I have been reading Breaking Dawn (yes, again…) and it has me thinking of the criticism that the character of Bella is an empty shell, or a passive participant, and that Stephenie Meyer wrote her so that the reader could simply project herself into the role. Having read the Saga a few times over, I am just not buying it. It’s true that a lot of the events in the books are Edward and Jacob trying to decide Bella’s fate. I shall emphasize the word “trying”. Both men are woefully unprepared for the effect that she has on them, and they both make the mistake of trying to impose their will on her, ostensibly in efforts to “protect” her, but I think that they are acting in their own best interests as well; Bella’s well-being is intricately linked with their own.
Further, Bella is having none of it. This is especially so in Breaking Dawn, the last book in the series, when Bella’s character is older and more developed…because her character changes and grows more into herself…like a real person does, like a well-developed character would. Edward tries to second guess her after their honeymoon night, and she gets pissed off, in one of the funnier moments in the Saga; “You are killing my buzz, Edward” makes me laugh every time. I really hope that part is in the movie. If Edward would stop thinking he’s so damn smart and listen to Bella, he would save himself a lot of heartache…but then the Saga would have been much shorter, wouldn’t it? And he does slowly come around to her way of thinking, because, you know, his *character develops* (sigh. Are these critics reading the same book I am reading?). She gets pregnant (spoiler? well, not for the Twilighters crowd…), and if she were simply passive, she would have allowed Carlisle to perform the abortion that he deems medically necessary. But she doesn’t. She recruits Rosalie, and despite protestations from all sides, she decides what is right for her and for her body. It is, again and again, her choice. Always. There is a large part of Breaking Dawn that is not told from Bella’s point of view, and even so, it is clear that she has made her decision. She knows what is going on inside her.
Slightly off topic, but related: I know a lot of the Twilight community is young, but Stephenie has three kids, and I have one, and I have been pregnant, and I know that it’s fairly…uncomfortable. Amazing, beautiful, and powerful, but, well, weird. So while it is sweet that Edward and Jacob and the vamps are seriously freaked out, I love how Bella is all “I got this” about it. Obviously Bella’s pregnancy is extreme, but some pretty weird things happen even with normal babies. I was always amazed when I would call the doctor to say, “Wow, this really hurts,” and they would say, “Yep. It does! Have a nice day!” So, for me, her serenity and total assurance and willingness to do what she has to for her and Edward’s baby makes a lot of sense to me. (side note to the side note: there are things to discuss about choice, and young motherhood, and all of that, but this is not the place nor is it the focus of this article.)
I am currently on the last book of the Hunger Games series, which I am really enjoying. However, I just don’t have a sense of the characters, of who they are. I can’t relate to them, and I don’t care about them in the way I care about everyone in the Saga. It might have something to do with me not having to hunt for my own food, or overthrow a totalitarian government in a dystopian future. But then, I am, sadly, not at present being wooed by a vampire or a werewolf, either, and I still find the Twilight characters relate-able. I think, one time, some reviewer out there said that Bella is an empty character that the reader can project themselves onto, and people who aren’t into the fandom just cling to that idea. Again, I am not buying it, and if I hear it again, I will break my hand punching someone’s face.