SMDND-Exploring the Theme of "Choice"

General discussion about the Twilight Series Universe.
Lara
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Post by Lara » Mon May 12, 2008 11:15 am

Bkwrm wrote:Jake is another supernatural creature.
Jake is as dangerous as Edward; he could accidentally maim or kill her.
Jake could very well imprint on another woman in a few days, weeks, months, or years and leave Bella.
I am so happy that someone else recognizes Jacob's flaws as well as Edward's.

Jake is not human. He is a werewolf. The life Bella would have with Jacob would not be normal. It would only be marginally safer, assuming Jake never loses control, but equally unhealthy in the fact that Bella could be with Jake for fifteen years and have three kids when he unexpectedly imprints and will leave her without looking back. Quite the alternative, I must say.

I agree with December that SM has taken every available and heart wrenching method to expose the core of Bella feelings and the choice she has made. It is deeper and far more painful than a simple moral dilemma.

Where I disagree is that Bella's alternative life with Jake is not fate and therefore already at a severe disadvantage. In theory and in Bella's imaginings a relationship with Jake seems nice because if Edward had died in 1918 then she and a very human Jake would have progressed naturally the way all teens do. But if there were no Edward then Bella would have died at 17 courtesy of Tyler's van, before meeting Jacob.

A future with Jacob was never a true option for Bella because it was not fated. And the theme of fate is played upon in the Twilight Saga at all the right moments. In certain crucial scenes, for example Jacob telling Edward Charlie is at the funeral, it is the deciding factor that propels the story forward.

So while Jacob represents Bella's proverbial 'road not taken' for insightful purposes, the end result was inevitable. We have known from the very first book that Bella and Edward's connection was something stronger than even a soulmate. Thus why the supporting characters are usually surprised by the depth to them.

Perhaps if the story was different and Bella's contrary feelings for Mike were a rival for Edward then I could see where Bella's life could take a normal turn. But life with werewolf Jacob would be difficult for Bella. She would still be living a double life, one that she will be forced to lie to Charlie and Renee about.

The way I perceived Eclipse, especially the last few chapters, was the heartache for Jacob's sake rather than Bella's. Not once did Bella waver in her choice because even as she acknowledged her love for Jacob she was trying to find the least painful way to say goodbye.

Cleverly SM goes to every possible length to reaffirm Bella's choice. And yet there never really was a choice at all. I love the poetic irony in that. Because even when Bella panicked over becoming a vampire not once did she entertain the idea of a different future even though she was well aware of her alternatives. It's that sense of impending metaphorical death combined with the note of inescapability that makes Bella's fate significantly bittersweet.
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Bkwrm
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Post by Bkwrm » Mon May 12, 2008 11:35 am

Thanks.

I've never understood the "But Bella's life would be so *perfect* with Jake! Why can't she SEE that!" attitude that some people have.

He's as much a risk as Edward. Her life with him would NOT be "easy", "safe", "simple", or without sacrifice.

I think some readers just like Jake so much, they ignore this fact. Neither life would come without pain and sacrifice. But Edward is the one she can't live without.

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Post by Visitor1 » Mon May 12, 2008 11:43 pm

[quote="Lara"][quote="Bkwrm"]Jake is another supernatural creature.
Jake is as dangerous as Edward; he could accidentally maim or kill her.
Jake could very well imprint on another woman in a few days, weeks, months, or years and leave Bella.[/quote]

I am [b]so[/b] happy that someone else recognizes Jacob's flaws as well as Edward's. [/quote]

Me, too -- one of the big problems I've had with the whole Jacob-as-a-soulmate storyline (and I have several) is that Jake ISN'T a true "human" option and choosing him would not be necessarily the happily-ever-after option that it's made out to be -- that choosing Edward over Jake is such a huge sacrifice when compared to the "other soulmate" choice (and I honestly cringe at that designation for Jacob and that little vision of her oh-so-ideal life with children and happy Renee and Charlie, et al, gathered around. I think THAT is as unrealistic of a view as the view that becoming a vampire is all romantic and warm and fuzzy.

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Post by NovemberAlice » Wed May 14, 2008 7:17 pm

CatchingCove wrote:
Visitor wrote: But just as we have discussed on numerous occasions, in SM's world, happily ever after comes at a price. Bella is choosing to pay that price and in so choosing, she is freeing herself in a way.
I've been lurking here, following along. Mostly lurking, I think, because everyone is so erudite that I have nothing to add. But this jerked a knot in my head. When you think about it, all life is lived at a cost. When you come to a crossroads to make a decision, there's a price to pay. There are the big decisions like loving someone enough to marry them and surrender part of your life to merge with theirs. You pay an emotional price for the great gain of partnership. Then there are the small things like turning left to the gym instead of right to the diner and burning calories but still craving that cheeseburger when you go to bed. But by making those choices instead of being borne along we live our lives with a greater degree of freedom because freedom is in the choice.

A correlation works, I think, that the greater the price of choice, the greater the result of the choice. It works with drug addicts. The sacrifice is tremendous and the result of the choice is unflinching and massive. Or it works in Bella's case: taking herself out of the contiuum of her own natural life, essentially dying in order to preserve a great love with Edward.
It reminds me of Savitri, an Indian woman who had to capitulate to Death in order to get back life with her husband. She had to be free enough to die in order to live. Bella's almost in the same boat. It is the dragon on her threshold. You have to feed the dragon in order to get through the door.
its the truth. when you make a choice(even lightly) you never really no what that choice will effect. no decision should ever be made just because its the easier thing to do. a choice one person makes can effect not only them and their friends but it can also effect entire communities- or the world. edward had no idea that by leaving bella it would not just hurt her, but it would eventually hurt jacob when they fell in love (since love wasn't enough).
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Post by SparklingDiamond » Fri May 16, 2008 5:47 pm

I've been gone a long time and there are so many interesting thoughts posted since I've last posted.
Jacob and that little vision of her oh-so-ideal life with children and happy Renee and Charlie, et al, gathered around. I think THAT is as unrealistic of a view as the view that becoming a vampire is all romantic and warm and fuzzy.
Everyone has a different opinion of what the ideal life is. However, for Bella, the child of divorced parents who never had those typical mom, dad, and grandparent moments, giving up the possibility of a normal life with kids and a white picket fence is quite something. Of course, nothing is guaranteed, ever. Happy ever afters are never promised, but often dreamed of. Bella, as does everyone who takes the leap into marriage, is taking a chance no matter who she chooses. She knows that, which is what makes the stakes all the more high. She loves them both. She loves Jacob, despite his shortcomings. At that last moment in the meadow, it is her who has the fleeting vision of her children with Jacob. A "normal" life. Had she chosen Jacob, the Cullens would have left. No vampires, no need for werewolves, no changing for Jacob = pretty close to normal life. However, as the previous posters have noted, what is normal?

SM has pointed out on several occasions that Bella, herself, is far from normal. So, could she even fall for a normal average Joe? Could a normal average Joe ever compete with an Edward. The character of Jacob had to have some edge to make him a realistic competition for Edward. I feel that the fact that he isn't normal makes the hardship of the choice so much more believable.

Like so many people have eloquently shared, it's the reality of another equally good option, minus the whole dying at 18 and losing total contact with everyone she loves, that makes her choice so much more powerful.

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Post by December » Sat May 17, 2008 6:52 pm

Bother...my notifications seem to have broken down and I missed a number of recent posts. So this is going back a little ways.

Lara -- you have taken my thought exactly where it was (reluctantly) going. Back to our puzzle about how to read "I never had a choice" -- the apparent inconsistency between Stephenie's evident desire that we see Bella as actively choosing her fate, and the sense we get from the books that it was in fact...well...fated. I say reluctantly because I think it's harder to get one's head around the problem from this angle, because if you're not careful, philosophical paradoxes about fatedness, necessity and free-will creep in around the edges -- and personally, I don't want to touch those with a barge pole. But let's see where we can get, skirting carefully around these metaphysical puzzles.

On the one hand, Stephenie is pressing us to see this story as you've done: that Bella's choice is inescapable. That she could not survive without Edward -- and this is what makes her choice ok. That's certainly what NM would lead us believe (which is why so many readers had trouble with Ec): that at least in this sense, Bella has no alternative. As someone put it about thirty pages ago, in terms of rational economic choice, there's only one way to go. She and Edward were bound to end up together, even if it isn't literally true that the stars ordained it. "I never had a choice." So she can be forgiven for throwing away her life for this boy.

Only then Stephenie, and we, turn around and say the opposite: no, this is ok precisely because Bella has such a good alternative, as shown by the events of Ec. Because Bella's hand has not been forced -- even in the sense of having only one conceivable option. This is not a choice of desperation, or a morbid compulsion. She has two good options and deliberately chooses between them. Chooses the love of her life.

Bella could/couldn't truly love anyone besides Edward; she does/doesn't have a choice. It really comes down to the same instability. Stephenie has a terrifically delicate balancing act to pull off here. If Bella hadn't been in such unbearable pain in NM, it wouldn't be the right choice to give up her life. But if she weren't in almost as much pain in Ec, it wouldn't be a choice at all...but a necessity. Or at the least, a no-brainer. Which comes to the same thing.

You know, Truelove, I do see your thought -- we've talked about it before -- that one can almost see this as Stephenie doing her best to tempt Bella away from the fatal course she is decided on -- and Bella steadfastly refusing to be diverted.

But I'm inclined to read it differently. "You're right," Edward tells Bella in TW, "I should make this harder for you, definitely." And Stephenie does. Bitterly, bitterly hard. But I honestly don't think that she did it in the hope, even subconsciously, that Bella would change her mind. I think she simply wanted to make this hard. Because it makes for a great story. Because for Stephenie (as only becomes clearer and clearer), the sacrifices we make for love are its truest measure. So that paradoxically, it is the painfulness of the choosing that makes indelibly clear the depth of Bella's love for Edward. There is nothing she would not sacrifice for him, no pain she wouldn't face for him. He is her true love and her only choice.

And this thread comes full circle....
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Post by Lara » Mon May 19, 2008 1:16 am

December wrote: Bella could/couldn't truly love anyone besides Edward; she does/doesn't have a choice. It really comes down to the same instability. Stephenie has a terrifically delicate balancing act to pull off here.

Because for Stephenie (as only becomes clearer and clearer), the sacrifices we make for love are its truest measure. So that paradoxically, it is the painfulness of the choosing that makes indelibly clear the depth of Bella's love for Edward. There is nothing she would not sacrifice for him, no pain she wouldn't face for him. He is her true love and her only choice.

And this thread comes full circle....
Love and sacrifice. Fate and choice. Life and death. The more clarity blurs between the literal and figurative the more emotional impact we get from each written word.

It shows the depth of Stephenie's genius storytelling that she keeps this precarious balance without making the plot redundant and unbelievable.
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Post by t1gr355 » Fri May 30, 2008 3:05 pm

Visitor1 wrote:Me, too -- one of the big problems I've had with the whole Jacob-as-a-soulmate storyline (and I have several) is that Jake ISN'T a true "human" option and choosing him would not be necessarily the happily-ever-after option that it's made out to be ... I honestly cringe at that designation for Jacob and that little vision of her oh-so-ideal life with children and happy Renee and Charlie, et al, gathered around. I think THAT is as unrealistic of a view as the view that becoming a vampire is all romantic and warm and fuzzy.
I see where you're coming from, and I agree that life doesn't always work out perfectly -- but I don't think that little vision was supposed to be/needed to be accurate at all; I think Stephenie was just showing us the best of what life could be like with Jake's kind, at the same time as Bella was seeing the worst of Edward's kind (this was just before the big Victoria & Co. fight scenes, yes? Forgive me if I'm wrong).
And because -- as was recently mentioned? -- she seems to have made her decisions by now ("the life I was giving up" as opposed to "the life I could have", see p.529-ish), this point was perhaps the final "hurdle" or "chance" for Bella & Jake as a couple. She saw life with Jake in all its (perhaps rose-tinted) glory, she had a lovely kiss with him, she realised how much she loved him, and it still wasn't enough to make her change her mind. So, I suppose what I'm saying is that even a happier, marginally untruthful delusion of Jake-life wasn't enough. (For the record, Jake is a nice guy and I like him just as much as the next person. Please don't pelt me with rotten fruit.) And once again, I'll echo everyone else by saying that this makes her final choice all the more ... justified/powerful/(insert desired term here). (Cliched, me? Perish the thought.) ;)
So, yes, I agree, but I do think that was a necessary little plot-point. =)

And now I'm going to pretend that I was here the whole time. :D
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Post by cullengirl » Fri May 30, 2008 7:19 pm

*Waves* Hi, everyone! I've been lurking for quite a while. I haven't had any Zen moments to add to the excellent discussions that are going on, but I would like to comment on this post...
Visitor1 wrote:Me, too -- one of the big problems I've had with the whole Jacob-as-a-soulmate storyline (and I have several) is that Jake ISN'T a true "human" option and choosing him would not be necessarily the happily-ever-after option that it's made out to be ... I honestly cringe at that designation for Jacob and that little vision of her oh-so-ideal life with children and happy Renee and Charlie, et al, gathered around. I think THAT is as unrealistic of a view as the view that becoming a vampire is all romantic and warm and fuzzy.
Very true, Jacob is also a potential threat to Bella. As shown by example Emily, Leah and Sam triangle, Jacob has the potential to physically harm Bella if he can't control his anger as well as imprint on someone else and leave Bella. However, I think, Stephenie's point is that she could have another person who would love her as much as Edward does and still remain human. Of course Bella makes it clear in Eclipse, that she can't love anyone besides Edward and doesn't want to hurt Jake by not giving all of her love. After thinking this all through, my question because: Isn't love itself a risk? A risk of being hurt if it is unrequited, if the person leaves, etc.

Ok, that's my 2 cents and I'll go back to lurking now..:oops:
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Post by CatsOnMars » Fri May 30, 2008 11:32 pm

cullengirl wrote:*Waves* Hi, everyone! I've been lurking for quite a while. I haven't had any Zen moments to add to the excellent discussions that are going on, but I would like to comment on this post...
Visitor1 wrote:Me, too -- one of the big problems I've had with the whole Jacob-as-a-soulmate storyline (and I have several) is that Jake ISN'T a true "human" option and choosing him would not be necessarily the happily-ever-after option that it's made out to be ... I honestly cringe at that designation for Jacob and that little vision of her oh-so-ideal life with children and happy Renee and Charlie, et al, gathered around. I think THAT is as unrealistic of a view as the view that becoming a vampire is all romantic and warm and fuzzy.
Very true, Jacob is also a potential threat to Bella. As shown by example Emily, Leah and Sam triangle, Jacob has the potential to physically harm Bella if he can't control his anger as well as imprint on someone else and leave Bella. However, I think, Stephenie's point is that she could have another person who would love her as much as Edward does and still remain human. Of course Bella makes it clear in Eclipse, that she can't love anyone besides Edward and doesn't want to hurt Jake by not giving all of her love. After thinking this all through, my question because: Isn't love itself a risk? A risk of being hurt if it is unrequited, if the person leaves, etc.

Ok, that's my 2 cents and I'll go back to lurking now..:oops:
You totally beat me to saying something about this. :)

A lot of people talk as if Jacob is a completely easy option for Bella, and I agree that that's not the case and she actually has two really hard choices. I think choosing to be with either Edward or Jacob would take a lot of strength, but really different kinds of strength.

The kind of love Edward has for Bella doesn't exist in the real world. It's set in stone in practically a literal way because a vampire's feelings don't change. He would forgive her anything and nothing she could do would keep him from wanting her. Though they get their fair share of outside conflicts threatening to keep them apart or other problems that are beyond their own control, this is not a normal kind of relationship that can take a lot of work to keep healthy. In one way you could say Edward is actually the easy option for her. Jacob's love her for her is every bit as real but is normal and natural and could conceivably change five or even fifteen years down the line. Like in any real relationship, entering into one with him would be taking some kind of risk. The fact that there's a danger of him imprinting makes this that much more real and hard to ignore and in a weird way, to me, actually emphasizes the human aspect of the kind of relationship Bella could choose to have.
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