Thursday, May 29, 2008
Because several of my friends read it and recommended it with varying degrees of enthusiasm, and because it's enormously popular and I like keeping up on current literary trends, I recently read the book Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer. It's a new, populist, and much better-than-average incarnation of the vampires-in-high-school form of YA fiction. I quite liked the book, as light reading: it's the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries (or, to extend Gaiman's metaphor even further, a non-alcoholic Pina Colada).
However, it was not until I noticed the similarity between the two covers pictured above (while browsing Barnes and Noble) that I began to think of certain things that now seem painfully obvious.
When looked at through the lens one would use to view a book by, say, CS Lewis, certain interesting aspects begin to show themselves. (WARNING: spoilers beyond this point, and it will probably only make sense to those who have read the book.)
Several of the characters in the book could be, or at least have certain aspects of, Christ figures. In fact, on the very first page, when our heroine is contemplating her death, she does not regret it because she is dying in the place of someone she loves. Edward, too, in his constant protective role, could be seen as a Christ figure; his father, actually, could be seen in both the Christ and the Creator roles--he more or less raises Edward from the dead, for example, and grants him eternal life, and he has created this family of vampires out of loneliness--out of, we may infer, a desire to be loved.
The main character's name, Isabella Swan, is interesting too. Isabella means "My God is my oath" or "Devoted to God"; Bella, the name she prefers, comes from the Italian word for "beautiful." The Swan, of course, has multiple possible symbolic meanings--it is a symbol of innocence and purity, but also of self-sacrifice. And of course, there is the old story of the swansong, the piercingly beautiful song sung by the swan only when it is about to die.
Which brings us to the book's climax. The dance studio where Bella waits for the hunter, both because of the way dance studios look and specifically the way this one is described, has the possible appearance of a coffin or a tomb. Long, enclosed, with mirrors on all sides (resembling the smooth stone walls of a tomb or the smooth sides of a coffin), windowless. She has given herself up to the grave; but at the last minute, and without her doing (and, in fact, despite her best efforts), she is found and rescued. The heroine descends willingly to her doom, and is rescued, basically, by grace. This has every appearance of classical Christian symbolism.
Of course, it could be that I'm reading stuff into it that's not there. It's interesting to think about, at least. I'll have to see if the next two books uphold my theories.