Stephenie Meyer has several strikes against her as far as receiving serious critical attention from established academic critics. She is writing young adult fiction that blends horror fiction with romance; all of these genres are traditionally critically neglected. Many of the articles that do examine Meyer and her work focus on a few repeated topics: her place in publishing (cast as the next J.K. Rowling), the fanatical devotion of her fans (who dress up for events), the seeming contradiction of a Mormon writing a book that revolves so intensely around desire and predation, and, finally, Twilight's relationship to its genre context.
For example, James Blasingame's highly positive review discusses how Twilight relates to other vampire fiction, but also to other thrillers, drawing parallels between the vampire hunting Bella and serial killer novels such as Silence of the Lambs. Blasingame also praises the novel as fantastic, a judgment fellow Mormon writer of the fantastic Orson Scott Card would largely echo. Card makes the fine point that Edward Cullen has all the qualities of Pride and Prejudice's Mr. Darcy (and, one might add, some of the emotional character). Instead of the money, though, Edward has extended life and superhuman strength. The review published in the School Library Journal makes strong points about how these other factors (the tension, the supernatural qualities, the threat Edward carries) add new energy to the teen romance novel, giving first kisses particular meaning. It also points out the novel's high level of realism, which creates a tension in itself with the book's "eerie" qualities.
Publishers Weekly praises Twilight for the how well Edward works as a metaphor; he may be a literal vampire, but he stands in for every threatening but attractive male. The review did point out that the plot is weak and the final section rushed. However, Lev Grossman, writing for Time, disagrees; he finds Meyer's control of tension and pace superior. Instead, it is the quality of the prose he finds wanting, and, by implication, the emotions he finds overdone.
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January 9, 2010
Twilight has assisted many teens and pre-teens in realizing that reading is not boring, and can in fact be fun. Many young girls can be seen with their heads buried in the black-bound books, which is not necessarily a bad thing, for Meyer creates unique, well-developed characters, complex plots, and utilizes descriptive vocabulary, all techniques which young readers and writers are encouraged to employ. Furthermore, after reading the Twilight saga, kids can be opened up to the fact that there is other literature that they might enjoy, and it is possible that they would begin broadening their horizons. “Supportive Mom” a commenter on the article Is my teen too obsessed with Edward Cullen, and what should I do about it? feels that the Twilight saga is a positive read for students, saying, “I am also a teacher…I see how these books have POSITIVELY influenced my female/male students as well….My daughter, my students, and I adore and appreciate her writing!” (Simmons 4).
Twilight also shows a relationship between Bella and Edward that is filled with love, compassion, and self-control. Edward craves Bella’s blood, yet he adores her as a person so much that he forces himself to take control of his instincts; this is seen in the climax of the novel where he must draw poison out of her blood to save her yet will not give in to his impulses and drink so much of her blood that she will die. Twilight shows an example of a mutually caring relationship not often publicized in the media, seen when Edward, “refuses [to turn Bella into a vampire] for her own good, because he loves her…he has a much more developed set of values, including love that puts the other person over self-fulfillment,” (Smith 2). Although it is a difficult decision, Edward continues to deny Bella immortal life because he loves her enough to protect her from any chance that she might end up in hell as a result of being one of the undead.
The characters in Twilight have a strong set of values that they adhere to strictly. They must constantly fight their instincts and do the morally correct thing, drinking only animal blood instead of the human blood that they crave. “Alice” comments on an article written by “Sunshine Simmons”, saying, “The whole point of them being ‘good’ vampires is that they don’t kill people”, showing that running theme in the novel, the value of morals, is an important aspect of the plot and message. It would be simple for them to surrender and become savage vampires, yet they cling to the humanity that they once had and impose human morals upon themselves because they know it is the correct thing to do. Carlisle Cullen “is so driven by compassion and the desire to save human life that he has become a doctor, in spite of the constant temptation in which that places him” (Smith 1).
However, many people dislike Twilight, believing that it is a negative influence on society. Twilight encourages abstinence until marriage, and although the final novel, Breaking Dawn, has some underlying sexual themes, they purely pertain to the plot and are not described in scenes, only referenced to. Still, the novels are far cleaner than content found in other books written for the same age range, television, movies, and magazines. Carissa Smith states, “From what I can tell, many parents are happy about Twilight because, unlike many teen novels these days, its protagonists do not have sex” (1). The relationship between Bella and Edward is based on mostly compassion instead of the physical relationship that is portrayed on television. Some argue that all Twilight readers are infatuated with Edward Cullen, yet most of the readers of the Twilight saga are not unhealthily obsessed with the characters or actors portraying them. Celebrity fixation has always been a part of teen culture, and one mom argues, “Every generation had an obsession with a teen heart throb, Remember Elvis, the Beatles?...This is no different” (Simmons 1). Many readers appreciate the novels for their entertainment value and the fact that they are extremely well written and suspenseful. However, those children who are fixated on Twilight at an exaggerated level “usually have pre-existing emotional problems or poor peer relationships” (Simmons 2). It has been said that Twilight encourages abusive relationships, which is false – there is no account of Edward hurting Bella in any way or doing anything that was not in her best interest. Edward treats Bella with utmost love and respect, and “what separates him from any actual person is his sense of honor, chivalry, composure, and self-control” (Mann 1). He constantly tried to make her happy and shield her from pain, even when it meant telling her the truth about his vampire nature and refusing to turn her into one, though they wanted to be together forever. At all times, he tried to protect her and give her the best life possible, and although he had to make difficult choices, Edward was always focused on Bella’s well being.
Through viewing the benefits of reading Twilight, including the good examples the characters in the novel set, it is possible to see that Twilight is in no way detrimental to our youth, and is actually a positive influence on society. Twilight provides a welcome reality check as it replaces sexual content with compassion and values, yet many of today’s books and television shows for teenagers do not, a possibility why our society has become so media focused and caught up in unhealthy practices. As a nation, we must strive to reform the idea of what is socially acceptable, and only then will the return to a moral-based society take place.