Lindsay1278 wrote:I just think that Bella needs to think about how her relationship with Edward might change if she's a vampire. SM hasn't put as much emphasis on how Bella and Edward's personalities fit together. Instead she's emphasized how they are physically attracted and gone on about how it feels so right for them to be together.
This is quite true, and you are not the first person to point this out on the boards (see for example the recent discussion
on the Choices thread. We are in some sense being asked to take it on faith that Edward and Bella's relationship is a true union of soul-mates and not mere romantic compulsion: we are told but not really shown
that they have interests in common; if one were to look at this as a real world teenage relationship it would be natural to suppose that it would not outlast the first flush of infatuation. And yes, although it's hard to imagine that Edward won't continue to be fiercely protective of Bella however durable she may become (and we've been given a glimpse in Ec of Jasper's protectiveness towards Alice, no doubt to drive this point home), it will definitely change the dynamic between them. The extraordinary fantasy of the plucky but fragile heroine watched over (and saved from death) by her near-omnipotent and immortal guardian angel is inevitably going to dwindle into something more like an ordinary relationship as the vast disparity between them shrinks. If that were the most important thing at stake here, certainly one would have worries. As Sasha
put it a while back on TUGMP, "they don't live together. They don't go through little domestic arguments (no, the plant should go in *that* corner)" -- if they were ordinary teenagers (or their vampire counterparts), one has to wonder how they would weather the domestic frictions of an eternity together.
BUT, this is not realist fiction. As Cheeky
wrote earlier here:
My point is that the romance along with everything else "fantastic" in these books (vampires, werewolves etc.) is just that, fantasy....The bond between Bella and Edward is just too strong, too intense to be real.
It is. The supernatural love that ties these two teenagers to one another something only to be found between the pages of a book, though it is an idealization of something some of us may be lucky enough to find in our lives. And Stephenie herself has said so, not just in her many public remarks ("There are no Edwards out there" "He isn't real"), but in the books themselves. (I'm going to be lazy and lift some of what follows from something I wrote a while ago):
At the end of Eclipse, Jake says to Bella "I'm exactly right for you, Bella....I was the natural path your life would have taken...if the world was the way it was supposed to be, if there were no monsters and no magic." And she agrees: "if the world was the sane place it was supposed to be, Jacob and I would have been happy....if his claim had not been overshadowed by something stronger, something so strong that it could not exist in a rational world." Out of the mouths of babes: Bella's love for her mythic true love is
fictional: something so strong that it cannot exist in a rational world. No one like Edward is possible. None of our lovers, partners, husbands can ever be as perfect as Edward -- because Edward is a romantic fiction.
But observe please that the way Stephenie has set her story up, this is not really something we should straightforwardly envy Bella. Stephenie does not in fact deal in the gratifications of simpleminded fantasy: we are asked to recognize that this idealized, unattainable love comes with a heavy price. The human joys that come with our mundane, imperfect relationships will never be Bella's. We are all blessed to live in the sane world where marrying a character out of a story isn't an option. We can love our Jacobs, raise families, grow up and grow old with them: experience all the fulfillment of ordinary human life together. And we can that the same time be head over heels in love with the heroes of romantic stories -- because they aren't real!
Bella has to choose: to stay in this life or leave it for the world of fantasy. She can't just put the book down and return to cooking supper, because for her, it is all reality. And faced with Edward in the flesh...well, as she tells Jake, she never had a chance...
The obliterating kind of love that Edward and Bella feel for one another is something we shouldn't expect -- or wish for -- in real life. That much we are meant to understand... But the flip side of that is that it may be a mistake to assess their relationship the way we would if they were real teenagers. Theirs is not a love based in reason or reality. A love that could ever be the basis of an actual relationship. I'm reminded again of the dedication to Eclipse I quoted in the last thread (Are Vampires Dead?): "to my children, Gabe, Seth, and Eli, for letting me experience the kind of love that people freely die for."
Edward and Bella's is the kind of unalterable, irrational bond that ties a mother to her child. When the child's and parent's tastes naturally converge, it's a lovely bonus, but it is basically irrelevant to the love between them. Whether loving your child actually opens you up to their unlikely interests, or you take pleasure in their company without needing to share their fascination with WWII aircraft or bagpipes or trout fishing or whatever, the absence of common tastes just isn't an issue. Romantic love isn't usually like that -- not enduringly -- and this (I take it) is what is bothering the realists in this ongoing discussion. But that is the starting point of Stephenie's story: a love so overwhelming and irrevocable, that -- like a parent's love for their child -- it is something you would unhesitatingly die for. So when one is tempted to fret about whether Edward and Bella will have enough to talk about at the supper table, I think one has to remember that this isn't really the point. Not in this story.
It is certainly true that the strength of this love is in some sense stipulated. How do we know that Bella really loves Edward so deeply that he is worth giving up her life for (however we choose to understand that!)? Well, we can vividly see (as Lindsay1278 points out) how infatuated she is with him, because we see him through her besotted eyes. We have seen in NM how unnaturally distraught she was when he left. Even more important, we have seen in EC just how much she is prepared to sacrifice for him. A joyous human life with a husband she could deeply love, children, a community she already feels at home with, her family etc etc. I think we are meant to see this decision, taken in cold-blood after agonizing soul-searching, as confirmation of the preternatural depth of her love. (And we have been told -- this is fantasy, so the author calls the shots here -- that Edward's love (any vampire's love) is by its nature permanent and deep).
But still...there is a kind of circularity here. If the question is: "does Bella love Edward enough to justify giving so much up for him?", we can't take the fact that she is
giving so much up for him as confirmation. Nor can we look for the kind of concrete, little shared moments which we see Jake and Bella's relationship grow out of, precisely because this is not the basis of the transcendent, irrational love Stephenie has imagined for Edward and Bella. And (as has been discussed elsewhere
) the evidence of Bella's collapse when Edward leaves in NM is partly undermined by her subsequent realization of how painfully close a life with Jake comes to being a good alternative.
Maybe in the end, we aren't going to be able to find proof that this love is worth the price that Bella will pay, because it's not something that can be demonstrated. And maybe it's a mistake to try, because the strength of that love is axiomatic. It's the premise on which the story stands (or falls). We can examine it here on the threads, and see how undersupported it is in places by the text. But as readers, we accept it, because that's what makes Twilight the story it is....