Picking Apart Twilight, The Novel – Preface and Chapter 1
When seventeen-year-old Bella leaves Phoenix to live with her father in Forks, Washington, she meets an exquisitely handsome boy at school for whom she feels an overwhelming attraction and who she comes to realize is not wholly human.
This is this summary of the novel Twilight. Quite the accurate summary, really. Though, maybe it’s just me, but I know in my high school I never found any of my male classmates to be “exquisitely handsome”. Sure, there were some good looking guys, but none of them were “exquisite”, so much so that I was obsessed with the idea of them, and if they were good looking they never really tidied themselves up enough to really make it noticeable. I don’t know, I just don’t think that teenage boys necessarily know how to make themselves appear irresistible to the ladies, and based on that one short summary alone we know that this is sheer fantasy.
I am reading from the First Edition Paperback print of the novel. 498 pages long, 24 chapters, one Preface, and one Epilogue. It sounds like quite the undertaking, but taking a glance through the pages you see that the font is actually quite large, so it might not be quite the chore. On top of that, I’m not seeing any amazingly large, smart-sounding words or subject matter, but then this is simply upon a brief glance before diving straight in.
The Preface is only a page long. Not even a page front and back, just one side of the page. In fact, it isn’t even the whole page, it’s only a little over half the page. For being so short, it had better be good.
I’d never given much thought to how I would die –
Okay, stop. Sentence one in this book, and it’s already pretentious as hell. In fact, I’m not even done with the first sentence. The rest of the sentence after that hyphen is just about as bad.
The page describes someone thinking about dying, doing it for someone they love. That they were scared, and that there’s some human (assuming he’s human, because he’s smiling) coming after this person to kill them.
And that’s it. Really, it tells us nothing. In fact, as a spoiler alert, after having watched the movie I can tell you that this is actually something happening to our main character, Bella, toward the end of the story. In fact, if it’s anything like the movie, I’m expecting this preface to repeat itself in one of the last couple of chapters, rendering this not only confusing now but pointless in the grand scheme of things. Actually, come to think of it, is the word “PREFACE” even a good choice of wording here? I’m sitting here trying to determine by what definition this counts as a preface. It really isn’t a pre-anything. Let’s look at dictionary.com‘s definition of the word “preface”.
1. a preliminary statement in a book by the book’s author or editor, setting forth its purpose and scope, expressing acknowledgment of assistance from others, etc.
No, no, neither the author nor the editor are addressing anything here.
2. an introductory part, as of a speech.
Well, that almost sounds close, but it really isn’t an introduction, nor is it a speech.
3. something preliminary or introductory: The meeting was the preface to an alliance.
But this isn’t preliminary to anything, nor is it introducing anything. In fact, this is just about the end of something.
4. Ecclesiastical . a prayer of thanksgiving, the introduction to the canon of the Mass, ending with the Sanctus.
And this is quite simply the farthest definition of all.
So the conclusion is that this isn’t a true preface, nor was it really a necessary addition to the beginning of the novel. Man, I can’t believe I had that big of a problem with half a page of text on page number 1.
1. FIRST SIGHT
My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. It was seventy-five degrees in Phoenix, the sky a perfect, cloudless blue. I was wearing my favorite shirt – sleeveless, white eyelet lace; I was wearing it as a farewell gesture. My carry-on item was a parka.
While not particularly detailed, the mood of the novel and the description here in the first paragraph reminds me simply of pieces out of the infamous Harry Potter fan fiction, My Immortal: “I love Hot Topic and I buy all my clothes from there. For example today I was wearing a black corset with matching lace around it and a black leather miniskirt, pink fishnets and black combat boots. I was wearing black lipstick, white foundation, black eyeliner and red eye shadow.”
I’m trying to figure out exactly what time of year this first chapter takes place in. It’s seventy-five degrees in Phoenix, right?
As you can see from this chart, there’s a number of months we can assume this takes place in, since the novel doesn’t do the job of giving that information to us. Basically, Bella is moving from Phoenix to Forks and will soon be going to school. Well, it could be somewhere around March, right? That looks like the kind of temperatures you see in March. Oh. But wait, you also see temperatures like that in November. Huh. Well, maybe it’s just a really cold day in the middle of July or August. Huh, well, that can’t be, because the novel sort of insinuates that Bella is enrolling in this new school during the middle of the year. Unfortunately, the novel doesn’t tell us much about the weather condition in Forks, WA upon her arrival, either, aside from the fact that it’s raining.
Well, crap, it’s ALWAYS raining in Forks. On top of that, in the two most likely months I picked, it rains pretty heavily. I would like to assume that it’s cold during those times of the year, but nobody seems to talk about how many layers of clothing they need to wear to keep themselves warm, nobody talks about temperatures or anything, and so it just leaves me in the dark about just when the book takes place. You may think that this isn’t entirely necessary to know, but facts like this are important, especially when you’re writing a novel and you have all the room you want to tell a story. You don’t have to say things specifically like, “I was driving to school on the wet road on a freezing November Wednesday wearing my fur coat and long johns,” but casually saying something like, “Joining class in the middle of November made it difficult for me to figure out just how far along all of my classes were in their studies.” Just knowing what time of year the story takes place in this location will give the reader a far better mental picture of what exactly you’re trying to portray.
Alright, let’s see if I can get a little past the first paragraph.
In the Olympic Peninsula of northwest Washington State, a small town named Forks exists under a near-constant cover of clouds. It rains on this inconsequential town more than any other place in the United States of America.
Number one most wildly incorrect statement in the book (I’m presuming). As I keep looking things up, I can’t find a single source that sites Forks, WA as having the most precipitation in the USA, either in inches annually or in consecutive days of rain. Does it rain a lot? Sure. But there are tons of other cities that get more. This study conducted in 2007 suggests that Mobile, Alabama gets the most rain, and that the Pacific Northwest doesn’t even have a single city that hits in the top ten. As far as the place that gets rain on the most days of the year? Well, it isn’t far from Forks, if you count a three hour drive as being not far – a place three hours south of Forks called Long Beach. Whether it has the most in the whole country, I’m not certain, but I’m certain it gets more than Forks does.
As we read on, it’s evident that Bella is an only child, and the product of divorced parents. She hates Forks and loves Phoenix. So, this leaves me all the more confused. Why is it that she’s moving to Forks, again? I can tell you it isn’t to be with her dad. She doesn’t seem to have the best relationship with him. She’s on a strangely first-name basis with him, that name being Charlie. And when they sit in the car together, it’s obvious they don’t share much in common, and they say very little to one another during their hour-long car ride. It sounds as though Bella’s mom has a new love in her life (did she remarry this guy?). Is it that Bella doesn’t like the new guy? She doesn’t say that she does. It also sounds like their home is in Phoenix, but her mom is planning on going somewhere. Her mom says, “I’ll see you soon. You can come home whenever you want – I’ll come right back as soon as you need me.” So, Bella obviously has a place in Phoenix. She shows great disdain for Forks, and doesn’t have a good relationship with her father, so why in God’s name is she even going there? It’s completely unexplained, at least within this first chapter, as far as I can tell. Character motivation simply isn’t there. The only thing I’m finding is that Meyer was fascinated with Washington herself and probably wanted to just hurry up and put her main character in the state of her dreams. In fact, prior to her finishing the manuscript, she’d never even been to Washington before, let alone Forks. Speaking of Meyer, did you know that she’s actually from Phoenix, Arizona herself? Hmm, this is starting to sound awfully suspicious.
Bella goes on to explain that her dad is the town police chief. She’d be embarrassed if her dad started dropping her off at school in the police cruiser. Which is when Charlie explains that he’s already acquired an old truck for her.
“Well, honey, I kind of already bought it for you. As a homecoming gift.” Charlie peeked sideways at me with a hopeful expression.
Sheesh, ungrateful, much? When I was in high school, I was highly expecting to have to buy my own car. The car I had always wanted up until that point was a bright red Volkswagen Beetle (I didn’t really care what year it was, I just wanted a Beetle/Bug). That isn’t what I got. My parents ended up surprising me with a birthday present. A used, white, four-door sedan. A Mitsubishi Mirage. Was it my dream car? No. Was I thrilled? Hell yeah, I was thrilled! My parents gave me a damn car! They didn’t spend a whole lot of money on it, but they gave me something they thought was safe and functioned just fine. It got me to school, it got me to work, it got me everywhere I needed to go. I was totally 100% grateful for that thing! Bella’s sitting here being told that she’s just being given a vehicle, and she’s not pleased with it? What a stuck-up, no-good, snot-nosed brat!
Well, luckily she finally sees the thing in the driveway and it turns out she really likes it. Frankly, just knowing I had a vehicle waiting there would have been good enough for me.
Bella goes on to describe her experience unpacking her things in her bedroom at the house in Forks.
It was nice to be alone, not to have to smile and look pleased; a relief to stare dejectedly out the window at the sheeting rain and let just a few tears escape. I wasn’t in the mood to go on a real crying jag. I would save that for bedtime, when I would have to think about the coming morning.
Good lord, girl, is this for real? We’re only on page 9, and you’re already crying about nothing? Again, WHY ARE YOU IN FORKS!?
She begins lamenting her physical qualities, certain she wasn’t going to fit in at her new high school.
…physically, I’d never fit in anywhere. I should be tan, sporty, blond – a volleyball player, or a cheerleader, perhaps – all the things that go with living in the valley of the sun.
Instead, I was ivory-skinned, without even the excuse of blue eyes or red hair, despite the constant sunshine. I had always been slender, but soft somehow, obviously not an athlete; I didn’t have the necessary hand-eye coordination to play sports without humiliating myself – and harming both myself and anyone else who stood too close.
…Maybe it was the light, but already I looked sallower, unhealthy. My skin could be pretty – it was very clear, almost translucent-looking – but it all depended on color. I had no color here.
Is there anyone else here aside from me who thinks that this girl is worrying over absolutely nothing? Ivory-skinned, slender, and soft? Who cares if you’re good at sports? You’re painting yourself as being gorgeous and yet hating it. Whose ideals are you trying to live up to? Yes, it’s gray in the Pacific Northwest. You will not look like you have any color. No one will. But your skin is clear. Good lord, I’m 25 and I would STILL kill to have clear skin.
Wait, wait, I almost missed this – did she just say “translucent”? Meyer, do you even know what that word means?
1. permitting light to pass through but diffusing it so that persons, objects, etc., on the opposite side are not clearly visible: Frosted window glass is translucent but not transparent.
No, skin doesn’t do that.
2. easily understandable; lucid: a translucent explication.
By this definition, maybe the character is translucent, but not her skin.
3. clear; transparent: translucent seawater.
And skin is DEFINITELY not transparent.
I didn’t sleep well that night, even after I was done crying.
Just slit your wrists, girl, and the book will be much shorter, I promise you!
Poor Forks High School. I mean, the real Forks High School. I’m so sorry that this is to location of Meyer’s fantasy romance novel. I can’t imagine the horrid publicity that came after the novels and the movies and whatnot. I’d bet you also pick apart all the things unrealistic between the piece of fiction and the actual establishment constantly.
Of course, I also feel sorry for the fictional Forks High School. After all, that’s where this horrendous young woman has to show up and drag her misery along for the ride.
I can do this, I lied to myself feebly. No one was going to bite me.
Hah! Vampire romance novel! I get it!
I’m so confused by things, because a little earlier she was complaining about how she wasn’t special and how she wouldn’t stand out. Now she’s doing things in hopes to not stand out at all. She’s relieved to see that her old car is old just like everybody else’s, her black hooded rain coat doesn’t stand out, and she tries to memorize the map to her school so that she doesn’t have to hold it in front of her all the time. I’m confused, does she want to be noticed by people or not? She sounds like the kind of girl that likes the least amount of attention so that she can go online to her LiveJournal and then write about how nobody pays attention to her so that somebody on the Internet will pay attention to her.
Apparently Bella already knows everything she’s being taught. Thankfully, she already read all of the reading material in her last school. Oh, well, that’s really fortunate. Good to know you don’t have to work to do anything this year. Also, apparently, Bella is in Trigonometry. Wait, she takes Trigonometry!? As a high school Junior!? I mean, let’s not over blow this, I guess, I mean some really basic trig functions can be found in simple middle school and high school math classes, but a full blown Trig class? My high school had pre-calculus, sure, but not a class dedicated solely to Trigonometry. Well, I’m sure some schools do indeed offer Trigonometry to their students. Maybe Forks High School is one of them.
…a nasal buzzing sound, a gangly boy with skin problems and hair black as an oil slick leaned across the aisle to talk to me.
Oh, no! How DARE he! I sure don’t seem to fit in, yet I can afford to be picky about which genuinely nice, considerate people I allow to talk to me!
Somehow this guy, Eric, knows exactly who Bella is, her full name, and that she’s from Phoenix. I realize it’s a small school in a small town, but I still don’t feel like this is much of an excuse for everybody to know who she is. In every class, somebody introduces themselves to her and starts asking her questions. Geez, this sounds amazing! It makes me wish I had changed schools once or twice so that people would take interest in me just because I was new! I simply cannot understand what part of this is so miserable. Why is she treating this like they think she’s some kind of alien from outer space? Girl, you’re just new! Either make some friends now or realize that after the first week the novelty of you will probably wear off! She even gets invited to sit down at a table with a whole bunch of other kids. For being some kind of weird outcast, she sure does have the instantaneous social life.
It’s at this point we finally meet the Cullens – a family of supremely pale yet devastatingly gorgeous siblings. All of whom are very bizarre in that they seem to be constantly looking around as if not to get caught by anybody, and none of them seem to eat any food. Frankly, if they’re hoping not to draw attention to themselves, I’d think with all the time they’ve had to perfect their ninjutsu they’d realize that this would not be the way to go about it. So, apparently, some of the Cullen kids are not only adoptive brother and sister but are also dating one another. Yes, it’s weird. And ironically, yes, the book actually thinks it’s weird, too. That doesn’t just stop it from being weird, though. It’s still weird. Stop it, book. Stop being weird.
Of course, the one Bella seems most interested in is Edward. And what a surprise, he’s equally as interested in her, it would appear! Well, they keep averting their eyes from each other, but they’ve obviously taken notice. How wacky is it, then, that when Bella has to go to her Biology II class she has to sit in the only open and available seat – the one next to Edward! I mean, what a shock, am I right? But for all the interest he’s taken in her, he seems to be pissed. I’m going to assume that he can smell the horrendous stench of self-pity from far across the cafeteria, and now that she’s sitting directly next to him it must sting his nostrils like nobody’s business.
Unfortunately the lecture was on cellular anatomy, something I’d already studied.
Oh my God, is there anything you don’t already magically know!?
So, Edward leaves class promptly at the bell.
He was so mean. It wasn’t fair.
Well, I don’t exactly see you trying to put him at ease by saying hi to him or anything. Hello pot, meet kettle.
She meets a friendly guy by the name of Mike who walks Bella to her Gym class. Exciting, I’m so glad we’re meeting every individual who could ever need to talk to her all day long. Mike noticed that Edward was acting bizarre and states, “If I were lucky enough to sit by you, I would have talked to you.” Man. Bella’s so friggin’ lucky, and it’s like she doesn’t even have a clue. Here’s YET ANOTHER perfectly nice person who wants to talk to you as soon as he gets the opportunity, and may even be attracted to you. How does such an apparently plain girl get this much attention? At least she notices that he’s a “nice” guy. Yeah, we all know that this nice guy is gonna finish last. Why even introduce him to us?
By the end of the day, Bella needs to return paperwork to the front office, and who would be there but Edward Cullen. Turns out he’s trying to get out of Bella’s Biology class! Oh no! This is enough to be the complete and utter undoing of her whole first day of school.
I headed back to Charlie’s house, fighting tears the whole way.
And that’s how this chapter ends? With more emo crying (or almost crying)? I think I’m starting to see why it is teenage girls are enjoying this so much.
This is ridiculously painful. I’m only one chapter into the novel and I find myself in complete and utter disdain of our heroine. She wants to go to Forks despite the fact that she doesn’t want to go to Forks, she keeps crying once she’s there, she’s ungrateful for the things she’s given and the sheer volume of people who take interest in her, lets one single person who may not like her completely ruin her day, and she talks down about what sounds like to me to be the prettiest of her features. Every piece of description of this girl sounds so plainly like a Mary Sue self-insertion character straight from the subconscious of Stephenie Meyer, and it’s hardly even well-hidden. English vernacular is used incorrectly, and facts are brought up that are simply untrue. The depression and self-pity is astounding. It’s unfortunate to know that there are many teenage girls who think similarly to this one, and since teenage girls don’t exactly have a lot of real life knowledge they’re naive and swept up by this piece of trash, finding Bella to be someone they can identify with. This is not the role model I would choose for my own daughter (if I ever ended up having a daughter). It makes it sound like Meyer had been widely sheltered herself within her community and probably led herself to writing this first piece of fiction of hers. Having stayed at home all her married life to take care of children, she probably has few other real life experiences to take away from and write about, maybe even less so now, now that she’s rich and famous.
It’s amazing that I even have that much to say about the preface and first chapter of the novel. I’ve spent so much time writing on it that I probably could have been about a third of the way through the book right now, and yet I’m just one of those people who can’t let it lie.
Tomorrow I’ll be addressing the second chapter – Open Book.