upon waking she researches vampires on the internet and comes to the conclusion that it is likely Edward is indeed a vampire, yet she recognises she is already too drawn to "his voice, his hypnotic eyes, his magnetic personality" to want anything other than to be with him, whatever he is. Bella visits the nearest large town, Port Angeles, with the jealous Jessica and friendlier Angela, so they can shop for clothes for the school dance; separated from the others, Bella finds herself in an unfamiliar part of town and is rescued from a threatening group of men by the sudden appearance of Edward in his car; he takes her to dinner to give them both a chance to recover; Bella confesses she feels very safe with Edward, then he admits he can read minds, although for some reason not Bella's. On the drive home, Bella shares her suppositions of Edward's nature and he confirms them, shocked at her nonchalant attitude to the danger she faces in his presence, though he also confirms he drinks animal blood rather than human, because "I don't want to be a monster"; they also confess to a shared anxiety when they are away from each other's presence. So Bella knows Edward is a vampire, but she has also come to realise that she loves him.

The next morning Edward shows up with an offer to drive Bella to school; in Trigonometry Jessica grills Bella on her dinner with Edward and Bella knowing Edward will be listening to Jessica's thoughts, admits she likes him "Too much, more than he likes me..." and at lunch Edward declares that the reverse is true. [It might seem like it's getting a bit soppy, and indeed the abundance of adjectives can become tiresome, but the dialogue is neatly written.] On the way home they discuss Edward's hunting, and the next day he asks her questions very typical of a new couple bound on discovering every nuance of each other. When Jacob visits, Bella sees first hand the antagonism Billy Black feels towards Edward, and at lunch Bella learns that Edward's family has reservations about their relationship as well, fearing that Edward will be unable to control his desire for Bella's blood, a fear that Edward himself shares, especially as they plan to spend Saturday alone together in the woods. In the woods, Edward shows Bella his favourite place, a meadow where he can stand in the sun unseen by any person (his skin sparkles like diamonds in sunlight); he demonstrates his predatory skills of strength and speed, inspiring her fear for the first time, and also reveals that her scent holds a special allure for him, in his words, "you are exactly my brand of heroin." But Edward also explains that it is the mystery of her thoughts being secret from him that drew his attention despite his determination to stay away from her, and says that now, he could not live with himself if he hurt her... eventually Edward kisses Bella.

He tells her how Carlisle Cullen, a doctor, came to change him into a vampire when he was almost dead from Spanish Influenza, at the age of 17 in 1918. He also takes her to meet his family, where she receives a mixed welcome and hears the story of how Carlisle became a vampire, and, seeking a way to live without causing the death of humans, discovered that animal blood provided a nutritionally adequate though aesthetically bland alternative. Edward also tells her that he has not been "vegetarian" his whole vampire existence, but for a short time survived upon the blood of violent criminals, before realising that this made him as much of a monster as his prey, and returning to live with Carlisle and his vampire wife Esme. Edward is formally introduced to Charlie as Bella's boyfriend before he takes her to play baseball with them during a thunderstorm in a clearing in the wooded hills (the thunder provides a cover for the noise they make hitting the ball).

The Cullen's baseball game is interrupted by the arrival of three non-vegetarian vampires, Laurent, James and Victoria; when James catches Bella's scent, Edward crouches to defend her, sparking James's hunting/tracking obsession; they flee to Forks, determined to outrun James's pursuit. Bella returns home only to provide a hastily-devised excuse for leaving to Charlie, before leaving with Alice and Jasper heading to Phoenix leaving the others to confuse James's tracking attempts. In a hotel room in Phoenix, Bella, Alice and Jasper wait for Edward's "all clear", and Alice explains the mechanics of how humans are changed to vampires: it is an after-effect of the venomous bite of a vampire, if the vampire does not kill his victim at once, driven on by bloodlust; Alice also has a vision of James in a room of mirrors, which Bella identifies as her childhood ballet studio; frightened, Bella leaves a message on her mother's answering machine. Bella gets a phone call from her mother, but then finds that her mother is James's captive, and is told she must go to the ballet studio alone if she wants her mother freed. Bella evades Alice and Jasper's close supervision when the go to the Phoenix airport to collect Edward and the rest of the family, who now know James is in Phoenix; when she arrives at the ballet studio she finds that James was using a recording of her mother's voice from an old video, and her mother is actually safe, but Bella is obviously not; James attacks Bella, breaking her leg, cutting her scalp severely and finally biting her arm. It is at this moment that Edward arrives and with a growl James is gone; as through a mist, Bella observes Carlisle work to stanch the blood flow from her head; when they realise she has been bitten, Alice holds her down while Edward sucks blood from the bite wound to clear it of James's venom. Bella wakes in hospital and Edward reassures her that James is gone and they have fabricated a story of her falling down three flights of stairs and through a window to explain her injuries; Renee accepted the story and notes that Edward seems to be in love with Bella; Edward promises never to leave Bella as long as his staying makes her happy and is what is best for her, but he refuses to change her into a vampire so they can be together forever.

Finally back home in Forks, Edward takes Bella to the prom, insistent that she doesn't miss the "human" milestones, despite her fear of dancing and Jacob turns up unexpectedly and passes on his father Billy's earnest request that she stay away from the dangerous Cullens. Despite this plea Bella again tells Edward she is prepared to give up her humanity to be with him forever, but he again refuses to change her, saying his promise to stay with her forever despite her humanity must be enough.

~ New Moon ~ Eclipse ~ Breaking Dawn ~ Midnight Sun ~


Mrs. Edwards said...

Any idea how the cover artwork connects with the story? Apple in the cupped hands? Flower dripping blood?

Sharon said...

The apple in cupped hands is a (not very veiled) reference to the theme of temptation that runs through the quartet. (You and I know that the Bible doesn't specify the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as being an apple, but that is a very commonly held belief in our wider culture.)

The theme of temptation vs self-control and the Mormon idea of "overcoming the 'natural man' with the help of the Father" (and the somewhat similar Christian idea of abstaining from sin) is prominent in each book in different ways. That will be the topic of the first critical post I will do.

The more I read online, the more I realised that the book is heavily influenced by Mormon theology, and I will try to bring that out in my posts as best I can, because I think it is very important to see how Meyer's Mormon background has influenced her work, whether it be deliberately or unconsciously, especially as it is being devoured by such a wide audience.

Meyer has said that the New Moon cover art does not refer to anything in particular. It was published before she was granted the right to veto possible cover art. Apparently someone from the publisher chose the image because the colours went well with the Twilight cover.

The cover art for later books has more significance. On the Eclipse cover, the torn ribbon represents a relationship "hanging by a thread". The Breaking Dawn cover is perhaps the most deliberately symbolic. Meyer has said that the red pawn and white queen both represent Bella, in her change from being the weakest player in the game to the strongest and most important. Also, the image from chess was chosen to hint at a negotiated, intellectual resolution to the crisis that fills the end of the novel, rather than the possible alternative ending in a physical battle scene.

I am not sure about the image from the Midnight Sun cover, which is fairly generic (you'll see it when I post the story line in a few days). The image I will include is taken from the Borders sampler given out with copies of The Host a while back. At the moment there is no official indication Meyer is going to complete Midnight Sun and publish the book in its entirety.

~ Sharon