Twilight is the first of the series of fictional romance novels published by Stephanie Meyer. Originally published in October 2005, Meyer formed an eternal love story that was later developed into a full movie series. Despite the vampire themed love having its own unique take on the common romance novel, it has every characteristic of the typical “bored housewife” genre. The first book consists of only two main characters: Bella Swan and Edward Cullen and the story is told from Bella’s perspective.
The books revolve around the story of Bella, a seventeen-year old girl, who falls for a vampire named Edward, despite the bloodlust he feels for her. The plot starts with Bella moving from Phoenix, Arizona to live with her somewhat estranged father in Forks, Washington. She adapts the role of a caretaker, taking the responsibility of the cooking and cleaning for her father while still being a junior in high school. She is clumsy and witty, an ordinary character that makes her relatable to the readers. She first meets Edward in biology class when she is seated next to him but much to her dismay, he seems utterly repulsed by her.
Bella is instantly curious about him and the rest of his family, consisting of four adoptive brothers and sisters (Emmett, Rosalie, Jasper, and Alice) and his adoptive parents, Carlisle and Esme. After Edward’s absence from school and his abrupt return, he seems to be polite and courteous towards her. Bella is confused by his mysterious presence and her world is turned upside when he saves her from being hit by a van. Soon, after a few cryptic conversations and website searching, Bella somehow manages to figure out that Edward is a vampire.
She confronts him—both end up too enamored with one another to stay away and form an odd relationship. Edward has the ability to read minds, but cannot read Bella’s, making her different and special. Bella also feels that Edward is hard to read in general, with his old-fashioned way of talking and his aloofness. He later reveals he is over 100 years old and speaks more about the origins of his “family,” even later introducing Bella to them. The romance is very new for both Bella and Edward, this being the first real love for both; to see them stumbling through the relationship is entertaining.
The antagonist of the book, James, is only introduced in the last hundred pages and is used as a device to show both Edward’s protectiveness over Bella and Bella’s tendency to be self-sacrificing. Main themes of the series include sacrifice, family, and forbidden love. Housewives or middle aged women can very much relate to Bella; they are sacrificing time for their husbands and families. In Radway’s studies, she tells of how the women she interviewed “overwhelmingly cite escape or relaxation as their goal. They use the word ‘escape,’ however, literally and figuratively.
This conveys the pattern of wanting to escape reality and shift into a supernatural type of novel, thus the appeal of Twilight’s forbidden love story to make women feel as though they are teenagers falling in love for the first time again. The allure of a beautiful vampire boyfriend that seems too perfect to be true for the awkward, clumsy protagonist is going not unnoticed by the women who read and enjoy this book. The writing style is very simple and straightforward for the most part, with the reader seeing Bella’s own thoughts.
Her inner monologue can be witty and sarcastic; therefore, it becomes amusing to see the romance unravel. A large part of the book is used as development for the characters and building the relationship that is between them, albeit somewhat awkwardly. Their love shines through along with the restricted feelings and doubt both characters feel. The point is that they are in love when they probably shouldn’t be. The lion and the lamb, together as lovers.
While the label of the book is Young Adult, Meyer has stated that she “didn’t have a specific demographic in mind when she started writing (Em & Lo 2009). While teenage girls could not put this book down, middle aged women and “housewives” have shown to be quite a large chunk of the demographic. The theory of why women like the book series is simple. They relate to Bella Swan, they want a fantasy man like Edward Cullen, and they want to escape boring lives to show themselves they are more than ordinary. The Twilight series allows for these women to escape into the rainy town of Forks, Washington and fall in love with a perfect man who sees all the beauty in the world in them.
This could be because of Bella’s character being relatable to many women, because she is a caretaker, or because Edward’s character seems to be the perfect, supernatural man for many of the housewives. Twilight is aimed towards women because, along with the female protagonist’s storytelling, it is a character that is very applicable to the average women. It is refreshing for books to look through the female gaze, seeing things through women’s eyes instead of the typical male gaze. Bella Swan is nondescript and faceless; the only known facts about her appearance are that she is very pale, has brown hair and eyes, and is slim.
These features are only mentioned a couple of times throughout the series, allowing every woman to replace themselves as the character and enjoy the book through their own personal point of view. Bella is plain and ordinary, with a guy like Edward paying attention to her to show her she is special. She is also motherly, taking care of her father when she moves to Forks after having taken care of her childish mother. She is characterized as mature, very insecure, and a bit of a klutz.
Being insecure and a klutz play into the idea of how women should be demure and shy, but the inner dryness is what allows women to relate significantly. The assumption of the female gender is shown through Bella’s character, being the perfect blend of what society wants to see women as versus how women are in actuality. It is appealing and relatable to middle aged women and housewives because it “shapes women’s identities as dependent on their relationships to men, family, and the home, with the end goal (as it is for the series protagonist) to become an eternal wife and mother (Wilson). The same way society shapes the common woman’s identity.
While it is true that women realize their identities are not based on things listed above, the idea is always being subtly messaged and drilled into the heads of women. The focus is mainly on the romance, though the buildup is slow and steady. Character and relationship developing are the biggest tools used by Meyer as she shows us how Edward and Bella slowly turn infatuation into actual affection. The plot very heavily relies on Bella’s inner monologue and the dialogue between characters.
Action/conflict comes in only near the end as another vampire tries to hurt her, forcing Edward’s family to fight and protect her. Romance novels tend to have little action and more romance hence the titles; however, Twilight also contains no actual sexual action. This is rare for many romance novels, but the author’s Mormon background may have affected the idea. A big theme looming over Twilight is the idea of self-control. Edward’s family consists of vampires who refuse to feed on humans, going on a “vegetarian” diet so to speak as they drink blood from animals.
Bella’s blood calls to Edward, making it difficult for him to control his vampire urges. But the biggest part of his self-control is controlling their teenaged, hormonal feelings. The pressure of wanting sex or even blood, but maintaining control is very prominent in the book. The sexual tension is very palpable all throughout the series but the fact that they are both old-fashioned and new to love is what makes it believable. The series feeds the idea of how women should stay sexually pure, as self-control is written as admirable to the readers. In addition to vampires, the first book also mentions werewolves.
However, those characters are not fleshed out until the next book. The werewolves of the novel are Native Americans; they hate the Cullen family and all vampires because they are their natural enemies. With Meyer’s description, the Native Americans are seen as dark and dirty, not as beautiful and mysterious as the creatures of the night, vampires. This sort of underlying racial tension is shown throughout the entire series, when Jacob Black, a werewolf, also is in love with Bella. While Edward is more dangerous for Bella, Meyer writes him as the safe and mature choice for Bella.
Jacob, though still human albeit also werewolf, is the hot-headed and impulsive choice. The choice of characterization is hard not to notice, dark being considered scary while white is seen as pure and angelic. Bella often also mentions how Edward looks like unearthly and divine, his pale skin and sparkles aiding in that observation. Meyer asserts that Edward and the rest of the vampire family are ghostly pale and angelic, while Jacob and the werewolf pack are rough and dirty brown. This description is not so subtle, feeding the racial stereotypes and prejudice.
The fact that Bella will ultimately choose Edward also serves as a last push into that narrative. The relatable protagonist, the fantasy escapism, and the “too perfect” love interest are all characteristics that would appeal to the bored housewife genre. There were issues with racial characteristics and sexual tension, but the book is an interesting new take on the modern romance novel that is geared towards a wide range of women. With an easy to read book that has romance and fascinating mythology, most readers are pulled right into the world of Twilight and its sparkly vampire romance.