Twilight (The Twilight Saga, #1) Twilight discussion

The Topic of Realism

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message 1: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 27, 2012 10:12AM) (new)

A common defense of Bella's "weak" character is that she reacts realistically to events. Often it goes along the lines of, "if you were a teenage girl wouldn't you react the same?"

The thing is: is "realistic" really a good thing in a book like this? Twilight is supposed to be escapist fiction. It is not supposed to be realistic in any single way.

But even then: is Bella really a realistic character? Another defense of her "weakness" is that she stands up to Edward, especially when she wanted to keep Renesmee. But just thinking about it, a "realistic" person would panic and abort the baby right away. Or the "average scared teenager" a lot of defenders claim Bella is. That's nothing but an inconsistency there. What is she? "Understandably" weak, or "actually" strong?

Anyway though, that's not the point. I don't think realism has any place in Twilight. It is not supposed to be realistic, and IMO isn't very realistic. What I'm questioning here, however, is: how do you build realism?

There are many ways to build realism, if there's one way you DON'T, it's not by imitating real life. You can't just say "people do this in real life, therefore this is realistic." The purpose of fiction--or any art in general--isn't to imitate real life, it's to give meaning to things in real life.

I mean there are a ton of things in real life we don't put in fiction. Haven't you ever thought about how stories seem to have convenient plot points in close proximity to each other to make a tightly plotted story? And in "real life" a "story" doesn't just happen. And yet, we still have story structures like rising action, climax and falling action, the Three Act Structure, etc.

Therefore, in my opinion, you can't justify Bella's "weakness" by saying "this happens in real life." For two reasons: first, there's an inconsistency in that argument, because many times the same people will turn around and say "but Bella IS strong, look how she stood up to Edward not to abort Renesmee." (And I think a "normal teenager" would be too scared to keep the baby. So, again: is she "understandably and realistically weak," or is she "strong?") Second because you don't build realism by imitating real life. A GOOD author would be able to build realism AND make a "strong" character" at the same time. It's not impossible.

So...what do you think?

message 2: by Nuran (last edited Dec 27, 2012 10:26AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nuran I understand why Bella is weak; so confused, insecure teens can step into her shoes, so it feels like it can happen to them. I rather put myself in strong characters, but if I read this when I was 13, would I have been able to enjoy it more, maybe. I didn't share all of bella's traits at that age, but I would have related to the insecurities she felt.

It's a twisted story of growing up, an insecure, pathetic teen to powerful, super awesome woman. It is twisted in the sense you can only be more confident, grown-up and strong if you become a vampire.

Siobhan I think I've read a book where someone was so into realism, half of it contained mentions of the main character's periods. I can take it or leave it.

I think you do need a sense of familiarity in works of fiction, particularly in fantasy (how else can you relate to an alien or a monster?) but that familiarity doesn't have to be weekly trips to McDonald's, or how to cook chicken properly. I also don't think those justifications for Bella's character and choices are actual justifications.

message 4: by Nyaore (last edited Dec 27, 2012 11:41AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Nyaore I think that attempts towards adherence to realism in wish fulfillment based books is only good if it's a constant thing. For every time that Bella acts realistically, she has just as many - if not more -instances where she doesn't. The one that immediate comes to mind is her allowance of Jacob to hang around her child after she knows he's imprinted on her. The vast majority of mothers I know would balk at the idea of exposing their children to child grooming, which no matter how you look at it is exactly what Jacob is doing by being near her until she's ready to 'accept him'. He's gaining her trust, acting as her nurse maid, friend, and brother, with the ultimate intention that one day they will be together. Even if he's not looking at her sexually YET, that is exactly how everyone knows it's going to be expected to play out. And Bella just gives in.. Most mothers would demand a restraining order, or in the case of fantasy worlds where it's common at least some distance (and stick to it) so no child grooming can intentionally or unintentionally occur. Bella never shows nearly the amount of outrage that you should expect a mother to feel. Hell, what causes her to finally snap when she finds out is the fact that he's given her a NICKNAME, sure she was mad before, but what finally makes her go off at him is the fact that he called her daughter Nessie - the potential for child grooming didn't do it a nickname is what made her snap. Then once her 'tantrum' is over, she feels like SHE'S the one has to apologize for wanting to protect her daughter. :/
Then there's the several months of utter depression over a relatively quick romance, her willingness to put others in danger to hallucinate over the lover that abandoned her, etc.

Sorry, tangent. Anyways I see people mentioning how much they love the idea of a insecure teenager growing into an capable woman - and in that case I honestly have to recommend they either read or watch Twelve Kingdoms if that's their preference. Youko is realistic throughout the story, in spite of it's fantasy setting, and she never stops growing as a character. She's utterly loathsome in the beginning, not in the selfish sort of way like Bella but in the 'I'm so weak and whiny' sort of way, and due to constantly being betrayed in the beginning almost goes insane in an attempt to cope with what has happened to her. I won't spoil how she's brought out of it, but she goes from one of the most pathetic characters I've ever had the displeasure of reading to one of my favorite protagonists (female or otherwise) of all time. I highly recommend giving it a look if pathetic teens who transform into strong adults is what you're interested in. (There's a book series and an anime, the anime might be easier to find however - though both are incomplete at this time as the author hasn't written a resolution for one of her other main characters - Taiki - as of yet.)

Jeni There is a difference, in my humble opinion, about realistically portraying a person in familiar instances and trying to tell me that certain reactions/actions are realistic in unfamiliar instances.

One of the downfalls to Twilight, in my opinion, is the point of view. We only have Bella's word on anything. She's clumsy, she's average, she's distressed, she's noble, she's in love, etc. It's like reading a diary that is melodramatic, at best.

Telling me it's realistic isn't convincing enough. I would rather have seen it from a third person's point of view. The way he looks when he sees her, or the way only she can make him smile. I want a different perspective with concrete evidence they belong together.

I agree with the consistency point Nyaore makes, as well. When you vascillate between logical and illogical reactions to events, it's confusing and becomes trite and unrealistic.

To be clear, I'm not a hater--the story was a great idea, but I'm disappointed in the execution and the direction the author intended to take us.

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