SMDND-Exploring the Theme of "Choice"

General discussion about the Twilight Series Universe.
December
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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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Post by SparklingDiamond » Sun Jun 08, 2008 5:23 pm

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.
I love how you phrased this, Cats on Mars. It's so true. Isn't this the risk that we all take when we give ourselves over to love? However, with Edward, we're led to believe that is not the case, that his love would be forever. That's one of the reasons why Edward is so alluring. The promise of forever is more of a fairytale in today's world than reality.

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Post by Cocoa » Mon Jun 09, 2008 4:39 pm

Something you will all be interested in I think:

http://www.twilightlexiconblog.com/?p=1039

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Post by the vampire girl » Mon Jun 09, 2008 8:24 pm

Bella knows perfectly well what she is giving up for Edward at this point-- not only her life, her family, not only her control and literally her life, but now she can see excactly not only what she will lose that she already has, like Charlie and Renee, but she sees the life she could have led with Jake. She sees everything see could have, and how happy she could be, as opposed to the misery of being a vampire. But she still chooses Edward, despite all of this. About how she said she never had a choice, yet the whole plot of the book is essentially about her choosing Edward or not, I feel like her love for Edward was unavoidable. That said, Bella did have a choice, very early on, to acknowledge that she loved Edward, or to do what Edward thinks she should have done, and what would have been healthier for her, which was to ignore Edward, to stay away from him, and move on, which she probably would have eventually. She had a choice, and she made it. What happened next, once the choice was made, was the only thing that COULD happen, and in a sense Bella will pay for that choice the rest of her existance. It quiet literally cost her her life, her future. But it is a price she not only has to pay, but she is willing to pay it for Edward, because her love for him is that strong. The effect of her choice was so strong, she didn't have a choice but to folow it, to follow Edward. And I think a part of her wishes she hadn't made the choice to go with Edward, so she could stay with Jacob. But her love for Edward will never let her, so she doesn't have a choice.
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Choice

Post by TwilightT » Mon Jun 09, 2008 11:31 pm

I think you are right, the vampire girl. Well said.

Bella does see what she is willing to give up as she chooses Edward, and, yes, a small part of her does seem to wish the choice could be Jacob. True love must prevail, though right? Bella and Edward are soul mates.

When my husband was reading Eclipse, he said, "Uggh, sometimes Bella makes me crazy. What is she doing?" He hurt for Edward during some of Bella's escapades. I did, too. :)

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Post by Visitor1 » Tue Jun 10, 2008 8:17 pm

[quote="the vampire girl"]Bella knows perfectly well what she is giving up for Edward at this point-- not only her life, her family, not only her control and literally her life, but now she can see excactly not only what she will lose that she already has, like Charlie and Renee, but she sees the life she could have led with Jake. She sees everything see could have, and how happy she could be, as opposed to the misery of being a vampire. [/quote]

But would she truly have been all that happy by choosing Jacob? It appears Bella truly believes (and so does Jacob) that choosing Jacob would be that happy, idealistic, "easy" life. Jacob says so ("It would have been easy, effortless," or something like that) and Bella agrees ("I saw it all" -- meaning that happily-ever-after white-picket-fence scenario with the two little children and Charlie and Renee with them -- "and I want it bad"). Therefore, I can only assume Stephenie agrees that choosing Jacob would have been choosing human life, etc., and it would have been easy and wonderful. (And you, too, seem to think that's the whole point of the Jacob-as-a-soulmate storyline -- life with Jacob would be wonderful, easy, picture-perfect).

But to me, I don't see where that's at all correct, where Stephenie has set that up in the first two books to be a realistic "human life" choice for Bella. I can't see where her life with Jacob -- in the situation they find themselves in now -- would ever be that happy human scenario she sees and he believes. Had she fallen in love with Mike or Tyler or some human guy she met in college, then yes, she may be giving up that happily-ever-after HUMAN type of life for Edward. But I can't see it in this case, and that's why I struggle so much with this being such a hard -- or even a realistic -- choice for her.

To me, the choice between Jacob and Edward is not a choice between "human" life and life as a monster, it's a choice of choosing to remain human but remaining associated with/connected to the monster/magic/mythical creatures world or choosing to join the world of mythic monsters by becoming one herself.

And she's already faced that choice -- and utterly rejected it. EDWARD offered it to her. That was the basic conflict in both Twilight and New Moon -- she wanted to be a vampire so she could stay with Edward forever, he wanted to stay with her, but wanted her to remain human. There were all sorts of ramifications to that choice, but she said it was totally unacceptable to her.

But now, she seems to long for that same scenario when JACOB offers it to her, and that's why I struggle with accepting it. Yes, there are many tough things to face in actually choosing to become a vampire and going through eternity at age 17/18 with a thirst for human blood. But she has already spent two books rejecting the stay-human choice, but now we spend another entire book -- most of which is focused on Jacob this, Jacob that, where Bella is far more concerned with Jacob's feelings than with Edward's -- just so she can reject that same choice again. But since this one involved rejecting it from JACOB (who is a monster, but still human enough to be able to die at some point down the down), the same choice she's had before is now surrounded with a halo of perfect happiness. I have so wanted to be a part of Bella and Edward addressing the issues that her becoming a vampire entail, since she seemed to have sealed the deal in New Moon. I wanted her to truly consider what that choice entailed (which in some ways she finally did in Eclipse) and for she and Edward to really get down to the nitty-gritty of communicating their beliefs and needs and such to each other (which they did a very little bit of), so that both of them could be sure of, and for the most part comfortable with, her choice. There are so many things she and Edward need to consider, think about, talk about (and they definitely need to learn to communicate better). I guess I just hope Breaking Dawn won't be more constant Jacob angst and will be more of Bella and Edward addressing each other's beliefs, hopes, fears and what it will take for them to have that happy and fulfilled life in their "forever."

Anyway, my view of the "choice."

Picking Jacob, she's still going to have a secret to keep about monsters/mythic creatures. She will still be associated with a whole bunch of mythic creatures that HATE the other mythic creatures that she's associated with. I can't quite see Jacob being as understanding about visiting vampires as Edward has been about visiting with werewolves (after his initial, and proven to a certain extent correct, concerns for her safety), one of whom had let her know he loves her and wanted her to choose him and who had kissed her without her permission, then tricked her into kissing him again. Edward is to the point that whatever Bella wants, whatever makes Bella happy, Bella gets. Jacob has no such attitude -- can you see him saying, "Oh, gee, you want to go visit this leech you were deeply in love with -- and are STILL in love with -- and his sister-leech, who you love like a sister, in a place where I can't go without breaking a treaty, and be in the midst of five other bloodsuckers at the same time -- oh, sure, Bella, off you go, any time you want to. Have fun!" Yeah, that's really going to happen. Sam hates the Cullens (blames them for him becoming a werewolf, for his breaking all his promises to Leah, and for him disfiguring his true love), Leah hates the Cullens, Paul hates all vampires. All the werewolves -- except maybe Seth -- hate all vampires. Now, that's going to be a wonderful, peaceful, happy environment for "Bella Switzerland," who I would assume would still love Edward, Alice, Carlisle, Esme, et al. And as for control -- Sam can FORCE his will on the rest of the pack. Jacob HAS to do what he says, and the rest of the pack HAS to do what Sam and Jacob say, so if, say, Seth wants to be friends with Edward, but Sam (or Jacob) doesn't want him to be in contact with Edward, Sam can actually order Seth to have no contact with Edward and Seth would have to obey. So Bella would be in an environment where someone other than herself has complete control over her husband (or whatever they would be to one another).

And Bella would NEVER be able to be equal to Jacob with this choice. She wouldn't be choosing "human" (as in, human with another human) she would be choosing to be Lois Lane all her life to Jacob's Superman. Again, this is a choice she utterly rejected when Edward begged her to take it with him, to remain human and grow old and live a human life, but now she seems to think -- and Stephenie seems to be confirming -- that making that choice, as long as it was with Jacob and not Edward, would result in a white-picket-fence ideal existence. Jacob would always be the one who was stronger, faster, could heal incredibly fast, etc. He can read the minds of the rest of the pack wherever he is, when they are in wolf form, and they can read his, meaning no secrets at all from every member of the pack. BUT, Bella is not a part of the pack, so she's on the outside looking in again -- they all know everything there is to know about each other, about what's going on, and she will know only what they choose to tell her -- and even Jacob can't tell her everything, because if Sam says you don't mention such-and-such to Bella, they can't (and Sam doesn't like Bella). So, Jacob is more or less indestructible and fairly omniscient when it comes to the pack, while she's still a fragile human on the outside looking in.

And, she's a fragile human among more or less indestructible monsters who are not growing older, while she is. Jacob may not start to age for many, many years (after all, Edward, at least, has said he would stay around Bella, "watch over" her and be ready to step in in case something happened to Jacob or Jacob imprints, for all Bella's life unless she actually orders him to stay away, and Alice would want to visit, so there will be vampires around, so Jacob is likely to keep phasing for a long time to come, so therefore, he doesn't age ... explain THAT to Charlie after about 20-30 years -- and you're right there where he is, no excuses about not being able to come home to see him). Besides, Bella is a vampire magnet (smells really good) and vampires obviously pass through there quite often, so again, Jacob is likely to be phasing for some time to come. So, he stays young, she grows older. And she is always the helpless one, the one who can't help, the Lois Lane who needs protection and rescuing (unless she takes the "third wife" role), while Jacob would always be the Superman one, to protect and rescue.

She found that an unacceptable situation with Edward, but now thinks it'd be great with Jacob? She would enjoy sitting home with Emily and cooking for the pack, worrying incessantly, while Jacob & Co. go off to patrol, fight, whatever. And it would mean Bella more or less spending the rest of her life in La Push (boy, I can sure see Renee visiting her a lot -- Renee loves Forks so much). And those two little children, well, THEY may be werewolves, although Bella never can be, so again, she's the outsider while they may be "in the (monster) loop." Is she going to be satisfied with that? And then, she'll grow old and die (perhaps quite young, if she keeps riding motorcycles without a helmet or decides to pull a third wife scenario). Her children may remain teenagers for years -- and be taught about vampires by those who hate them. Between that and their natural instincts, they could one day destroy Edward or Alice or any of the Cullens.

So, where is the ideal human life? I can't see how she can believe she could live an ideal human life when she would still be involved in both sides of a mythical creature war. That's not "human" -- that's still "monster" life.

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