How does Twilight define good and evil?
Note that the epigraph to Twilight refers to a verse in Genesis regarding "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil," representing the dangers of knowing too much about what really is good or evil. This is related to the cover art, where apparently an Eve figure is holding out an apple from this tree for Adam to eat. This opening reference suggests that Bella is a serious problem for Edward. He is often trying to withhold knowledge from her, but she is the one going after knowledge. With the Genesis passage in mind, it is not necessarily a good thing to know too much about good and evil, but Bella goes after it anyway.
From another point of view, the least important thing in defining whether a character is good or evil is the nature he or she has. For example, none of the Cullens is evil because he or she is a vampire. Instead, the book judges beings by how they deal with their thoughts and desires. In the case of the Cullens, they choose to sacrifice the satisfaction of hunting humans and truly sating themselves, in order to be good by not murdering others. James, on the other hand, represents pure evil, not because he is a vampire but because he uses his vampirism as a tool for evil. One's nature might make it easier or harder to make a good or evil choice, but moral goodness depends on choosing the right path regardless of how easy it is to do so. Murder and self-control are not the only standards by which the novel judges good and evil, although these are central themes that affect many of the main choices of the characters.
Should Edward turn Bella into a vampire? Explain why or why not.
Bella and Edward’s love is the central, most important connection that generates the plot. It might make romantic sense for Edward to turn Bella into a vampire so that their love could be eternal and they could live happily forever after. This is not so simple a solution, however, for Bella would be deserting her friends and family. She would not just be immortal, she would be a vampire and no longer human. She would have to learn to fight completely against her new instincts to hunt humans, and she has not shown much ability to keep her desires in check even to keep herself safe. Besides, maybe the more romantic outcome is for there to be a constant tension between the vampire-boyfriend and the human-girlfriend, with Edward always having to be extremely attentive to who he is and what power he has while giving himself as fully as he can to Bella.
Does Bella more strongly represent free agency or events being dictated by destiny?
Although Twilight has instances of both destiny and free agency, Bella seems to be one of the characters who more strongly embodies fate. When she starts to believe that Edward may be a vampire, she makes the decision that she will still stay with him, and though she frames this as a decision, she later says that it never really felt like a choice at all, as if, once she has met him, her path has been chosen. In addition, all of Bella’s brushes with death or injury make her seem especially ill-fated, and though she escapes them, it is not because of her own free agency, but Edward’s. Compared to the vampires, she is weak; others are always moving her and driving her around. Even her very steps are orchestrated by Edward in the final scene at the prom.
What does Carlisle signify in the novel?
Carlisle represents both compassion and self-control, which are closely related. That he has the most self-control of any character is clear—he never kills a human, even when he is almost starving, and he is able to train himself to be a surgeon, totally surrounded by temptation, and only save lives, never take them. This self-control is possible, though, because of his great compassion, for this compassion would never allow him to hurt a human, so he must control his instincts to do so.
Does Twilight overall seem to emphasize fate or free agency?
Both fate and free agency are important themes in Twilight, but free agency prevails even in the case of Bella, who often has so little control over what happens. Although Alice’s ability to see the future suggests a role for fate, the future actually changes any time someone’s plans or intentions change. People thus control their future—they have free agency. Identity also does not lead to a fated outcome; the Cullens, who are all vampires, rise above their murderous desires and freely choose to live moral lives among human communities.
How can Bella be said to be, like Edward, more mature than her contemporaries?
Bella often feels that she is on a different wavelength from those around her, and this can probably be at least partially explained by her greater maturity. She has always taken care of her mother rather more than Renee has taken care of her. Although Charlie is more steadfast than the flighty Renee, Bella has to cook for him. Thus Bella, only seventeen, is mature beyond her years, in some ways like Edward, who is clearly much more mature and independent than the average seventeen-year-old (after all, he has been around much longer than that). Bella still has a long way to go in maturity, but she does seem especially good at handling difficult new situations, like finding out the boy you like is a vampire or that another vampire wants to kill you. Bella's self-sacrifice is partly immature in that she does not value herself highly enough, yet she shows a huge degree of maturity in choosing to sacrifice herself and even her relationship with Charlie in order to make the moral choices she thinks she must.
Explain how Rosalie can be seen as Bella’s foil.
Both Rosalie and Bella are very stubborn—Rosalie’s strongest characteristic from her human life was that stubborn tenacity, and Bella, once she has made a decision, will fight for it tooth and nail. That these two characters are comparable can also be seen in their respective envy for each other—Rosalie envies Bella’s humanity, and Bella envies Rosalie’s stunning looks, and in a certain way, her vampirism. Yet one thing makes them completely different and makes them foils: their relative willingness to sacrifice. Bella barely hesitates to sacrifice herself for her family and for Edward, and she is always worried about how she will affect the Cullens’ safety, while Rosalie is barely willing to help Bella escape because of the resentment she feels towards her over the trouble she has caused simply by being around them.
How is Bella’s love for Edward an example of true faith?
Bella loves Edward completely, without ever asking for any evidence of his goodness, because she has total faith in him. Once he admits to being a vampire, it does not even occur to her to ask him what he eats until he brings it up. True faith means believing in something wholly, without needing evidence, and this idea exactly describes Bella’s love for Edward. Fortunately, Edward provides no counter-evidence, so there is never a test of her faith, but the counter-evidence must be extremely strong before someone will give up one's true faith.
Is honesty or sacrifice the greater virtue in Twilight?
Honesty is highly valued in Twilight, and it is much of what makes Edward and Bella’s love so true—they are each incapable of lying to the other. But honesty does not mean revealing the full truth from the beginning; there is much that Edward thinks Bella is not ready to know. Honesty is actually one of the things that can be sacrificed, when a life or an ideal is at stake. Bella also lies to her parents to protect Edward and the Cullens. In contrast, the willingness to sacrifice yourself for someone else or for your ideals—as when Carlisle tried to kill himself—is seen as a very high virtue. Sacrifice and self-control are major factors in living virtuously. Nevertheless, the highest virtue is a kind of sincerity, actually having virtue within yourself and indulging your deepest desires because they are inherently good, such that no self-control is needed. But is there any vampire, or even any human being, who has reached that state of sincerity and pureness of desire?
Why is Bella’s hatred of cold and rainy weather so significant?
Bella’s hatred of the cold and rain is enough to make her hate Forks. The weather itself is not enough to keep her from moving there when that seems to be the best option, but it does make her believe she will be unhappy there. This point is important because it shows just how profound her love for Edward is, once she realizes that he can only come to school when the sun is not out. Thus, she comes to describe a foggy day as “perfect.” Her love for Edward is so transformative that her strong feelings can be changed. The weather itself is not good or bad; what matters is what the weather means. In this way, the weather represents one's emotions, which can change and can seem stormy, but what matter are the choices one makes in spite of any negative emotions, and in the right context, a stormy emotion can be "perfect."
Twilight, Stephenie Meyer's debut novel, tells the story of Isabella “Bella” Swan, a normal seventeen-year-old girl who falls in love with a vampire, Edward Cullen. Though Edward loves Bella deeply in return, he also battles his natural instinct to kill her. As a vampire he is, after all, hardwired to think of Bella and all other humans as his prey.
Meyer got her idea for the book from a dream she had about an average girl and her vampire lover having a conversation while sitting in a woodsy meadow. Meyer recalls,
I was so intrigued by the nameless couple's story that I hated the idea of forgetting it […] (Also, the vampire was just so darned good-looking, that I didn't want to lose the mental image.) […] [I] put everything that I possibly could on the back burner and sat down at the computer to write – something I hadn't done in so long that I wondered why I was bothering. (source)
Published in 2005, Twilight won tons of praise. The novel was selected as an “Editor’s Choice” by the New York Times and a "book of the year" by Publisher’s Weekly. Twilight is also ranked in the American Library Association’s top ten “Books for Young Adults,” and is one of Amazon’s “Best Books of the Decade So Far.” After three sequels and a movie, Twilight has followed in Harry Potter’s footsteps to become a full-fledged cultural phenomenon on which everybody has an opinion.
Despite its clear popularity, the question remains: is Twilight great literature? You shouldn't be afraid to ask this question. In fact, you should ask the same about every book covered by Shmoop. When asked if her books have a message about love, Stephenie Meyer said, "I never write messages. I always write things that entertain me" (source). So is Twilight simply entertainment, or is it great literature?
Whether or not you're a fan, you can't deny that Twilight has struck a chord in our society. In 2008, Stephenie Meyer sold 22 million books – more than any other author that year. Her four books in the Twilight saga stood as the top four best-selling books of 2008, according to USA Today's list of top 100 titles of 2008 (source). Twilight has a huge contingent of fans, from teen girls across the country to the online group TwilightMoms.com.
A big question remains: what makes Twilight so popular?
We think part of the answer lies in its universal themes. Beneath the specifics of the Twilight plot, the novel contains some recurring motifs that have been popular in storytelling over time, including "forbidden love" and "Beauty and the Beast."
You've seen similar stories before. Forbidden love forms the basis of many famous tales, including Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Arthurian legend's Guinevere and Lancelot, Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome, and even Disney's The Little Mermaid. Similarly, we've repeatedly seen tales of women falling in love and "taming" beastly or monstrous men. The most obvious example is the fairy tale of "Beauty and the Beast," but elements of this story line also appear in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, and Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, among others. For one reason or another, these types of plots allure us as readers, and Twilight taps into these time-honored motifs. Check out our "Character Analyses" of Edward and Bella for some detailed connections between these Twilight characters and famous heroes and heroines of literature.
Additionally, Twilight combines aspects of our modern day world with the mythological. Bella goes to a normal, modern high school, she uses the internet and listens to CDs, and her parents are divorced (a common experience for teens today). Yet, she also has a vampire for a boyfriend. Twilight may, in part, be compelling because it takes everyday life and spices it up with a bit of mystery, mythology, and danger.
Why do you think that Twilight has struck such a chord with so many people today? And do you think it will stand the "test of time" like the literary classics mentioned above?