These next few chapters are relatively tame, which is good, because I gotta say, these long articles are wearing me out. I’m trying to be a little less ranting, and a little more lighthearted. After all, it’s just a book. It’s only a book… Oh, heaven help me…

Chapter 15: The Cullens

Chapter fifteen opens with Bella in bed the morning after. She wakes up slowly, groggily, like she would on any other Sunday. Then she remembers that there’s a vampire in her room. Yay! Overcome with excitement, she literally throws herself into his lap. Since this vampire is suppressing the desire to ear her, flinging herself towards him was probably not the brightest move, but it doesn’t seem to bother him as they begin cuddle.

I laid my head cautiously against his shoulder, breathing in the smell of his skin.

Listen, Bella, no matter how often you sniff him, it’s not going to start being normal.

“I was sure it was a dream.”

“You’re not that creative,” he scoffed. (p. 313)

Well, aren’t we smug this morning? If there are any women in the audience, please, could you explain to me why this man is attractive? Like, is it thrilling to think how snobbish and superior an imaginary boyfriend is? Because I’m not really getting past my knee-jerk “god this guy is an asshole” reaction.

Anyway, Bella takes a moment to go to the bathroom, brush her teeth, and comb her hair. Her reflection in the mirror seems to be a stranger to her, far more vibrant and disheveled than usual. A whole new Bella.

Once done in the bathroom, she dashes back to the room, and again falls into Edward’s arms. He holds her for a few minutes, and they talk about the things that Bella said during the night.

His gold eyes grew soft. “You said you loved me.”

“You knew that already,” I reminded him, ducking my head.

“It was nice to hear, just the same.”

I hid my face against his shoulder. “I love you,” I whispered.

“You are my life now,” he answered simply. (p. 314)

Remember what I said in the last chapter about Edward inflating everything he says into a grandiose, nigh on delusional declaration? Well, this is what I was talking about, except on steroids. Look at his dialogue. He is just constantly saying things that show a fundamental misunderstand of reality, and no human could possibly mean. He is this guy.

No matter how self-important, melodramatic, or pretentious you are, he is always going to one-up you. “You love me unconditionally and irrevocably? That’s nothing! You are my entire life now.”

It’s just not possible for me to take Edward seriously. Either he is full of shit, or he truly believes that his purpose in life (or, rather, undeath) is to dote upon a listless teenager. Either he is the most ridiculous character I have ever read, or the most pathetic. But, of course, this requires that I view him as an actual character, and not a puppet conceived to act out the fantasies of mothers and teenagers.

But even then, would you truly want a love interest who has literally no life outside of you? He wouldn’t be a complete person. I believe that the people you love become a central part of who you are, but that does not mean that you have no identity beyond them. It’s funny, the night before I began writing this article, I went to see Eclipse and throughout the movie I was thinking to myself, How is this guy appealing? He has, like, two facial expressions, “I am staring at Bella,” and “I am disgusted with myself” (or, alternatively, “I just sniffed my armpit”). Hell, even my 53-year-old father, who saw the movie with me, thought that Jacob was more appealing. It’s easy to see why so many consider the minor characters (Alice, Jasper, and Carlisle especially) far more interesting than the leads.

But I digress. Let’s get back to the story.

It’s breakfast time for the human, and there’s a kinda cute domestic scene where Edward tries to prepare breakfast for Bella, but fails miserably on account of not having prepared a breakfast in the past 90 years. I grant you, seeing our heroine make her own breakfast isn’t exactly an image of empowerment, but at this point I’ll take whatever I can get.

I found a bowl and a box of cereal. I could feel his eyes on me as I poured the milk and grabbed a spoon. I sat my food on the table, and then paused. (p. 315)

I narrated the boring domestic task like a robot. I couldn’t be bothered to vary my sentence structure in the slightest. I kept my tone flat and lifeless. I don’t have a personality to speak of, or any other distinctive qualities.

Anyway, with Charlie gone, it seems that Bella and Edward have the day to themselves, so Edward suggests that they go to meet the rest of his family. This prospect frightens or protagonist, not because she’s going into a house of bloodthirsty super heroes, but because they might not approve of her.

… Right.

Turns out, the family already knows just about everything that our leads have been doing. There are hints that Alice has had visions regarding Bella, but Edward refuses to explain. They also discuss how best to tell Charlie that they are dating. Why a simple “Hey Dad, this is Edward Cullen, and he asked me out last week,” wouldn’t work is beyond me, but I guess I can sympathize.

“Well, I don’t know if we need to give him all of the gory details.” He reached across the table to lift my chin with a cold, gentle finger. “But he will need some explanation for why I’m around here so much. I don’t want Chief Swan getting a restraining order put on me.” (p. 318)

Good god, this is rich.

There’s a little more angsting about how Bella is risking her life by being with Edward, before they agree to get over themselves for the time being. Bella runs upstairs to get dressed. Apparently a blue blouse and khaki-colored skirts are Edward’s very favorite clothing, since he practically jumps her when she reaches the bottom.

“You are utterly indecent— no one should look so tempting, it’s not fair.”

“Tempting how? I asked. “I can change…”

“He sighed, shaking his head. “You are so absurd.” He pressed his cool lips delicately to my forehead, and the room spun. The smell of his breath made it impossible to think.

“Shall I explain how you are tempting me?” he said. It was clearly a rhetorical question. His fingers traced slowly down mine, his breath coming more quickly against my skin. My hands were limp against my chest, and I felt light headed again. He tilted his head slowly and…” (p. 319)

Long story short, he hisses her. And she faints. Literally faints. Honest to Shakespeare, she faints.

“You… made… me… faint,” I accused him dizzily.

[…]

“Do you feel sick?” he asked; he’d seen me like this before.

“No— that wasn’t the same kind of fainting at all. I don’t know what happened.” I shook my head apologetically. “I think I forgot to breathe.” (p. 320)


EPIC FAIL

.

Good god, I just… I don’t know what possessed the author to include these things. Breathing is an autonomic function. You do it while you’re sleeping. It’s not something that you just forget to… to… oh, hell with it. Just sit back and enjoy the lulz.

Contrary to all sense, they decide that Bella is ok and go to the Cullen house. And wouldn’t you know it, even the house is perfect. Picturesque, scenic, open, probably designed by Frank Lloyd Wright or something. So perfect, in fact, that almost a page and a half is devoted to describing it. Hey, it’s better than the description of Edward sparkling. There’s a little more nervousness before they actually enter the house, but Edward offers plenty of encouragement.

“You look lovely.” He took my hand easily, without thinking. (p. 321)

Wait, wasn’t he angsting last night about how thoroughly breakable Bella was, and how he must never lose focus, else he accidentally crush her face or something? How is he suddenly able to easily take her hand without thinking? He should have pulverized her metatarsals just then. I’m just annoyed by how clearly Meyer didn’t care. She introduces an idea, milks it for a few tortured, grandiose monologues, and then forgets it the instant it becomes inconvenient. It’s just another addition to the list of Edward’s attributes that should put a damper on the romance, but conspicuously don’t. At least until Meyer feels like reminding us again that premarital sex is evil.

Anyway, I’ll spare you to the long, purple paragraph describing Carlisle and Esme. Suffice, they’re both very pretty. They greet her pleasantly, and seem to like her. Then Alice arrives and, to the delight of slashfic writers everywhere, bounces unabashedly up to Bella and kisses her on the cheek.

“You do smell nice, I never noticed before,” she commented, to my extreme embarrassment. (p. 323)

It’s practically cannon!

Jasper shows up next, but Emmett and Rosalie are conspicuously absent. Apparently Rosalie doesn’t like Bella. They all chat for about a page, until our heroine notices the piano and asks Esme about it. And guess what, Edward is musical! Oh joy. Well, you know what happens next. Edward goes to the piano…

And then his fingers flowed swiftly across the ivory and the room was filled with a composition so complex, so luxuriant, it was impossible to believe only one set of hands played. I felt my chin drop, my mouth open in astonishment, and heard the low chuckles behind me at my reaction.

Edward looked at me casually, the music still surging around us without a break, and winked. “Do you like it?” (p. 326)

… this is so freaking indulgent. I could be reading a book with a plot right now.

But no, instead I’m reading Edward brag about how he composes all of his own music. He switches to another song, a lullaby that he wrote for Bella, which brings her to tears with it’s incredible beauty. At some point, the rest of the Cullens disappear to give our leads some privacy.

They talk for a bit. Bella seems satisfied with her meeting with the Cullens, but is concerned about Rosalie not liking her. Why does Rosalie dislike Bella? Because she sees how shallow and insipid our protagonist truly is? Because her dear brother has decided to completely and unconditionally devote himself to this mopey sack of flesh?

Rosalie struggles most with… with what we are. It’s hard for her to haves someone on the outside know the truth. And she’s a little jealous.

Rosalie is jealous of me?” I asked incredulously. I tried to imagine a universe in which someone as breathtaking as Rosalie would have any possible reason to feel jealous of someone like me.

“You’re human.” He shrugged. “She wishes that she were too.” (p. 327)

DAMNIT, EVEN THE PEOPLE WHO DON’T LIKE BELLA THINK SHE’S THE GREATEST DAMN THING SINCE SLICED BREAD!!!

And, of course, Esme thinks Bella is wonderful because of the sweeping transformation she has triggered in Edward.

“… All this time she’s been worried about me, afraid that there was something missing from my essential makeup[…]” (p. 327)

Yes, the one thing missing in his life was a mopey teenager to dote on. Who the fuck would have thought? Like so much else in this book, it’s dreamy if you identify with the dumb, mopey teenager, and bloody ridiculous otherwise.

Anyway, Edward drops another hint about Alice’s vision, but refuses to explain anything. Bella doesn’t press the subject. He then warns Bella that there is another group a vampires coming to town (of the non-vegetarian variety).

“I’m going to be a little… overbearingly protective for the next few days— or weeks— and I wouldn’t want you to think I’m naturally a tyrant.”

Gee, wherever would we have gotten that idea, Edward?

Anyway, Edward shows Bella around the house, remarking all the while on the absence of coffins, cobwebs, and other vampiric trappings. Bella notices an ancient wooden cross hanging above the door, and Edward explains that Carlisle carved it. This prompts a long, involved explanation of Carlisle’s backstory which spans the rest of this chapter and a good portion of the next.

Before I go into it, I’d just like to say that when your readers find long, heavyhanded, narrative-halting info dumps interesting than your main plot, you should seriously rethink your story. Here’s the short version.

Carlisle was born in the sixteen forties, the son of an Anglican pastor who was particularly zealous about hunting down and exterminating supernatural monsters (witches, werewolves, vampires, etc…). Growing up, Carlisle had a similarly strong faith, but was more reserved and forgiving, less prone to burn innocent people. He was also rather clever, and managed to discover a coven of true vampires living in the London sewers. Long story short, one of the vampires bit him, and he became the very monster he had devoted his life to hunting.

When Edward finishes monlogueing, Bella looks a little pale, but recovers quickly.

He smiled. “I expect you have a few more questions for me.”

“A few.”

His smile widened over his brilliant teeth. He stared back down the hall, pulling me along by the hand. “Come on, then,” he encouraged. “I’ll show you.” (p. 333)

And on this note, the chapter ends.

Chapter 16: Carlisle

I’ve already mentioned this, but Stephenie Meyer has a truly annoying habit of ending her chapters on false cliffhangers. What I mean is, at the end of this chapter is looks like the author is setting up a big, dramatic revelation. Edward is dragging Bella off, a wide, mysterious smile on his face, presumably to answer her most important, penetrating questions.

But then, when you turn the page, Edward merely takes Bella to Carlisle’s office, shows her an oil painting, and continues the exposition of his father’s backstory. It’s not clear that the chapter break was necessary at all, except as a way to break up what would have otherwise been about 18 pages of Edward talking.

Now, ending chapters on cliffhangers is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, if done properly, it can create a great deal of suspense and keep your book glued to the reader’s hands. The problem is that, when you repeatedly fail to deliver the drama and action you promised, readers will rapidly lose patience. If you’ll remember, Meyer did the exact same thing at the end of Chapter 11 by setting up a big confrontation between Billy and Bella, only to have them eat dinner and watch TV. It puts the book in a perpetual state of anti-climax.

What follows is perfectly readable, but not that interesting to comment on. Edward talks about Carlisle’s initial reaction to becoming a vampire.

“When he knew what he had become,” Edward said quietly, “he rebelled against it. He tried to destroy himself. But that’s not easily done.” (p. 336)

Death by falling, death by drowning, and death by starvation all failed him—

I was having an off day.

— but we learn that the only way to kill a Meyerpire is dismemberment combined with fire.

Anyway, before Carlisle tried immolation, he discovered that animal blood is a passable substitute for human blood. Finally, he was able to live again. He swam to France, studied medicine, (oh, and by the way, vampires don’t need to breathe, a fact which Bella and Edward spend a whole page discussing) and became a good, kind, compassionate, immortal sex-god.

“I can’t adequately describe the struggle; it took Carlisle two centuries of tortuous effort to perfect his self-control. Now he is all but immune to the scent of human blood, and he is able to do the work he loves without agony. (p. 340)

You know what, that actually sounds like a good story. Why are we so interested in Edward’s tortured escapades with an underage girl?

Anyhoo, Carlisle took up for a while with a clan of Italian vamps, but since they were unabashed man-eaters, he eventually left for the Americas. After a while, he found his way to Chicago, where he encountered Edward, dying from Spanish Influenza. And now you know the rest of the story.

“And so we’ve come full circle,” he concluded.

“Have you always stayed with Carlisle, then?” I wondered. (p. 341)

In answering this question, Edward gives one of the most twisted confessions I have ever read, not because it is especially heinous, but because everyone seems to gloss over the implications of it.

“Well, I had a typical bout of rebellious adolescence— about ten years after I was… born… created, whatever you want to call it. I wasn’t sold on his life of abstinence, and I resented him for curbing my appetite. So I went of on my own for a time.

“Really?” I was intrigued, rather than frightened, as I perhaps should have been.

Uh… Bella? You do realize he just confessed to murder, multiple murders, right?

“That doesn’t repulse you?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I guess… it sounds reasonable.” (p. 342)

No it doesn’t! What part of the word murder confuses you? It’s arguably the most heinous of all crime a single person can commit. It’s not a “typical bout of rebellious adolescence.” A typical rebellious teenager might get an unusual piercing, or go to a rowdy party, or stay out past his curfew. Edward killed people. And it is treated like nothing big.

Bella is right. She should be frightened. She should be revolted. But, as usual, she is physically incapable of thinking anything bad about Edward. I mean, even Assling had some issue with the idea of her love interest being a murder. With Bella, we just get more awed drooling.

“I thought I would be exempt from the … depression… that accompanies a conscience. Because I knew the thoughts of my prey, I could pass over the innocent and pursue only the evil. If I followed a murderer down a dark alley where he stalked a young girl— if I saved her, then surely I wasn’t so terrible.”

I shivered, imagining only too clearly what he described— the alley at night, the frightened girl, the dark man behind her. And Edward, Edward as he hunted, terrible and glorious as a young god, unstoppable. (p. 343)

Does anyone else find it a little unsettling that he can hear the thoughts of the people he’s killing? It’s like the Elves in the Inheritance series. Because of their telepathic awareness they respect all life and refuse to eat meat, but they have no problem slaughtering humans who stray onto their forest.

This is, of course, one of the classic signs of a Mary Sue: the “false flaw.” That is to say, a character trait that has all the trappings of a flaw and is exploited for much angst, but never actually impedes the character in achieving his/her goals. It pisses me off because this could easily have been a legitimate source of tension. But as usual, Meyer was unwilling to tarnish the perception of her “ideal man”. And as a result, her story suffers and Bella looks even more like a sociopath.

Anyway, Edward eventually realized the error of his ways and came back to Carlisle, and has lived as a vegetarian ever since.

And then, Edward shows Bella his room, which sports a magnificent view and the most impressive sound system you’ve ever seen. Bella ogles his music collection for a little while, and they chat some more. Bella makes the mistake of saying that she doesn’t find Edward scary, so he tackles her against the sofa.

I didn’t see him leap at me— it was much too fast. I only found myself suddenly airborne, and then we crashed onto the sofa, knocking it into the wall. All the while, his arms formed an iron cage of protection around me— I was barely jostled. But I was still gasping as I tried to right myself.

He wasn’t having that. He curled me into a ball against his chest, holding me more securely than iron chains. (p. 345)

Wow, I didn’t think Bella was into that kind of thing. So many iron cages and chains. And it seems that we’ve thrown the entire notion of Edward’s super strength accidentally killing Bella out the window. I mean, which is more likely to injure you, having sex, or playing rugby?

But aside from the blatant continuity problems, I guess this scene is kinda cute. There is a tendency in the anti-fandom to characterize Bella and Edward’s relationship as completely humorless and melodramatic (which it certainly can be at times), but we shouldn’t ignore the playful, easygoing moments that our leads share. If you ask me, it’s one of the few redeeming qualities that this book has, and is the reason why anybody, even the fans, are able to get through this tripe.

Anyway, Alice and Jasper interrupt their cuddling for a time to make an important announcement: VAMPIRE BASEBALL WILL INSUE NEXT CHAPTER.

Till next time, I’m Artimaeus, and this has been Twilight: Abridged and Annotated.

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Comment

  1. Puppet on 8 July 2010, 14:15 said:

    Except for the Twilight movie screencaps and the C&H pics keep all the “Fail” pics out of the articles. They are extremely distracting and they disrupt the flow of the text.

  2. Romantic Vampire Lover on 8 July 2010, 14:33 said:

    If there are any women in the audience, please, could you explain to me why this man is attractive? Like, is it thrilling to think how snobbish and superior an imaginary boyfriend is? Because I’m not really getting past my knee-jerk “god this guy is an asshole” reaction.

    You and I share the same sentiment there. It’s quite depressing actually, to think that people are in love with Edward, and downright creepy that they celebrate his birthday, etc.

    (I have to agree with Puppet about the fail pics.)

    Anyway, insightful, clever and sarcastic as always. Loved it. :D

  3. dragonarya on 8 July 2010, 15:22 said:

    If there are any women in the audience, please, could you explain to me why this man is attractive?

    Quite simple: HE’S NOT. I can’t understand why the other members of my gender find him so damn attractive.

    It’s practically cannon!

    That would be so much more interesting if that was the case.

    You know what, that actually sounds like a good story.

    Absolutely. Again, the side characters aremore interesting than the mains! You know there’s a problem when you get to that point.

  4. Nate Winchester on 8 July 2010, 15:54 said:

    Since this vampire is suppressing the desire to ear her, flinging herself towards him was probably not the brightest move

    Oh what could have been…
    Like if she startled Edward and he chewed her out because he nearly ate her.

    Listen, Bella, no matter how often you sniff him, it’s not going to start being normal.

    Actually according to Science, women do have a more sensitive nose than men (see #5) so it might not be that abnormal.

    Well, aren’t we smug this morning? If there are any women in the audience, please, could you explain to me why this man is attractive? Like, is it thrilling to think how snobbish and superior an imaginary boyfriend is? Because I’m not really getting past my knee-jerk “god this guy is an asshole” reaction.

    If you read anything on game (and there is a lot on the internet)… yes, that is apparently a plus with gals. To quote Stewie, “Women like it when you treat them like crap.”

    How is he suddenly able to easily take her hand without thinking? He should have pulverized her metatarsals just then. I’m just annoyed by how clearly Meyer didn’t care.

    Yes! Exactly! It could have been awesome! But instead…

    Then Alice arrives and, to the delight of slashfic writers everywhere, bounces unabashedly up to Bella and kisses her on the cheek.

    Kristen Stewart and Ashley Greene making out would improve those movies…

    Yes, the one thing missing in his life was a mopey teenager to dote on.

    See? The book is sexist to men too! Or maybe it’s not sexist, just bad for humanity all around.

    And as a result, her story suffers and Bella looks even more like a sociopath.


    We really have to start bringing politics into all this? It isn’t bad enough?

    Quite simple: HE’S NOT. I can’t understand why the other members of my gender find him so damn attractive.

    Because people are idiots, and you always have to fight stereotypes. Yes this can get tiring even for guys.

  5. Snow White Queen on 8 July 2010, 16:39 said:

    Although I do think that Edward is a jerk the majority of the time, I actually didn’t find the part where he told Bella that she wasn’t creative enough to imagine their meeting as a dream that mean. I read it as being teasingly sarcastic, but the fact that he ‘scoffed’ it does make it a bit nastier.

    But does anyone doubt that Bella is not the most imaginative of protagonists? If she had a spark of mental liveliness these books would be so much better.

  6. dragonarya on 8 July 2010, 21:46 said:

    Because people are idiots, and you always have to fight stereotypes.

    Oh yeah, I forgot about the stupidity clause. So annoying.

  7. Artimaeus on 9 July 2010, 07:27 said:

    Quite simple: HE’S NOT. I can’t understand why the other members of my gender find him so damn attractive.

    Ah, there is hope.

    Kristen Stewart and Ashley Greene making out would improve those movies…

    Yes please.

    We really have to start bringing politics into all this? It isn’t bad enough?

    Nah, I was just looking for a picture about sociopathy on google, and the Bill Oreily poster had the most relevant caption. It fits Bella nicely, don’t you think? Antisocial bechavior and a lack of moral responsibility. Puppet’s probably right about the images though; it’s easy to get excessive with them when they’re just a line of html code.

    I read it as being teasingly sarcastic, but the fact that he ‘scoffed’ it does make it a bit nastier.

    It was the scoffing that did it for me also. You just can’t “scoff” attractively. But yea, I know this isn’t the best example, but there are plenty of snobbish, arrogant Edwardisms to chose from (eg, “You’re intoxicated by my presence,” or “That vile Mike Newton”).

  8. Nate Winchester on 9 July 2010, 08:52 said:

    Nah, I was just looking for a picture about sociopathy on google, and the Bill Oreily poster had the most relevant caption. It fits Bella nicely, don’t you think? Antisocial bechavior and a lack of moral responsibility. Puppet’s probably right about the images though; it’s easy to get excessive with them when they’re just a line of html code.

    Ah there’s lots of sites that allow you to make your own motivational. Go grab some Bella pics out there and make your own. (probably with some book quotes)

  9. SMARTALIENQT on 10 July 2010, 20:08 said:

    Anyway, Bella takes a moment to go to the bathroom, brush her teeth, and comb her hair. Her reflection in the mirror seems to be a stranger to her, far more vibrant and disheveled than usual. A whole new Bella.

    See? Dating is +10 to Charisma, because only a man can make you look sexy.

    “I’m going to be a little… overbearingly protective for the next few days— or weeks— and I wouldn’t want you to think I’m naturally a tyrant.”

    …I never noticed this quote. Gee, that protective period went for a bit longer than weeks, huh?

  10. Gante on 11 July 2010, 12:31 said:

    First of all, do these vampires drink blood or eat flesh? I wish Meyer would make up her mind! Secondly, the breath of somebody who does either of the above would smell less than heavenly. It would smell like a slaughterhouse. Sure, lovers find each other’s smells attractive, but come ON!

  11. fffan on 12 July 2010, 02:37 said:

    If there are any women in the audience, please, could you explain to me why this man is attractive?

    Sure!

    Check out his furry catapillar brows.
    Look at his someone-just-broke-my-face nose.
    Drool over his someone-rolled-me-in-glue-then-rolled-me-in-flour makeup.
    Look at his sideburns.
    Look at his eyes. They just scream I-drown-kittens-in-sulphuric-acid-as-a-day-job… Hawt!!11!one!2

    What’s not to find attractive?

  12. Steph (what is left) on 16 July 2010, 00:05 said:

    ^^

    assumes noble stance I stand by Robert Pattinson’s attractiveness.

    Edward Cullen’s, on the other hand…

  13. respekt on 9 March 2011, 07:46 said:

    LOVE this.

  14. Ash on 19 October 2011, 20:00 said:

    Easy, Cullen’s got game.