Posted in Reviews

Twilight: Chapter Eight

Jess drove faster than the chief, so we made it to Port Angeles by four.

I confess I find this small tidbit sort of funny. I’ll admit that my fondness for Jessica comes from the fact that she reminds me of my sister, who is also an enthusiastic lead-foot, a shopaholic and in her teen years, very boy crazy. I think the friendship could have been fleshed out so much more.

While Jessica may never have advanced to main character, (though I have a secret alternate vision in which she could be,) she could have been an interesting foil to Bella. We don’t get to see them interact much outside of school with the exception of New Moon. It could have given Bella so much more normalcy and reliability as a character to interact with someone who is not like herself. I like Angela, but she has more in common with Bella, and therefore Bella wouldn’t be challenged as much by their friendship.

And yes, I am stalling.

Jessica and Angela try on dresses for awhile. Bella parts ways with them, saying she wants to visit a local bookstore. Jessica and Angela both offer to go with her, and she says no. Which is stupid in my opinion. Even disregarding that the likelihood of being attacked goes up quite a bit if you’re alone, violent crime is not the only thing that can happen to you. You can get lost easily in a city that you’re not familiar with. You could get hurt, or get into an accident. Does Bella even own a cellphone? I don’t recall, but I think not.

Bella finds the bookstore and immediately knows it’s not what she’s looking for. Bella is catcalled by a group of men. For those who have never been catcalled, I sympathize with Bella here. It’s unnerving at best, downright terrifying at worst, especially when someone starts to follow you.

Bella tries to evade the men, and as I mentioned, she gets turned around and ends up facing a dead end.

I wasn’t being followed.

I was being herded.

I paused only for a second, but it felt like a very long time. I turned and then darted to the other side of the road. I had a sinking feeling that it was a wasted attempt. The footsteps behind me were louder now.

And now we’ve reached the part of the chapter where I climb onto my soapbox and rage.

I really, really hate the tropes of literary rape, rape as backstory and rape as drama. Unless your story is emulating a historical instance where rape was common, such as a conquering army sacking a city, or a pirate narrative where a female prisoner was taken prisoner and raped, I don’t like it.

The only times I feel rape should be brought up in literature are in stories that specifically explore rape and violation as a theme. For example, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold centers on the theme of the protagonists violent rape and murder, and how it impacted her family afterwards. This is a good use of the theme, as it shows us how the rape affected Suzie personally, and how her parents and sibling dealt with the fallout of losing a child.

Rape in most other contexts is used as a way to give a character a tragic past. Rosalie is a prime example of rape as backstory as we’ll see later on in Eclipse. Rape is a word with such strong connotations, imagery and feelings attached that it strikes a chord. I dislike that it is used in literature as a way to explain away someone’s rotten attitude, as in Rosalie’s case. Or as a way to provide cheap drama in Bella’s case.

I know that this is what Meyer was aiming for because we find the rape as backstory theme gone in Beau and Royal’s stories in the Twilight gender swap.

I don’t mind putting Bella in danger. That would be fine, as it adds conflict. But rape seems a really cheap way to illicit fear for our heroine. It could have been any other violent crime and had just as much impact, since we see that Edward is coming to the rescue anyway.

Why not a mugging? She assumed it might end like that when she heard them following. Why not gang violence? My sister’s ex husband was jumped by a gang member who was going through an initiation rite. He tried to steal my then brother-in-law’s wallet at knifepoint. Thankfully he had some military training and was able to disarm his attacker. No one was hurt. That would have been a perfectly serviceable way to put Bella in danger. Or hell, why not a drug deal gone wrong, as it is in Life and Death?

Edward shows up to save the day. Oh goody.

“Get in.” A furious voice demanded.

It was amazing how suddenly the feeling of security washed over me—even before I was off the street—as soon as I heard his voice.

No Bella, you should be hysterical. Perhaps going into shock. Because we needed cheap drama you were just threatened with rape. That should make some sort of impact on you.

Unless you’re some sort of alien come to Earth to observe our primitive ways. Which to be honest wouldn’t surprise me.

Edward is still fighting not to hulk out when he gets back into the car. Then we get this truly insulting exchange.

“Distract me, please.” He ordered.

“I’m sorry, what?”

He exhaled sharply.

“Just prattle on about something unimportant until I calm down.”

Despite it being followed by one of the only funny one-liners by Bella in this book, I truly hate this. This demonstrates how casually dismissive that Edward is of Bella’s thoughts and opinions. It doesn’t get really drastic until later books, but we can clearly see that it has been here most of the time.

Bella and Edward drive to the restaurant where she was supposed to meet her friends. Edward insists she eat and tells Jessica and Angela that he’ll drive Bella home.

Edward pays off the hostess to give them a table away from others, and tells Bella that he’ll talk if she eats. Despite this, he still dodges several inquires before giving Bella an even somewhat straight answer.

I will admit that the restaurant scene isn’t awful. We don’t get bogged down by too much purple prose and we have some suspense working in our favor since Edward is still not giving Bella straight answers.

“It was very…hard—you can’t imagine how hard—for me to simply take you away and leave them…alive.”

Edward’s talk of tracking down and killing the men who were threatening Bella comes off more menacing than I think Meyer intended. It’s too bad that we don’t get to glimpse this side of Edward more. There is a part of every vampire, even Meyerpires that is intrinsically predatory. It would have done more to paint Edward as a danger to show that side of him more, than all his explanations to Bella on the subjects.

They leave the restaurant and Edward pronounces that it’s Bella’s turn to share in the car. A bit of an anticlimactic ending to a chapter full of game-changing information, I think.

I’ll be back with another, hopefully smaller soapbox next time.

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