SMDND-Exploring the Theme of "Choice"

General discussion about the Twilight Series Universe.
unquenchable_thirst34
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Post by unquenchable_thirst34 »

As for the Grace that the Cullens earn for giving stuff up... I don't believe they do. Setting aside Carlisle*, they're not doing anything good, are they? They've lived for years in a selfish little corner, struggling over their bloodlust. But they're not doing GOOD. They're just resisting doing BAD, which is what all of us do every single day. And, actually, in resisting doing the really, really, really BAD they do things that, in anyone else, we would consider criminal. But for redemption, not doing bad isn't nearly enough. Because what is their existence doing for the world? Absolutely nothing. They're so wrapped up in themselves that they have no time or energy to do anything for anyone else... they don't speak to people or other vampire any more than they have to, they spend the majority of their time locked away in the woods... that, for me, redemption and Grace do not make.

*Carlisle, I think, has the most to apologize for. How can you believe in a greater Beyond and then forever trap four people in a world of death, evil, danger, and constant pain?
Hmmm, I have to disagree. The Cullens aren't doing anything good??? They're going against all of their natural instincts to atone for something that was out of their control. If this is just "not doing bad", then consider their reasons for this particular (and immensly difficult) lifestyle choice.

They're aren't staving off hunting humans to "redeem their souls". As mentioned in New Moon when Carlisle was talking to Bella about the "soul issue", none of the others seem to share this particular belief. They have no prospects of going into heaven (their idea) so they have nothing to prove to "God", no worries of further sin. So heaven isn't the reason why they go against nature.

I'm sure a big part of it is to achieve redemption in their own eyes, to stop themselves from considering themselves as "monsters", however, a part of it, no matter how small, must be in empathy with the human race. To revolt against one's most strong and natural instincts, to spare others of harm or heartbreak IS good. Carlisle, especially who was so revolted with what he had become and battled alone with no one to guide or help him is the epitome of this kind of goodness.

You ask how Carlisle can believe in a greater beyond and then forever trap four people in a world of death, evil, danger and constant pain. Well, sure, Carlisle can believe in the THEORY that there is a heaven, but when faced with the imminent death of a patient, or Esme, his soulmate, isn't he allowed to act a little rashly. And in each of the cases, he had a good reason to change his family: Edward's mother specifically asked it of him, Esme is his soulmate, Rosalie, well, I think that was just his compassion and Emmett, to grant the wishes of his daughter. And besides all of that, he was lonely. He's only human after all. :D

Edit: And as for the redemption thing, Carlisle saves the lives of HUMANS everyday. His existence and consequent knowledge keeps them alive so they and their families can continue to live and love. And the reason they speak to humans and vampires no more than necessary is to survive. Humans are in danger around them , so they avoid them rather then form friendships (another exaple of good) and if other vampires were around, they wouldn't be the vegetarian ones, so, again, to keep humans safe. And besides, the Cullens to talk to and have vampire friends. There's a whole clan of them in Denali as proof.
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LisaCullenAZ
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Post by LisaCullenAZ »

A quick reminder from The Brainshadows:

There are lots of debate-oriented threads on the boards -- and they've generated some wonderful discussion and insights. But this thread is for something different. Our ideal here is for everyone to get a clearer sense of why other people have the views they do, not to challenge them. So let's remember to keep this a place where everyone feels comfortable posting! This doesn't mean you can't disagree with people. Just be sure you find a way of doing it that doesn't belittle differing opinions. Thanks...and carry on!


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Sasha
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Post by Sasha »

unquenchable_thirst34 wrote: Hmmm, I have to disagree. The Cullens aren't doing anything good??? They're going against all of their natural instincts to atone for something that was out of their control.
And yet... I still stick with my view that not killing people =/= doing good. And atonement? That takes doing good. Especially when you're trying to atone for murder, ala Edward, Rosalie, Emmett, Carlisle... (I don't count Jasper, because he's not trying to atone).
And, once again, I don't believe the Cullens need to atone for their bloodlust/vampirism. Just for the actions they;ve committed... namely, murder. If only they'd write a children's book or something...
They're aren't staving off hunting humans to "redeem their souls". So heaven isn't the reason why they go against nature.
Heaven isn't the reason I kill, either. That doesn't make me a saint. I don't not kill and roast my cat because I want St. Peter to take kindly to me.
Well, sure, Carlisle can believe in the THEORY that there is a heaven, but when faced with the imminent death of a patient, or Esme, his soulmate, isn't he allowed to act a little rashly. And in each of the cases, he had a good reason to change his family: Edward's mother specifically asked it of him, Esme is his soulmate, Rosalie, well, I think that was just his compassion and Emmett, to grant the wishes of his daughter. And besides all of that, he was lonely. He's only human after all. :D
Edward: His mother was ill. She was dying. She was wild with fever. Carlisle used her request as an excuse... he'd been looking for someone to change for ages by then, and lo and behold, here was an option. Oh, and the Hippocratic Oath? "First, do no harm"? So broken.
Esme: This one may be my biggest problem. With the others, he at least didn't know what their opinions on the subject would be. Esme tried to kill herself. As in, end her life. As in, go away from this world. What made it Carlisle's right to do the complete opposite?
Rosalie: I'm sure she's very thankful for that compassion now.
Edit: And as for the redemption thing, Carlisle saves the lives of HUMANS everyday. His existence and consequent knowledge keeps them alive so they and their families can continue to live and love.
Which is why I exempted Carlisle.

December: This turned out longer than I meant... but don't worry, I'll get to you, too. :twisted:

ETA for niceness.
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LisaCullenAZ
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Post by LisaCullenAZ »

unquenchable_thirst34 wrote:
I'm sure a big part of it is to achieve redemption in their own eyes, to stop themselves from considering themselves as "monsters", however, a part of it, no matter how small, must be in empathy with the human race.
Isn't that interesting? Because I'm sure a Lion would never feel empathy or even pity for it's dinner. Maybe because the Lion doesn't have the hang-up of once being a wildebeest.

And Sasha, wow. Roasted cat. Wonderful mental picture! ;)
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llovetwilight
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Post by llovetwilight »

And yet... I still stick with my view that not killing people =/= doing good
This is a sticky subject, isn't it? And I suppose it depends with what values/view you read the story. Although I tend to think that the Cullens are doing good by not feeding on humans, I can easily see both sides because viewed from a human perspective, then I agree not going around killing people is not necessarily being a "do-gooder". It is ghastly to kill people and thus restraining from doing it (as a human) is pretty much an expected behavior. It is abnormal for humans to want to go around killing other humans. But when I look at it from the paranormal/vampire perspective, I tend to believe that the Cullens are doing an act of goodness every day that they choose to not kill humans. It is abnormal for them not to feed on humans. The choice to feed on animals instead is done out of respect for humanity and that, for me, makes their veggie existence a positive one.


LisaCullenAZ wrote:And Sasha, wow. Roasted cat. Wonderful mental picture! ;)
Funny that you quoted this Lisa... I was thinking the same thing! :shock: And Sasha, I am sure your cat is very thankful for whatever reason you decide not to roast him/her :wink:


ETA- HOLY COW- first post on choices since the baby was born!!! She is asleep and I should be doing laundry or dishes or cleaning or sleeping (since I've had none lately) but I am so happy to finally have caught up on the conversations I am ignoring all of that!!! Yippee!
I'm really glad Edward didn't kill you. Everything's so much more fun with you around."- Emmett to Bella, EC

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TrueLove1
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Post by TrueLove1 »

ETA- (Meant to put this at the end of this long-winded post but of course....)


A BIG Welcome Back! from maternity leave, ILT. ( I don't recall filling out that paperwork, we'll talk later.) We've missed you!


I'm going to jump back in the discussion here after spending the week taking care of life off the boards. *grin*

My apologies BAC, for not getting back to your direct question concerning this discussion, but it looks as though my dear friend December picked up the pieces for me....

I've been reading, with interest, all of the back-and-forth discussion about Grace and the Cullen's struggles (while catching up...finally! Whew!)

I wanted to quote you December, because what you've written here is, I think, a good clarification of where we were going with our original discussion.
But it does take some work to make sense of the books' position. You're absolutely right that you can't go by what the characters say because they all have different opinions, but that doesn't mean the story isn't urging a view on us. Or even more intriguingly, that there is some tension in the story between conflicting views -- not in the boring sense that two characters disagree, but that the way the story itself is told we are being pushed towards more than one understanding of the moral issues here. That at any rate is what the participants in discussion 3) have been trying to do: figure out what in heaven's name we're supposed to think about this: what the rights and wrongs are within the universe of Stephenie's story.
:wink:

For what it's worth, when discussing this issue of Grace, my interpretation of what I think SM means for us to see in her story is based solely on what I would conceive these characters doing based on their character development so far, as well as outside comments by the author. How does Stephenie Meyer feel about Moral Relativism? Why might she want to put her characters through the trials and tribulations that she dreams up for them? What (taking into consideration all of her commentary) do I think she sees in these characters?

That's how the discussion started out when December and I were volleying around ideas. For me, it's not necessarily what I think real people would do, or think, or say in real situations; or what my personal philosophies are, but rather what these characters are supposed to be achieving through their suffering given all of the flaws and gifts that she's bestowed on them.

What do we imagine that Stephenie wants us to take from them? That's where this idea of moral beauty started to flourish. When I try to imagine what Stephenie might want us to understand about her characters, it becomes clearer for me personally (trying to see it through her eyes given the comments she's made on the subject.)

I look at all of their suffering and sacrifice and have to ask myself why? Stephenie is apparently ready, willing and able to excuse the vampires in general for their behavior (based on the views on relative morality that she's written extensively about it in PC #12.) So if she's going to take this group of vampires on another journey she must want them to be seen in another light.

That story, as I see it, is about the beauty of their sacrifice. Other than Carlisle, the Cullen's have never even believed they had souls. They aren't/weren't doing this to save themselves. They are doing this so that they can love each other and consequently find peace. They like how that feels. Like December said: they can retain their "self"--which really is a vestige of their humanity.

I don't think it's selfish either, I just think it's...human. That's not to say that I'll argue they are human. They are not, but what separates them from the lions, and tigers, and bears (oh my!) is that they once were. They are beings, much like December described earlier (somewhere) like angels: they are something different, but in human likeness with human emotions.

They can't BE human anymore, no arguments there, but they can hang on to vestiges of their humanity if they so choose. I feel like Stephenie intends for us to see this as a higher calling than just giving over to the base instincts. You don't have to strain yourself, heck! you get a pass. You're a vampire for goodness sake! But if you don't think that having that get-out-of-jail-free card is good enough; if you want to love, and have empathy, and compassion, and are willing to suffer to make that happen, then maybe you really are something special. Maybe there really is a moral beauty within the context of this story (and these characters) that we are meant to see.
Last edited by TrueLove1 on Sun Feb 24, 2008 11:13 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Sasha
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Post by Sasha »

TrueLove1 wrote:But if you don't think that having that get-out-of-jail-free card is good enough; if you want to love, and have empathy, and compassion, and are willing to suffer to make that happen, then maybe you really are something special. Maybe there really is a moral beauty within the context of this story (and these characters) that we are meant to see.
Maybe. Though I think it's a little bit the other way around... the love, empathy, and compassion are more the reasons than the results. Though, mostly, I think it's love... love for each other, and the longing for company and family. I think the Cullens' vegetarianism has more to do with them caring for each other than for humans, who they really don't seem to have many feelings of any kind for (except, possibly, hate, like Edward's towards Bella in the beginning of Twilight: what right did the stupid human have to ruin everything?).

And with the cat... well, yes. My cat is very glad I haven;t roasted him yet. But we must remember... he is in constant danger. I mean, I am a predator after all!

ILT: BABY!!! Congratulations!! Boy or girl?
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llovetwilight
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Post by llovetwilight »

Sasha wrote:And with the cat... well, yes. My cat is very glad I haven;t roasted him yet. But we must remember... he is in constant danger. I mean, I am a predator after all!
*snickers* :wink:
ILT: BABY!!! Congratulations!! Boy or girl?
Thank you! Our 2nd girl... :D
ETA- (Meant to put this at the end of this long-winded post but of course....)
I LOVED your long-winded post! Is it a big surprise to anyone that I agree with your thoughts? :roll:
A BIG Welcome Back! from maternity leave, ILT. ( I don't recall filling out that paperwork, we'll talk later.) We've missed you!
Thanks! Hmmmm.... does the Lex offer maternity benefits? Lord knows I spend more time on the lex/twilight than I do working!!! I am sure that if they did I would qualify... :lol:

OK- enough about me.... sorry for the interruption ladies!
I'm really glad Edward didn't kill you. Everything's so much more fun with you around."- Emmett to Bella, EC

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TrueLove1
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Post by TrueLove1 »

Sasha wrote:
Though I think it's a little bit the other way around... the love, empathy, and compassion are more the reasons than the results. Though, mostly, I think it's love... love for each other, and the longing for company and family
Oh, no, I agree with you Sasha. They want to feel the love and compassion and it's the reason they choose the tortuous path. They can gain some peace in this horrific existence through their abstinence.

I think I agree with you too that at least Edward, as far as we know, is abstaining for his family--for Carlisle and Esme (in the beginning) more than any real "affection" for humans. [Although Stephenie does also address this in her PC's when she talks about him wanting to do "good" (abstain) just for the sake of good, not because he thinks he will reap some kind of eternal reward.] But his story changes once he meets Bella. He, in my opinion, starts to see the world through her eyes. Even though he continues to be impatient with frivolous humans, he starts to genuinely like some of them too.
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December
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Post by December »

Truelove -- thank you for putting so clearly and beautifully what I've been trying to get at. Yes. Exactly.

I've been mulling over the question you and Sasha have been discussing: whether the Cullens are fighting their urge to kill in order to be able to feel love and compassion or because they feel love and compassion. (I think I want to avoid talking about this in terms of "the reason" they do it, because it's ambiguous -- I suspect that you are each using it in a different sense: Sasha means that feeling compassion is the reason they abstain and you mean wanting to feel compassion is the reason they abstain -- so you're not actually agreeing here. Or have I misunderstood the two of you?).

But anyway, I'm wondering: is it really possible to separate the two motivations? Obviously the Cullens must have still had some sense of what it was to love from the start (I mean post-vamp). I don't think anyone pictures them making some kind of cold-blooded calculation: "gee, I miss being human -- better work on acquiring human traits like love and compassion." What I imagine is more their realizing that these are things they will lose if they allow themselves to follow their predatory inclinations. It's easy for a hungry vampire to become indifferent to the pain and fear of the humans he feeds on. And the Cullens don't want that to happen. Because hating to hurt people is an important part of who they are. And because they can see that vampires who look at humans merely as prey find it harder to care about their fellow vampires either (Stephenie says as much in PC12; "He wants to feel the higher human emotions (love for his family particularly) that get lost when you live for the hunt and the bloodlust." This comes up in the books as well (reference anyone?): other vampires don't live in families as the Cullens do, and they attribute this to their diet). The Cullens are willing to sacrifice a lot to hang onto their capacity to love. So in this sense, Truelove is right: they embrace this difficult discipline in order to remain the loving, caring people they are.

On the other hand, as Sasha says, what actually stops them from killing humans is that ability to care for others. It's partly empathy for their potential victims (remember Alice trying to bolster Jasper's self-control when a mouthwatering girl comes too close: "it helps a little if you think of them as people. She has a baby sister she adores." (Midnight Sun)). The Cullens don't want to hurt other people. But most of all, yes, it is their love for one another that motivates them to live the way they do. Jasper is toughing it out for love of Alice. What really stiffens Edward's resolve that first day in Biology is the thought of Carlisle's disappointment in him -- and the damage that being discovered would do to his family. Yes, he is horrified to discover the strength of his own murderous instincts -- but his family is uppermost in his mind. (And of course love for his family is what drives him to return to Forks and fight the hardest battle of his vampire existence). So Sasha is also right that the Cullens restrain themselves because of a (limited) empathy with the humans they don't want to hurt, and their profound love for each other.

Does it matter that their affections for the humans around them are pretty weak (as Sasha rightly points out) compared with their feelings for each other? I think if they had no feelings for their prey -- if they were making this sacrifice purely for each others' sake and couldn't care less about the humans they spared -- we wouldn't feel they had fully retained their human capacity for love. Not being able to hurt people without feeling bad about it: that's what sets them apart from the ordinary predator. But for those sympathies to be relatively weak doesn't bother me. They have the best of reasons for not wanting to get too emotionally involved with the humans around them. If you are a vampire, the most effective way of making good on your general benevolence towards the humans around you is...to keep it general. You protect them best by keeping your distance. This is why the Cullens all think Edward is insane to get involved with Bella (and especially Bella!). In a way, I'm happy to give them extra credit for suffering so much on behalf the humans around them when they don't have any specific feelings of affection for them. Just a passionate determination to do no harm....

Does that make any sense?
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