This is the promised review of Twilight, everybody. I did all I could to suffer through it. Now I'm due for some good reading because I feel like my brain has been polluted by the horrible writing in this book.
The genre of female coming-of-age stories, to which Meyer's Twilight obviously belongs, underwent a profound transformation in the recent decades. Since the inception of the genre in the 18th century, the central idea of female novels of growth and development was a conflict between the female protagonist and the repressive patriarchal society that strives to stunt her growth and infantilize her. The heroine struggles valiantly against the patriarchal authority that prevents her from developing into a fully grown individual in every sense of the word. Often, however, she loses in this struggle and either dies or consents to being transformed into a perennial child at the mercy of a husband, a father, a family member, etc.
When the women's liberation movement made huge advances in its feminist struggle, everybody expected female coming-of-age stories to reflect the changes in the position of women in society. Finally, we were to read female Bildungsromane where the protagonist takes on the world, grows, develops, and uses her newfound freedom to become a complete and fulfilled adult who does not permit others to stunt her growth. Finally.
These expectations, however, were not fulfilled by the works of literature created by female writers who live in this new, liberated reality. I initially observed this phenomenon in the contemporary Spanish literature but Twilight demonstrates that this tendency also exists in other countries that have made important feminist advances. The tendency I'm talking about consists of the appearance of a huge number of female coming-of-age stories where the female protagonist goes to incredible lengths to infantilize herself. No oppressive patriarchal society persecutes these heroines trying to stunt their growth. Just the opposite, the female characters of contemporary female Bildungsromane often have a lot more freedom than most actual women of that age.
Take Bella Swan, for example. She finds herself in a situation where her divorced parents remove themselves almost completely from the task of supervising her. Bella could use this freedom to explore different facets of growing up, experiment, develop in a variety of directions. However, just like so many female protagonists of such novels she chooses to hand the authority over her life to a male protector/savior and his clan. Bella infantilizes herself in a society where nobody demands that from her. She goes to extreme lengths to become a perennial child coddled and protected by the Cullens.
In this sense, Bella does not stray far from her mother whom she describes as lost and useless without male protection. This is how Bella talks about her mother:
I felt a spasm of panic as I stared at her wide, childlike eyes. How could I leave my loving, erratic, harebrained mother to fend for herself? Of course she had Phil now, so the bills would probably get paid, there would be food in the refrigerator, gas in her car, and someone to call when she got lost, but still . . .
However, those protagonists of today's female Bildungsromane whose mothers are passionately feminist are as likely as Bella to stunt their own growth and infantilize themselves. Much has been said about the nature of Bella's relationship with Edward Cullen. While I was reading the novel, however, I couldn't help noticing how much their relationship resemble that between a very small child and her parent. She pesters him with questions (and if you have ever spent any time in the company of a three year old, you can't fail to see the resemblance), he watches over her as she sleeps, he is always there to protect her from the big, menacing world she does not comprehend.
Twilight is a particularly badly written representative of a powerful trend within the genre of female coming-of-age stories of our feminist era. Women are now in a position where they have to confront things that their mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers never had to. Fantasies of helplessness, such as the Twilight Saga, allow female readers to imagine a world where they do not have to shoulder these new responsibilities. They can imagine themselves as eternal children supervised, protected and watched over by supernaturally strong and powerful men.
Now I have a few questions for my readers. The ideas I explore here are the ones that I developed in my doctoral dissertation. I want to spend this summer reworking it into a book. Did you find this post interesting? Easy to understand? Would you like to hear more on this subject? Any feedback will be welcome. Harsh criticisms will also be useful.