Study Guide: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer - BookNotes

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The style of Twilight is straightforward, conversational, and highly accessible, as one would expect from a Young Adult novel. Written from the perspective of a teenage girl going through difficult situations, there are canny observations on her parents and peers, as well as moments of self-deprecating humor. There are also pop cultural allusions which help give a sense of timeliness to the story, reflecting the young adult's desire to be well-versed in the current trends.

The writing of Twilight often lapses into the melodramatic tone expected for genre romances and horror: this is meant to heighten the effect of these aspects of the story, enhancing the fantastic elements in order to make them more dramatically consequential and more deeply involve the reader in the character's plight. The everyday issues of high school and adolescence are always significant, of course; but finding one's greatest love or being threatened by a supernatural creature requires a differently nuanced approach, a style that conveys the stakes the characters face, whether it is a soul-deep connection or escape from certain death. Thus, the declarations of love between Bella and Edward are often overplayed for a specific effect, creating a sense that their romance is special and unique, while the panic Bella feels when she believes her mother is threatened by James must stand out as well.


1.) After a quote from the Book of Genesis, the Preface begins:

I'd never given much thought to how I would die - though I'd had reason enough in the last few months - but even if I had, I would have not imagined it like this.

I stared without breathing across the long room, into the dark eyes of the hunter, and he looked pleasantly back at me.

Surely it was a good way to die, in the place of someone else, someone I loved. Noble, even. That ought to count for something. (1)

Given the conventions of the genre, readers may have certain expectations: the narrator is sacrificing herself for the sake of her love, who will be a vampire, and that this "hunter" is a hunter of vampires. Those familiar with vampires in popular culture may think of Van Helsing from Dracula, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the anime Vampire Hunter D. We find out the details at the climax of the novel, but it is not as expected: the room is the dance studio near Bella's mother's home in Phoenix, Arizona; the hunter is James, a vampire who hunts humans; and the person for whom Bella is sacrificing her life is her mother.

2.) Thus, a re-reading of the first proper chapter of the novel is rewarding in unexpected ways:

My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. It was seventy-five degrees in Phoenix, the sky a perfect, cloudless blue. I was wearing my favorite shirt - sleeveless, white eyelet lace; I was wearing it as a farewell gesture. My carry-on item was a parka.

In the Olympic Peninsula of northwest Washington State, a small town named Forks exists under a near-constant cover of clouds. It rains on this inconsequential town more than any other place in the United States of America. It was from this town and its gloomy, omnipresent shade that my mother escaped with me when I was only a few months old. (3)

We now see that this first paragraph also includes many of the elements of the novel's climax: the airport and Bella's mother Renee. The "farewell gesture" of her favorite shirt - which is white, the color of surrender - refers to her moving to Forks, but also foreshadows her own surrender to James in order to save Renee.

3.) While she does not look forward to this move, she does take a liking to the gift Charlie gets her:

There, parked on the street in front of the house that never changed, was my new - well, new to me - truck. It was a faded red color, with big, rounded fenders and a bulbous cab. To my intense surprise, I loved it. I didn't know if it would run, but I could see myself in it. Plus, it was one of those solid iron affairs that never gets damaged - the kind you see at the scene of an accident, paint unscratched, surrounded by the pieces of the foreign car it had destroyed. (8)

Bella's ability to see herself in it is the very first sign that she'll adjust to life in Forks and actually enjoy it by the end of the novel. Further, in describing how she imagines the truck - invulnerable to harm in case something violent happens, especially in contrast to flashier, newer cars from overseas - we get a further glimpse of her own self-image, strong and impervious to harm. There's also a foreshadowing: while she does come out quite damaged from her major encounter with a hostile vampire, like her red truck Bella survives it and the hostile vampire does not.

4.) Despite the truck, Bella feels self-conscious of her appearance:

Maybe, if I looked like the girl from Phoenix should, I could work this to my advantage. But physically, I'd never fit in anywhere. I should be tan, sporty, blond - a volleyball player, or a cheerleader, perhaps - all the things that go with living in the valley of the sun.

Instead, I was ivory-skinned, without even the excuse of blue eyes or red hair, despite the constant sunshine. I had always been slender, but soft somehow, obviously not an athlete; I didn't have the necessary hand-eye coordination to play sports without humiliating myself - and harming both myself and anyone else who stood too close. (10)

She contrasts the expected image of someone from Phoenix - at least, as she understands it - with her ow reality. She not only emphasizes the disconnect in appearances, but also her lack of physical grace. We not only see the insecurities she'll eventually set aside, but also develop the motif of her clumsiness before she actually reaches gym class.

5.) As her first day of school begins, Bella tries to assure herself:

I can do this, I lied to myself feebly. No one was going to bite me. (14)

Throughout the book, everyday phrases are used that take on a different meaning due to the context of the story. The colorful nature of slang often overdramatizes situations, but in Twilight the metaphoric value becomes literal. While meant innocently here, someone does want to bite Bella by book's end - two people, actually: first Edward, then James.

6.) When she first sees the Cullens she is struck by one thing in particular:

I stared because their faces, so different, so similar, were all devastatingly, inhumanly beautiful. They were faces you never expected to see except perhaps on the airbrushed pages of a fashion magazine. Or painted by an old master as the face of an angel. It was hard to decide who was the most beautiful - maybe the perfect blond girl, or the bronze-haired boy. (19)

The words used to describe the beauty - most notably "devastatingly, inhumanly" - show the power of this attraction, but also gesture towards how that beauty is supernatural and even part of their skills as potential predators of humans. The immortality of these hidden vampires is hinted at by the comparisons ranging from modern pop culture (fashion models) to classical high culture (painting by an old master), metaphorically spanning centuries; further, we find out that Carlisle Cullen, at least, has been painted by an old master.

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