wandering (wanderering) wrote in lion_lamb,

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Bella, Bella, Bella

Some time ago I posted my thoughts on Edward Cullen’s character (see here), with a matching playlist. Here are my thoughts on Bella, which finally came together after my reading of Breaking Dawn. I warn readers that it is longish. I don't know whether people spend enough time mulling over Bella (I never really did, until now); I do know that people gripe and complain a lot about her character. You may not agree, but would love to hear what people think of her, now that her story is done.

There are *SPOILERS* to all four books in the essay.

I would sum up Bella’s story arc in this word: CHOICE. From the moment she met Edward in Twilight, she was confronted with a choice—do I push my curiosity over this mysterious guy, even if he continuously rebuffs (and glares ominously) at me? Do I pursue my increasing interest, foster the growing attraction, even knowing he may be some inexplicable supernatural being (an anti-hero, even, as he claims)? And ultimately—do I continue to love him and be with him, knowing full well that it may cost me my life?

We all know her answers to these questions, and they were the root and key of all other choices she made in the rest of the series. She loved Edward, despite the obvious craziness and risk of it all (not just from Edward; she has several broken bones c/o James, and the constant fear of Victoria and the Volturi, to show for this).

In Eclipse, the theme of choice came to a head. Bella wanted to be a vampire since Twilight, but it was in Eclipse that she realized the full nature of the consequences of becoming one. She would have to sacrifice her human life, and all that entailed—her present and future family. She loved Jacob, too, and would have to let him go (to me, Jacob also symbolized her human life; I saw the Jacob-Edward conflict as the human/life-death/vampire conflict). She makes her choice to remain with Edward and die to her humanity, a choice made more decisive and stronger by this fuller understanding. She was ready to make this sacrifice.

Last, in Breaking Dawn, she made the ultimate choice to keep, fight for, and protect Reneesme, though it wrought such immense physical and emotional pain. She may very well have lost her life, and it was agonizing to Edward to boot. Readers may bemoan this—why did she want to keep the baby, this person who once didn’t even want to get married? But if Bella loved Edward so much, to the point of risking her life and giving up her humanity, wouldn’t she do and risk the same for this child who was the product of her and Edward’s love? A child they never thought was even possible? The baby was half Edward! (I know I would keep it. Er...sans the broken bones and vampire teeth maybe.) Keeping a baby is also consistent with Bella’s character as caring for her family. She takes care of Charlie and Renee; it is no stretch to see her as someone with strong maternal instincts.

It is in Bella’s nature to see things through, once she had made a decision. But it is so much more than merely being a decisive or “stubborn” person: I see Bella’s choices as ultimately being shaped by her deep love for Edward. Critics and feminists may rally and rail over her choices: how can she forego her college education? How can she cause her parents such pain? How can she throw it all away for a man? A baby? But the larger point to me is that Bella makes and lives with her choices, which is the heart of being a free person (woman or man). She wasn’t passive, forced, nor blinded by infatuation. People may not agree with her, because of different values. But there are worst reasons and motivations for any choice made; that she made hers out of love does not make her weak nor stupid. Moreover, it is fiction, and Bella's love for Edward is depicted as all-encompassing and fantastic in degree. But in real life, don't we--shouldn't we--also make choices and sacrifices for the people we love? I wonder whether these are not worthy “messages” (for readers of Meyer who seek for messages)?

In fact, I see incredible strength and courage in Bella. Because we here are all obsessed with Edward, people lose sight of the fact that he is a vampire who can kill. To love one—not to mention make love to one!—requires a ton of fearlessness, and a large measure of trust in your own decisions, and in the one you love. She trusts Edward, despite Edward’s self-loathing and inner conflicts. I also can never overlook her courage in confronting James in Twilight; she did this for Renee. There was courage, too, in her facing the unknown in her unborn child. I am hard-pressed to see the Bella who purportedly needs constant saving (she needs saving from vampires and werewolves, certainly, because she is human, not because she is weak as a person).

I acknowledge but do not touch on Bella’s many insecurities here, such as her self-doubts, her “whiny-ness”, her bouts of selfishness, nor the many stupid decisions and actions she does take. I hated her persistent need and attachment to Jacob (which I now understand better). She is not perfect; she is human. And as a human, she never felt that she fit in. She was awkward and clumsy, and saw herself as weak. So I was happy for her, truly yay-happy for her, when she came into her own and “shone” as a vampire. Her exceptional abilities and restraint as a newborn I do not see as a “cop-out” or a “lack of sacrifice/hardship”. To me, it signified that Bella had finally found her place in the world, where she truly belonged, where she can BE, and where she and Edward can love freely and equally, without restraint. (I was also immensely happy for finally angst-free and joyful Edward.) It was as if she was meant for this.

In sum, I've read many negative reviews of BD arguing that Bella never had to suffer anything in her relationship with Edward; that she had her cake and ate it too. I see it differently. Bella was written as choosing to, and as willing and ready to sacrifice and risk much. That she had Edward, Reneesme, Jacob, the Cullens, and even Charlie in the end--not to mention superpowers and newborn restraint--is beside the point and does not diminish this aspect of her character (Meyer will have her big red bow, to our chagrin). She did experience pain, conflict, danger, and fear throughout the series; things were not all rosy or easy. In the end, in Breaking Dawn, I’m just glad that her choices and strengths brought her (and Edward) happiness. Forever, yes!

Tags: discussion: essay

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