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Study Guide: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer - BookNotes

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TWILIGHT BY STEPHENIE MEYER: BOOK SUMMARY / CHAPTER NOTES

THEMES - THEME ANALYSIS

The theme of Love and Romance

Love and Romance is the first major theme of the book, as the main action hinges on Bella and Edward uniting and the adventures resulting from this union. Bella and Edward are the ideal couple in some ways - thematically, they represent a balance between vampiric passion and human intellect --but also fatally flawed in that they can also be predator and prey, which would happen if the balance is lost. The vampire-human bond brings out an image of the victim being ravished - that is, being taken in hungrily by the predatory nature of the vampire. However, that ravishing is also balanced in order to preserve the love, as Edward reins in his instinct constantly and Bella - in her kisses and forward behavior - gives in to her own instinct and becomes quite passionate and even aggressive with Edward.

The ideal of Bella and Edward isn't the only example of love and romance, of course. There are other pairings which also work well - Carlisle and Esme, Emmett and Rosalie, Jessica and Mike - though little is shown about them. Further, there are several examples of romance that has gone awry - from the beginning, we are told that Charlie Swan and Renee Dwyer did not work out, and she left him when Bella was just a baby. There is also Bella and all the other potential mates presented to her: Mike, Eric, Tyler, and finally Jacob Black. None of them suit here, though she is clearly charmed by Jacob and even uses her feminine wiles on him - the first time she has done such a thing, apparently - and this factors into future volumes of the Twilight series. Thus, we come to a thematic development of the ideal versus the reality, there are imperfect fits between potential couples that are often discarded before the right match has a chance of occurring. Love and romance actually takes hard work, trial and error - which is why Bella takes on the role of matchmaker for her human friends, and why Renee finally finds happiness with Phil Dwyer.

Further, romance can be exploited by others, as well: Bella flirting with Jacob is the most obvious example, as this helps lead her to the truth about her true love - and further, Jacob falls for her more as a result of her manipulative attention. However, Edward can also dazzle women, as seen by the workers at the Port Angeles restaurant. And perhaps most damaging of all, Bella repeated to Charlie the words Renee used when she left, in effect breaking his heart again by abandoning him in the same manner - even though it was for his own good. The desire for the right match can be so overpowering, has as much seductive allure as the actual loved one, that people can be led astray. What finally emerges in this romance novel, then, is a complicated, nuanced understanding of what love entails and the cost it has on people.

The theme of Change and Risk

Change and Risk is related to the theme of Love and Romance, as falling in love is often a case of seizing an opportunity and hoping it works out for the best. However, there are many other choices that involved change - and in change, the plentiful risks that accompany a different situation, a new set of circumstances. The book starts with a major change, as Bella moves to Forks from Phoenix. At the end of the novel, she is ready for another major change, as she wants to become a vampire out of love for Edward. So in this sense, change begets further change - major decisions change the situation enough that new opportunities can be seized.

For his part, Edward changes his attitude towards humans, bringing Bella closer than any before, and in doing so places himself and his family at risk. However, the opportunity this affords him - the chance of true love, even with someone who could just as easily be his meal - is too great a reward for him to resist. Carlisle is changed into a vampire in the 1600s, but uses that as an opportunity to study medicine and eventually tame his vampiric impulses. In contrast, the refusal to change results in stultification, in following a single path which limits opportunity: Charlie stays in Forks and becomes police chief, but is alienated from his daughter until the novel; Billy Black has fixed opinions on the Cullens based on past interactions between the vampires and the Quileute werewolves; Mike is so focused on Bella that she must force him to consider Jessica before he can find some dating happiness.

The novel ends with a change still pending for Edward and Bella. They had surmounted the difficulties of being an unusual - even fatal - couple, but must now contend with another change Bella wants: to become a vampire so that she may stay with Edward forever, something a human cannot do. Edward does not welcome this change and refuses it: Edward believes the risk here is greater than Bella can understand, that she will become a monster and that the reward - himself - is not worth it, or rather that the happiness Bella will retain by staying human weighs more heavily on him than their love. It is a selfless choice, but one Bella does not agree with. These differing perspectives on what change is good is a realistic view of how risks - like beauty - are in the eye beholder.


The theme of Humanity and Mortality

Humanity and Mortality is the next major theme of the novel, which encompasses the motif of vampirism since vampires as a species are traditionally positioned as being both "above" and "against" humans by being immortal and preying on human blood. In Twilight humans in general represent intellect and reason, but also a limited perspective on the world due to both limited senses and a limited lifespan. Vampires defy mortality, and in doing so they are gifted with a wider perspective - much sharper senses, heightened physical abilities, and a very different sense of time. However, the price they pay for this is the inhuman desire - the taste for human blood based on instincts. Thus, vampires preying on humans is not only fatal in the literal sense of taking a life, but is also a draining of the vampire's humanity by performing an act of murder and cannibalism.

As stated before, Bella is ready to give up her mortality and humanity out of love for Edward; her ideal of romantic love is a very human impulse, and a highly passionate one, but it is also balanced by the intellectual concern of being able to always be with Edward and to save herself from the future problems that come with being a human in a vampire's world. For his part, Edward is also acting out of love by denying Bella her desire to become a vampire: he sees her human experiences as being too precious to give up (as seen by the Epilogue's prom surprise) and that mortality is an acceptable price to pay. So in the same way Change and Risk is left open thematically in terms of what is acceptable change and what isn't, the value of Humanity and Mortality is left in dispute between the two couples. Is it worth more than eternal love, as Bella feels - or is love in the here-andnow sufficient as long as one's humanity is preserved? The book leaves this for future volumes to resolve.

The theme of Family

Family is the last major theme of the book. It's worth noting right off the bat the three major families in the novel - the Swans / Dwyers, the Blacks, and the Cullens - are not typical "nuclear" families. Bella's parents divorced and her mother remarried; Billy Black is a widower; and the Cullen children are "adopted" through vampirism. Thus, thematically we already see that the definition of family is expanded to include non-traditional models, but all are based on love and commonly-shared obligations for each member of that family. Rifts threaten each family: Bella has the secret about the Cullens that she holds back from her parents; Renee in turn has her long-ago break from Charlie; Jacob doesn't believe the legends that his father Billy knows are truths; and Edward wants to bring a human, Bella, into the Cullen household. None of these are fully resolved by the end of the novel: Charlie remains uninformed, Jacob remains willfully ignorant, and Rosalie continues to feel hostile towards Bella.

However, the strength of family ties remains clear throughout the book, but the positive aspect is not always clear. Bella is willing to sacrifice herself twice for her mother at the beginning and end of the novel: first by moving to Forks for the sake of Renee's marriage to Phil Dwyer; then at the climax when she actually offers her life to James when she thought her mother was endangered. While these are noble deeds, Carlisle Cullen's obligation to family is not: as a human in 1630s London, he becomes a vampire out of a desire to please his father, pursuing a crusade which he does not personally believe in. Thematically, the most important development is when Bella is welcomed to the Cullen family as one of their own - with the exception of Rosalie, who dislikes Bella but nevertheless complies with the general family decision. When James threatens Bella, Carlisle makes the declaration that "She's with us." At the end of the novel, Bella says she'd side with the vampires if they attack the prom attendees - as well as affirms her desire to become a vampire. In this sense, she is like a bride waiting to be accepted by her new family - another rite of passage that many adults face. Whether or not she will be welcomed in this manner is not determined by novel's end.

The theme of Popularity

Popularity is a minor theme in the book, explored through intertwining subplots: Bella is the new girl at Forks High School, earning the attention of several boys who wish to date her; meanwhile, the Cullen children are a clique unto themselves, beautiful but aloof from the rest of the school. Bella does not like the popularity she experiences, not having stood out in Forks, and manages to even out her popularity by becoming a part of the Cullen clique. At the end of the novel, she attends the prom with the Cullen clique, but feels herself perfectly at home among the humans as well. Popularity is thus developed as something not worth pursuing - that it is actually a source of weakness in bringing undue attention to oneself.

The theme of Beauty

Beauty is another minor theme, and actually tied intimately with the theme of Popularity. There are two aspects that the novel develops. First, beauty is fatal: that is, the beauty that vampires posses is part of how they lure in their prey. This is a biological beauty, based on what attracts creatures to a predator, and Alice even makes the comparison to a carnivorous flower. Further, there is an attraction between Edward and Bella because her essence is the most enticing that Edward has ever faced as a vampire; here, beauty works against the couple, it would force Edward to give in to instinct and kill Bella. Second, beauty can have a spiritual component: Edward is able to resist his vampiric instinct to attack his perfect meal, Bella, because he learns to love her. He also compares Bella to the beautiful Rosalie, admitting to an objective beauty in Rosalie but not feeling the same attraction for her that he feels for Bella. In this manner, Edward shows he still has some human impulses, and so beauty becomes a form of redemption for him.


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