Posted in Character Breakdowns

Twilight Breakdowns: Charlie

Charlie is by far one of the best characters in the series, in my opinion.

There are quite a few reasons for this, but one of the biggest is that he has character. Amongst a sea of bland set pieces, like the Cullens and Bella’s friends, Charlie is a distinct individual with clear beliefs and values that are his and his alone.

From what we can see of his character in Twilight, Charlie is something of an introvert. He’s a big sports fan and spends a lot of his off time either watching a sports game or fishing with a few close friends.

I’ve seen posts floating about that argue that Twilight should have really been a grittier tale told from Charlie’s point of view. I agree to an extent. Think about how the events of Twilight look from Charlie’s perspective.

We can tell that Charlie is thrilled at having Bella stay with him for any length of time. We see that Charlie is so excited in fact that he’s told a lot of people. Can you imagine? Charlie gets the call from a reluctant Bella and is so thrilled that when he gets off the phone he immediately tells the three officers in the police force? He swings by the grocery store for cold cuts and tells the kid behind the counter? He calls Harry and gushes about his daughter coming to stay?

We can see from Bella’s description in Twilight that Charlie still loves Bella, and to some extent Renee, dearly. The majority of the pictures on the mantle and walls are Bella’s school photos or photos from her last time in Forks. Charlie has never repainted the fixtures that Renee insisted painting yellow. Charlie has kept Bella’s room in pristine condition instead of renovating the space and using it for something else.

We can also see that he is a caring and thoughtful individual. Charlie knew Bella was self-conscious and did not want to embarrass her on her first day in Forks. He bought her a truck to spare her the embarrassment of being driven to school, in a squad car no less. He puts snow chains on her car when the roads ice over. Why? Because he’s well aware she has never driven in icy conditions and wants his daughter to be safe.

He’s also self reflective, something we never see Renee engage in. He worries he’s not doing enough, and that he’s not a good parent. Renee blithely accepts that she is a good mother to Bella, despite all evidences to the contrary.

Bella gets frustrated with Charlie’s involvement in her life. I know part of it is because she’s seventeen and the world always revolves around teenagers. However Bella seems to find Charlie’s concern about her irksome all the time.  It would have been one thing if this had been contained in Twilight and disappeared in the later books of the series. Bella’s character doesn’t grow, at least not in any positive way.

I talked about something called “Forging the friendship” in my review about Renee. “Forging the friendship” is a term coined by Dr. David Swanson. It is a manipulative technique employed by children. It is the adult’s job to maintain authority and a clear power structure. When an adult gives up parental authority over their child and begins to treat them like a friend, then you dismantle the power structure of the parental authority. A child no longer feels they have to listen to or respect their parent.

With Renee, it’s clear that she and Bella have existed within this dynamic for awhile. However one of the reasons Bella is constantly irritated with Charlie is , in my opinion, because he refuses to engage in a parental role Bella is familiar with. As a parentified child, Bella is used to taking care of things for herself and being the authority figure in the relationship. Charlie never relinquishes his role as her father. Charlie exercises his parental authority quite often, and Bella’s view is that it’s stupid and quite irritating.

Now as I said in my Renee review, Bella’s childhood could have been painted as deeply tragic, if the author had taken the time to consider the ramifications of what Bella’s backstory meant for her character. There could have been one of two routes to go down if this had been the case.

Plot choice number one: The bad behavior and general condescension could have gone away after Twilight. Bella’s actions are a test to push Charlie, to see if he will react in much the same way as Renee. She grows used to her relationship with Charlie. She sees that he will not force the burden of leadership onto her, and will remain a steady adult presence in her life. Her relationship with Charlie grows organically from this point so it does become believable that she loves and cares for him as well.

Plot choice number two: Bella’s behavior stems from resentment, and it’s always explained that way. There’s a couple of quotes in New Moon and Eclipse that create a chink in my armor where Charlie is concerned. I’ll use the one from New Moon to make my point.

Jake’s old for his years,” he continued, still sounding defensive. “He’s taken care of his father physically the way Bella took care of her mother emotionally. 

Charlie is observant. It’s another reason I like him. However this line implies that he knew all about Renee’s co-dependency on Bella. Not only knew, but praised it as a mark of maturity on Bella’s part. I went over how devastating that kind of reliance can be on a child’s psyche. If Bella knows that Charlie is aware of this emotional neglect, then an understandable resentment would occur. It would suddenly make sense why she continually ignores him and thinks he’s an idiot. She knows he overlooked what was essentially emotional abuse of the most insidious kind.

Either way, this attitude on Bella’s part could be explained. Instead, we get Bella constantly acting as if she knows better than adults. And the narrative never contradicts her. None of this ever, ever comes back to bite her in the ass. Neither Renee nor Charlie were ever harmed because of the world their daughter was dabbling in. Neither of them are ever let in on the secret because they are not “special enough.” Even when Charlie’s life is threatened by Victoria in New Moon, Bella doesn’t ever think it prudent to let her father in on the danger.

It’s not like he has resources that could track down the vampires that are capable of protecting Bella or anything.

Bella keeps issuing ultimatums and threats, trying to get Charlie to bend to her will. And that will is, stay the hell out of my business, and let me date a boy who is very bad for me. In Charlie’s view of things Edward is the root of all of Bella’s problematic behaviors. And actually, he’s fairly right on that count. Bella does some truly idiotic shit for Edward. As a good father, Charlie shouldn’t put up with Bella’s behavior.

Despite having a few bad moments in the next few books, Charlie always has been and will remain one of the most sympathetic characters in the Twilight series. I truly wish he’d been the protagonist. I am a big fan of gritty retellings of a story, and I think Charlie’s would have been fascinating to read. As it is, I still love his character and wish Charlie hadn’t gotten such a crappy lot in the Twilight universe.

If you’re curious, you can see my review of Renee’s character here.

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