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Coming Back to Life ? a [i]Twilight[/i] exegesis about Bella during [i]New Moon[/i]

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  • Coming Back to Life ? a [i]Twilight[/i] exegesis about Bella during [i]New Moon[/i]

    Purpose: A general psychology overview of Bella Swan's behavior in New Moon, in order to demonstrate that Bella's behavior after her break-up with Edward Cullen was normal human behavior, and does not support an argument that her relationship with Edward is irreplaceable in her life.

    Introduction: A great deal of the debate of and support for Bella Swan's relationship with Edward Cullen, vampire extraordinaire, and in opposition of an ongoing relationship between her and Jacob Black, werewolf, centers on a putative disparity in her affection between the two. The most frequently cited evidence for this is Bella's emotional state, as related in the first person narrative, during the 300+ pages of New Moon in which she and Edward are separated. In short, the argument goes, Bella never recovered from Edward being away and therefore, can't live without him. Ergo, they are the two who must be together. There are serious errors in this reasoning as a basis to "solve" the love triangle Stephanie Meyer created. A closer look at Bella's thoughts and behavior during that period, with an eye towards the psychological processes at work, shows that Bella's renewed self-awareness, her thrill-seeking, and her literary comparisons to her situation all show that Bella was, in fact, well along the road to recovery one finds after any break-up; contrary to the prevailing notion that she was proven incapable of functioning without Edward, the text instead depicts a young woman moving, as young people do, from love, to pain, to a new love.

    Argument: In the novel New Moon, we join Bella and Edward at a very high-functioning place in their relationship. Unfortunate circumstances arise that bring Edward to the conclusion that he should leave; the Cullen family almost instantly manages to excise itself from Forks, WA, and Bella's life, pausing even to deprive her of any personal remembrances of the relationship (the better, in theory if not in practice, to help her get over the memory). Meyer makes an interesting narrative choice to describe the immediate devastating effect this has on Bella ? she chooses not to tell it. Instead, we see several months go by as page breaks, absent any interaction with the heroine. When the story resumes, there is a meta-textual nod to this device, as Bella refers to time beginning to pass again; the chapter itself is called "Waking Up". This is the point at which Bella begins telling the story again, and this fact is of vital importance.

    Supporters of the argument that Bella was incapable of functioning without Edward refer to her "using" Jacob Black to begin feeling again, to become self-aware and functional when she herself could not without Edward. This is demonstrably false, though, and Meyer showed us herself ? Bella "woke up" all on her own, just driven by the passage of time. This can show us nothing else but that Bella Swan, of her own internal reserves and resiliency, began to go on with her life, without Edward, without any romantic attachment. This is a very natural human process, and belies the notion that the tie between her and Edward is so mystically powerful that it transcends those processes. She began reaching out to her father, to her friends again, a change from what she describes in the past tense as having tried to keep up an appearance. She is once again beginning the process of actualizing herself. And she didn't need Edward Cullen ? she only needed time.

    Over the next several weeks, Bella discovers an interesting fact ? she likes danger. Specifically, she likes the fact that seeking out danger (something Edward frequently and forcefully demanded that she not do) "rewards" her with a vivid imaginary rebuke from her ex-boyfriend for her carelessness. She enlists Jacob Black's help to seek this out ? repairing and riding motorcycles, hiking, ultimately cliff-diving. On the surface, this might confirm that every step of this verifies that she should be with Edward. Rather, this demonstrates that she is going through a very normal process of putting herself in opposition to her old relationship and reestablishing her independence.

    Bella realizes that she can "get back" at Edward by doing these things, make sure that he is also holding a "null contract". He had broken promises to her, so she would break this promise to him. Not only is this not proof of transcendent love, it's a very mundane and customary part of a break-up. I myself admit to having once started smoking again after a break-up with a girl who demanded I quit. I had no independent desire to smoke, just to prove that she had no say in it anymore. Like Bella's recklessness, it was essentially self-destructive. But because of its purposes, it was also very life-affirming. Edward couldn't stop her doing these things. If so inclined, one could also associate this with the 2nd and 3rd stages of the K?bler-Ross model of the stages of grief ("anger" and "bargaining"). In less than a year, Bella is more than halfway back to her life before Edward ? a sharp contradiction to her subjectively held belief that she could not live without him.

    Bella is a literary minded young woman, and references to both Romeo & Juliet and Wuthering Heights are pervasive in the "Twilight" series. Particularly, Bella raises an analogy to Edward as her "fickle" and absent Romeo, where Jacob is the county Paris, her intended, the man who's there. In a particularly striking passage, Bella is actually steering herself to a conclusion that she can explore what Shakespeare himself did not ? what happens if Juliet goes to Paris? Bella is at a point where she is using her favorite model, literature, to analyze her decisions. This is very significant, especially in light of the feelings Bella later admits to having for Jacob.

    Bella, like anyone, is seeking to find purpose in the things that happen in her life. It's a tangential by-product of cognitive dissonance ? when faced with something random, painful, or confusing, people will attribute meaning and importance to it so that they can accept what they are realizing about themselves or the world around them. In Bella's case, what she's apparently realizing is that? she wants to be with Jacob. She loves Edward, she misses Edward, and she doesn't want to nullify that, so she contrives a metaphor in which it is not only "okay" for her to accept that she wants Jacob after (to her) so short a time, but that it's important, that it explores part of the human condition. Juliet will be with Paris, and the world will know what that means, because she'll be able to tell them. But it is still a rationalization; it is still her finding a basis in her own imagination for doing the thing that she wants to do, which is begin a relationship with Jacob.

    Conclusion: Far from validating the claim that Edward and Bella can't be separated and must be together for her happiness, the long stretch of months with him depicted in New Moon demonstrate that Bella Swan is not nearly so unique. She heals as normal people heal. She becomes self-aware on her own, takes on life-affirming steps toward independence from the old relationship, and accepts that she has new romantic feelings and a life that's moving forward without Edward. While there are other bases for debate over which man is better suited for her, or whether she should be giving either the time of day, New Moon when analyzed with a proper eye toward the significance of Bella's thoughts and actions demonstrates that an irreplaceable, immutable *need* for Edward in her life is not one. Both relationships can stand only on its merits, and not benefit from a fait accompli of mutual need.
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  • #2
    FANTASTIC, extremely well-analyzed post! You make an excellent, and very important point--she doesn't necessarily need Edward, she was recovering on her own, and really it's her father that first "wakes her up" anyway--her family ties, in other words. A family tie that she would have to break to be with Edward....just saying!
    Promise that you'll return to me.

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