Twilight Precedes Darkness
Like a large majority of teen and young adult novels, Twilight revolves around a typical seventeen year old female protagonist who has a requisite humble existence and near-total lack of a love life. Isabella "Bella" Swan views herself as sub-par in attractiveness and she sacrifices her happiness living in Phoenix, Arizona to go live with her father in Forks, Washington so her mother Renee can be free to travel the country with Phil, the baseball player Renee is dating. Bella falls back on sarcasm when she has nothing else to say, and she is clumsier than a moose in stilettos; and that is about all that can be said for her personality. Stephenie Meyer's Twilight, in addition to lacking content in characterization and plot development and containing an immense amount of "fluff", also perpetuates a disturbing abusive dynamic in the relationship between Bella and her love interest Edward Cullen.
The cast of Twilight contains a significant number of characters, all of which seem to be stereotypical cardboard cut-outs of personalities with thin veneers of defining characteristics. In some cases the token defining characteristic is superficial or so insignificant that it does not contribute to the personality. Bella is endlessly tripping over something and either making a fool of herself or sprawling into Edward's arms, and the fact that she is so clumsy is repeatedly beaten into the heads of the readers to the point where, at the end of the novel, a potentially fatal accident is a believable explanation of injuries she sustained. She also appears to have the worst luck ever awarded to a person, including but not limited to being nearly hit by a minivan and being followed and nearly attacked by four strange men. On both occasions Edward came to her rescue.
The human characters of the novel, though minor characters, are more superficial than they really should be. They either worship the ground Bella walks on because she is new to town, or scorning the relationship she has with Edward. The genders of those two opinions are male and female respectively. It could be said that the defining characteristics of the Cullen family are mainly their looks and the fact that they are vampires. Edward has bronze hair, Alice is petite and thin, Rosalie is blond and beautiful, Emmett is strong and burly. The only emotional characteristics Stephenie Meyer feels like repeating are that Edward loves Bella with everything he has, Rosalie hates the human intruder to the family, Jasper can influence the emotions of others, Carlisle is the father figure and has developed so much compassion for humanity that he can be a doctor and ignore the scent of blood, and Esme who is Carlisle's wife is the mother figure. They are all extremely two-dimensional characters and the author's idea of deepening the backgrounds of Edward and Bella is to have the two of them interrogate each other as they argue about whether or not they should be together because she is so frail and he is such a monster.
As for the plot, it is little more than boy-meets-girl à la hero and damsel in distress with the twist that the boy/hero is a vampire whose skin sparkles in the sunlight "like thousands of tiny diamonds were embedded in the surface" (Twilight 260). Somehow having a boyfriend whose body is hard as stone and in the sun lights up like a Christmas tree is attractive to Bella. After an exposition that is dragged out over more than two hundred pages, the inciting incident is revealed that Edward is a vampire who craves her blood. The conflict then introduced is man vs. self in which Edward controls his unnatural lust, and man vs. supernatural in which Bella must fight the aspect of her lover that wishes to kill her.
The development portion of the novel does little of what its name indicates and rather consists of about a hundred to a hundred and fifty pages of back-story of the members of the Cullen family and the circumstances under which they became vampires, interspersed with Bella's inability to breathe and think while she is around Edward because his voice, touch and the mere presence of his "dazzling face" (Twilight 43) are enough to make it so that she is wholly distracted from anything happening around her. The action preceding the climax which begins almost 400 pages into the novel is the deus ex machina of conflict introduction. The conflicts of pursuit, abduction, and rescue are introduced when a rival vampire, James, decides to track Bella down and kill her just because he wants to, and because finding people is his hobby.
Bella never did anything to deserve it, and she may have been targeted whether or not she had become romantically involved with Edward Cullen, the latter scenario just conveniently provides a white knight to save her. The action scene that would have played out as James is killed is skipped because the narrator of the novel, Bella, passes out and wakes up in the hospital to find out that her numerous injuries are explained to her mother that she "fell down two flights of stairs and through a window" (Twilight 459). Edward is waiting in the hospital to talk to her and expresses his displeasure at her recklessness of going to a meeting with a sadistic vampire not by highlighting the foolishness of it, but by focusing on himself and his desires, saying she should apologize "for very nearly taking yourself away from me forever" (Twilight 460).
There are several times earlier in the novel at which Edward displays abusive and controlling behavior, masked in the same fashion human abusers use with the veneer of "caring" about their victim. The day that Edward steps into the sunlight to show Bella that he glitters, he proves his speed and strength in a manner that causes Bella to sit motionless, "more afraid of him than I had ever been. I'd never seen him so completely freed of that carefully cultivated façade. He'd never been less human… or more beautiful" (Twilight 264). It is a testament to the stupidity written into the character of Bella Swan that she finds it attractive that a self-declared monster used one hand and "effortlessly ripped a two foot thick branch" (Twilight 264) off of a tree to throw it so hard at another tree that the branch was reduced to dust and the other, presumably sturdy, tree was left trembling. Then Edward tells her "Don't be afraid, I promise… I swear not to hurt you" (Twilight 264).
He keeps his promise, often being the only thing that stands between her and the world apparently intent upon bringing about her demise. He playfully tackles her against a couch and makes "an iron cage of protection" (Twilight 345) with his arms and when she tries to get up "He wasn't having that. He curled me into a ball against his chest, holding me more securely than iron chains" (Twilight 345). There are other instances of physical restraint that Edward uses on Bella. One night they discuss how Edward has been around for ninety years and never found anyone to love because his true love "wasn't alive yet" (Twilight 304) and Bella "tried to pull back, to look him in the face, but his hand locked my wrists in an unbreakable hold" (Twilight 305).
This is shortly after Edward reveals that he has been observing Bella closely enough to know where the hidden key to her house is. "`You spied on me?' But somehow I couldn't infuse my voice with the proper outrage. I was flattered." (Twilight 292). If that weren't enough, Edward then states that he has been coming to her house every night. When questioned, he says it is because "You're interesting when you sleep… you talk" (Twilight 293). More disturbing than the fact that a 90 year old immortalized in a seventeen year old body has been secretly stalking Bella and entering her bedroom at night is that Bella is not angry with him for the act of invading her privacy. What concerns her is what he might have heard her say in her sleep while he was watching.
Edward Cullen is an abusive, controlling stalker whose behavior is excused because he "was curious" (Twilight 292) about Bella, and because she is flattered that he followed her, broke into her house, and appreciates the fact that he is always the strong and powerful vampire, he can get away with behaving in entirely inappropriate ways. It is not only unhealthy for the fictional character involved in the relationship with him, but it creates a precedent of romance that makes the young female readers of the novels think that it is alright for a man to treat a woman this way as long as he loves her. While the basic idea is harmless enough (after all, what girl wouldn't want a drop-dead gorgeous man who could love her forever?) the implications of Edward's behavior are things that no human male would ever be allowed or encouraged to do. Stephenie Meyer wrote a novel with plastic characters, very little true conflict, no plot intricacy, and a dark, disturbing romance that negatively impacts the ideals of the next generation of females who think abusive patterns like Edward's are acceptable.
Meyer, Stephenie. Twilight. New York: Little, Brown, 2006. Print.