SMDND-Exploring the Theme of "Choice"

General discussion about the Twilight Series Universe.
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Post by indi »

December wrote: If Edward's hand is forced, the integrity of his and Bella's choices will stand, but it ceases to be a story of unconquerable love and two lovers who willingly walk into the flames of hell to claim one another for all eternity. It becomes a story about two lovers who would have claimed one another, whatever the cost -- but now everything is changed, at a single stroke. Appalling self-sacrifice becomes miraculous salvation. With one foot in the grave, Bella has nothing to lose -- it's all gain, becoming a vampire. In fact, immortality in exchange for death. Which indeed reopens the theological pitfall that has obviously been exercising Stephenie (and Edward): the sinfulness of becoming a vampire in order to escape from mortality. If Bella is changed to save her life, the moral lines become blurred. Yes, he was going to make her a vampire anyway; yes she was just as eager to be changed when she still had her whole life before her; yes she wants immortality only to be with him. But the story loses its clarity.
The way you worded this is absolutely beautiful :D

Yes, I do agree with you that this was the original intention of Stephenie all along. I do, however, wonder if this is a true, rational thought of hers, or a more instinctual feeling. If it was a true thought, SM must be the smartest person I know. (haha!)
If it was instinctual, then we (and when I say "we" I mean mostly December) must be really good at picking things to pieces.

I do think that if SM had appeased the hearts of her readers and allowed Edward to become human, an extremely significant element of the narrative would have been lost. It is the abhorrent sacrifice that Bella is making that is so grossly appealing to us, in a subconscious way. I don't really think we think this directly, but more perceive it from our understanding of the deepest definition of love. Our culture has molded our minds so that we understand the sacrifice of self to be the love in its truest and greatest form. This element would have been lost otherwise, and we would be without a heartbreakingly profound story.
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Post by Cocoa »

This thread is Discussing the Theme of "Chioce". If you would like to discuss whether or not a vampire has a soul please visit the TUGPM. Otherwise, back to the topic of Bella and Edward's Choice and if the delivery of the choice will effect the outcome of the 4th installment.

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Post by TrueLove1 »

Good afternoon everyone. Once again we would like to enlist the good graces of everyone who has come around to join our discussion. The current topic of discussion is this:
whether it would still make as good a story if Bella and Edward were not permitted to follow through freely on the choices they have made.
Once this topic has been completely covered, we would be glad to take your suggestions for a new discussion. In the mean time we respectfully request that new questions not be posted at this time. It helps ensure continuity in our discussion if we don't have several topics going on at once.

New posters to the thread are encouraged to go back to our most recent manifesto that outlines our goals and guidelines for this thread. You'll find it in December's post on page 28. The link is here.

If anyone would like to put a question in line for the next discussion, please feel free to pm myself, December, llovetwilight, or LisaCullenAZ

ETA- Thank you Cocoa, I didn't see your post before I posted this.

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Post by Visitor »

Here's my opinion on B&E's choice . . . first let me start by saying that prior to this question, I've never really put much thought into the bite and how it should take place. Till now, my primary point of focus has been making sure that the story ends the way I personally feel it should, i.e. B&E together. Therefore, I ignored the 'how's' and 'why's' . But after giving it some thought, I think I may side with those who want to see Bella and Edward consciously make the choice without having to be under any duress.

After Eclipse I was angry. I didn't think Edward should change Bella at all. I felt that with TGDS and the resulting epiphany, Bella had shown herself capable of being with another man, which basically undermined the other epiphany she had in NM (the one about Edward, and love, and never loving anyone but him, yadda yadda) and exonerated Edward from killing her and from risking his own soul in the process. I mean for Edward at least, it's one thing to 'kill/change' a 'Bella' that can only see herself with him, thereby making her human life less . . . liveable. It's another thing entirely to risk his soul and 'kill/change' a 'Bella' that can see a possible future without Edward AND makes a verbal admission to wanting said future.

Though I have come a long way in my thinking, part of me still feels this way. Which is why I need B&E's choice to be freely made. Maybe Edward is cool, but I need to be convinced that he's doing the right thing . . . for both of them. Because while it is Bella offering herself up as the metaphorical lamb to his lion . . . in the end, it's Edward's actions (maybe) that will bring the deed to pass. So in order for me to be O.K. with what he may do, I need BD to show me that it is something that he MUST do. But not because the Volturi and everyday Bella-death is knocking at their door. But because they both come to realize through words and actions, that nothing else and no one else will do . . . can do. Can even substitute. If Bella is changed, I can't be left feeling that this was a lifestyle choice. It has to be a 'life' choice . . . a valid, ugly, bloody, hard fought, yet beautifully won . . . 'life' choice that neither one of them can escape from.
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Post by Sasha »

Ooh, sorry. I meant my questions to be more rhetorical than conversation-starting.

Visitor: I think the one thing we really disagree on is whether or not Bella and Edward have already concretely made their choice. The choice has been made already, in my mind. Both are willing. How it comes about isn't that important. If Bella had been near-death and then changed mid-Eclipse, then I would agree with you.
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Post by December »

Sasha wrote:Edward's problem with changing Bella is not that she has her whole life ahead of her. It is that she has salvation ahead of her, and he is unwilling to take that away, and damn her to hell. In that case, whether Bella is close to death or looking forward to a long human life is irrelevant. Both their choices stand just as strongly as before, and there is still just as much change of either and/or both of them changing their minds.
Hey, Sasha: welcome! Shrewd of you to notice that I managed to write a 40 inch post on the subject of Bella and Edward's choices without once addressing the peril to Bella's soul if she changes into a vampire. But there is a reason I didn't (besides the obvious worry that if I put three more sentences into that post it would fall through the floor of the Lex!). Which is that I don't myself think that this is meant to be a major issue for us by now. Yes, it is still a niggling background anxiety, but not the most pressing of Edward's, or Stephenie's, or our concerns at this point.

Can I explain? For starters, as I read Edward it is inconceivable to me that he would EVER be reconciled to changing Bella if he were still convinced that this would damn her soul. Any more than Bella herself, for all the tenuousness of her religious convictions, would be prepared to risk Edward's soul if the occasion ever arose. Do you remember the passage in NM? She is complaining about Edward's scruples to Carlisle, pointing out that she is more than willing to risk her soul to be with Edward -- and Carlisle counters: "but would you be willing to risk his?" And she is silent, because of course the answer is: no. One of the many things that changes for the two of them in the course of NM, and turns Edward's categorical refusal to consider changing Bella into a kind of heart-sick resignation to the inevitable, is realizing that he doesn't really believe that he is damned. That telling moment in Volterra when she flies into his arms as he is about to step into the sunlight (and to his own destruction) -- and all his staggered mind can think is that he's died and been reunited with her in heaven. Moments of crisis give us away to ourselves, and this unbidden reaction tells him what he didn't until then realize: that (as Truelove suggested somewhere months ago) his relationship with Bella has restored to him some faith in his own humanity and perhaps the forgivingness of the divine order of things. Nothing can tell us for certain whether we have a soul, but Edward has begun to believe that if anyone does he might too. Which is all he needs to know for the moral calculus to completely change out from under him.

And what Edward says and does in Ec suggests to me that he is no longer seriously worried that Bella will be damned if he bites her. Otherwise how can we make sense of his insistence on marrying Bella before they sleep together? In fact he is pretty explicit on the subject: he may already be damned for the lives he has taken, but he's determined to protect her "shot at heaven, or whatever there is after this life." That is, he's pretty sure that she will still have a soul to damn after he changes her.

To be honest, as I read it, the theological issues have never been at the very forefront of Stephenie's mind. To indulge for a moment in pure speculation... when I look at the way the last two books methodically take us through, and dispose of, what you might call the anti-bite brief -- all the major, potentially unanswerable objections to Bella's becoming a vampire -- it's always felt to me as though we were hearing a recapitulation of Stephenie's own thought process as she first sat down to think through what happened to Edward and Bella after the ending of her original story. She is clearly an author of exceptional moral conscientiousness: could she really embrace this as a happy ending? She knew where she wanted to take her story, but she also needed to work out what would reconcile her to it. And because she credited her readers with coming up with the same concerns, she needed to walk us though it as well.

The thought that it looks like a Faustian bargain to trade your humanity for immortality is an obvious one (and Stephenie puts it more or less in these terms in the discussion of PC12). Clearly she felt she had to raise it in the books -- but she raises it only to dispatch it. If Bella is becoming a vampire only for love of Edward (and she is at pains to show Bella laughing at the idea of wanting an eternity without him) Stephenie has evidently decided it shouldn't endanger Bella's soul. And Edward seems to have come to the same conclusion. The question of salvation needed to be tackled, but it isn't Stephenie's greatest concern.

On the other hand, it seems to me that an awareness of the bitter sacrifice Bella is making to give up her humanity -- now, in this earthly life -- has been running through the story since TW (only we didn't perhaps realize it at the time). I was struck the other night by this passage:

"You only have to turn your back on nature, on humanity....what's that worth?"

"Very little -- I don't feel deprived of anything."

"Not yet." And his voice was abruptly full of ancient grief.
(TW p.305)

Edward already knows, in his heart of hearts, how this is going to end. And the price that Bella will pay. Even if most of the time he isn't admitting it to himself, yet. But there's no other way to understand his words really: merely going out with him doesn't require Bella to turn her back on humanity, doesn't (as she points out) deprive her of anything. But the road she has started out on that day only leads to one place, and what we are being warned of, as early as TW, is not the risk to her soul but the appalling human cost of arriving there.

Edited to brush away typographical creepy-crawlies.
Last edited by December on Mon May 19, 2008 10:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by indi »

Geeze Louise. I can't reply to any of these posts if I don't have time to read and understand the information, much less come up with a good response! Good Lord I hate exams.

I'll edit this post later with an intelligent response, one which right now I am certainly lacking. :P
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Post by cullengirl »

December wrote:
'Edward sees all too well not just the likelihood that this blossoming romance will 'end badly' before it begins, but the impossibility of it ever having a happy ending. But he can't help himself either. This dark undercurrent of danger is woven through and through their love for one another, an inseparable part of who 'they' are together.'
Thank you, Thank you, and Thank you! This is precisely the reason why I have been anti-bite all along. For the longest time, I have felt like I was the only one who refused to say that the Bella and Edward story will be a happy ending. I found the end of their story to be unsettling and bittersweet. Although they will be together for eternity if Bella is transformed, it will only be after a series of sacrifice and pain which Bella will mostly embrace. She is literally giving up everything- her human identity (i.e. being clumsy, blush, essentially all the things that make her Bella), her family and friends to become a different species without any warmth, have abnormal strength, etc. Bella and Edward's journey has thus far not have been easy nor will it ever be even once Bella is changed. One can't not help wonder what will happen with the treaty and Bella's relationship with Jake. Jake beautifully describes this anxiety in the epilogue of Eclipse, which is cleverly entitled 'Choice' :

Pg. 625
'She would be different, and I wondered how that would affect me. Would it be the same as if she had died, to see her standing there like a stone? Like ice? When her scent burned in my nostrils and triggered the instinct to rip, to tear' How would that be? Could I want to kill her? Could I not want to kill one of them?'
It is obvious that Edward and Bella view the bite very differently. For Bella it is romantic, absolutely necessary for her to truly be with Edward-a chance to be Superman too. Bella is taking a leap of faith into the abyss with the bite. She has observed the 'romantic and happy' lifestyle of the Cullen family. She has only known them as the 'good' vampires that feast on animal blood only and who value human life. She has faith that she will follow the Cullens' footsteps into their lifestyle. She also has faith that Edward's love, which has protected her from harm in her human life will continue to protect her and keep her in check with her unquenchable thirst as a vampire. Bella knows deep down inside the complications and is scared as she tells Jake:

Eclipse pg. 601:
'I've never been much of a masochist, so I'm not looking forward to the pain. And I wish there was some way to keep him away'"I don't want him to suffer with me, but I don't think there is any way around it...I hope I'll be able to control myself soon.'
Edward, on the other hand, has seen it and lived it all. He remembers how painful his transformation was-a pain that we are told that you are unable to forget. He also knows and experienced the struggle of everyday life to not consume human blood. The frightening episode in the rough draft of Midnight Sun shows how quickly his mind works to satisfy his urge to kill all twenty one members of his class. He feels the pain in his stomach and burn in his throat that he continues to deny in order to be with the one that he loves. With all this in his mind, he is taken aback by Bella who is willing to become what he is, what he loathes, and what he still isn't sure about as he tells Bella in Twilight (pg. 474):
'You don't know what you're asking.' His voice was soft; he stared intently at the edge of the pillowcase.
'I think I do.'
'Bella, you don't know. I've had almost ninety years to think about this, and I'm still not sure.'
*Going to get a little religious here*
Now I can see a parallel between the Bella's possible transformation to the Abraham and Issac story. To me the story of Abraham and Issac is not about the action of sacrificing a son, but rather a test of faith. How strong is Abraham's faith in God? Is it so strong that he will trust in God and sacrifice his son for God's sake? As we all know, Abraham's faith was very strong and did not falter, which is why he was saved from sacrificing his son. In the context of the Bella and Edward's story it becomes the question of how ready is Edward?

All along we have discussed numerous times whether or not Bella is ready for the bite, ready to step into the darkness. I think it is equally important to think about whether or not Edward is ready for the bite. We all know that physically he is capable, but it gets less clear emotionally. Is he capable to see Bella suffer for three days of continual pain after they cherish that one, ultimate, intimate moment? Can he freely and without any hesitations/excuses to take the necessary actions to change Bella? Or is he counting on a life/death situation to occur to make his decision easier?

It has been my observation that as the series progresses that Edward becomes more human in the context of his emotions. He has become over-protective, able to express his love for Bella, and finally accept that he has become jealous of Jake. All of these stages of emotions are due to his relationship with Bella. Perhaps he fears that he will miss his human side if Bella is changed. Throughout the series, I have always felt a nagging feeling that Edward is not being completely honest with Bella about the vampire lifestyle-whether it is the minute details of the thirst or his connection with Tanya or perhaps it is so hideous that he fears that Bella would be so repelled by it and leave him. It maybe due my over-analysis of Edward's character that makes me thinks this. After all, I am obsessed about the boy. :D

December wrote:
'Stephenie's books are fundamentally sunny in outlook and tone; there's never any serious doubt whether light will win out over the darkness. (In fact her villains are so unalarming as to be almost unsuccessful). The drama and conflict, as has been often pointed out here, is a character-oriented conflict between good and good: well-meaning, essentially blameless people caught in the net of an impossible situation.'
I find this observation very interesting and acute. If Bella is transformed, she no longer retains her label as the heroine of the story, but rather her role becomes less clear. Again I may be in the minority that views the Cullens to walk the thin line between hero and villain and find them horrifying at times. Yes, they don't kill people, but they did (and for most of them, they killed a lot) in their past life. Yes, they are trying to blend in the human life, but they do so by cheating, lying, and other ways to not draw attention. It makes me cringe to imagine Carlisle working in a hospital, which very ironic-death nursing life, because he has the ability to kill everyone in the hospital. I even find Carlisle, the purest of the Cullens, to be horrifying in his decision to expand his family and not stopping Edward from going through his rebellious years. I wonder if Carlisle had stopped Edward, would Edward still be in an existential crisis.

Note: I'm not debating whether or not the Cullens are moral/immoral. If you are interested in this topic, please go to the Philosophy Thread where it has been discussed numerous times. I just wanted to point out how difficult it is to place the Cullens in a black/white or good/evil paradigm.
Last edited by cullengirl on Fri Jan 18, 2008 8:51 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by unquenchable_thirst34 »

I think that to fairly debate the topic, we need to come to an agreed on definition of what a soul actually is. The dictionary defines it as the spiritual or immaterial part of a person, often regarded as immortal. So a soul is that part of you which remains alive and conscious, regardless of the physical changes that happen to your being, like death, or, say, becoming a vampire. It is that conscious part of you which retains who you truely are, despite the shell that you have been placed in, be it a human body, an altered human body (a vampire) or being freed of a shell altogther (death). If we go by this definition, isn't it obvious that the Cullens, and other vampires actually have souls.

If we keep all this in mind, then the issue of Bella's change becomes irrelevant. It doesn't become so much a question of "damning her soul" or ridding her of one, it becomes one of giving into her wishes and acknowledging her choice. She will retain her soul, regardless of the physical shell in which she dwells, and finally begin to live.

As for the question of will it still be as good a story if Bella and Edward were not permitted to follow through freely on the choices they have made, I am going to assume you mean choosing to turn Bella into a vampire. I would answer your question with a resounding yes. This story is about the love that Bella and Edward share. As proven in the first three books, this love can withstand the barriers of difference of species, now that both have come to understand the immensity of their love for one another. However, on the other hand, the books also explore the themes of love and choice, and just exactly how much you would do for the person you love, in Bella's case, paying the highest price there is, her humanity, and the hard choices you have to make concerning your relationship. If Bella and Edward weren't allowed to follow through on their choices, the books could be seen as a failure, because the weren't able to answer the very questions that they brought up.

December brought up some very good points when referring to Bella's humanity. It is true that Bella has a high price to pay when she is changed. I completely agree with your last paragraph, and especially with the point that you made at the end:
...and what we are being warned not the risk to her soul but the appalling human cost of arriving there.
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Post by llovetwilight »

Please keep in mind when posting that "Choices" is not intended to be a debate thread :D :
Our ideal here is for everyone to get a clearer sense of why other people have the views they do, not to challenge their views -- or change them.

There aren't that many places on the Lex where it's easy to do this. So please, if you want to contest anything someone says on this thread, ask them to step outside and debate it somewhere else on the Lex. It's easy enough to find a suitable place for it. And remember, this thread should be a place where everyone feels comfortable posting. There is always a way to state your opinion which remains respectful of the existence of other views -- even views that no one is putting forward here at the moment. Be mindful of all the opinions out there on the Lex. Achieving this is partly a matter of tone. Listen to yourself before you post. If someone says something you disagree with, it's more conciliatory to say 'that's interesting, because I felt differently for the following reasons....' than to say 'how can you say that?' or 'I have to totally disagree because...'
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