It’s not been a cheerful week in Meyer-land. All across America, readers—especially young ones—are agonized by the author’s final installment in her bestselling Twilight saga. Publishers Weekly sums up the disgruntlement:
“Essentially, everyone gets everything they want, even if their desires necessitate an about-face in characterization or the messy introduction of some back story. Nobody has to renounce anything or suffer more than temporarily—in other words, grandeur is out. This isn’t about happy endings; it’s about gratification. A sign of the times?”
I very much enjoyed Ms. Meyer’s first three novels—with the Darcy-ish knowledge that I liked them against my better judgment. Good vampires? Please, Noel. You’re all about spurning the inversion of traditional archetypes. “The meanings of symbols are not merely the capricious choices of a limited culture,” remember? (Michael O’Brien, A Landscape With Dragons)
Still, Stephenie Meyer was spinning a good tale, and she had me hooked. Then along came Breaking Dawn.
As a story, Breaking Dawn is much weaker than the saga’s initial novels. I won’t go into detail—just visit any fan site, read almost any Amazon review, and you’ll hear all about the “travesties” Stephenie committed against her characters. None of them made the story stronger.
According to her website, Stephenie didn’t envision Twilight as a YA book, but it turned out to have tremendous “kid appeal” despite that fact. Breaking Dawn, however, is Adult Fiction through and through. No wonder all her 6th grade fans are upset. The attraction is gone.
And though I’m past 6th grade, the attraction is gone for me, too.
A friend and I discussed our reactions after finishing the series, and I was reminded of all the moral elements I’ve been ignoring.
How far would you go for something alluring enough?
How valuable is an eternal soul?
According to Stephenie, it’s worth trading in for Edward Cullen.
Then there’s the Mormon factor. I received a comment on one of my Meyer posts a while back, from a Mormon reader who didn’t think Stephenie’s faith affected the books—they were just good, clean stories. I’m sorry, but no one functions outside a worldview, no matter what they’re doing—shopping for groceries or writing fiction. Stephenie’s Mormon beliefs bleed onto her pages, just as my Christian beliefs bleed into this post.
The similarities—up to a point—between the Twilight saga and The Little Mermaid are interesting. Also Romeo and Juliet, but that’s old news. The distinguishing variation in both cases is the resolution. And that is where Stephenie’s worldview diverges from the classic model that Shakespeare and Anderson (among millions of others) embodied. Michael O’Brien, in his Disney-bashing chapter, includes this:
“In order to obtain her desire (marriage to a land-based human prince), [the little mermaid] swims away from home and makes a pact with an evil Sea Witch, who turns her into a human for three days, long enough to make the prince kiss her. If she can entice him to do so, she will remain human forever and marry him.
"So far, the film is close to Hans Christian Anderson’s original fairy story. But a radical departure is to be found in the way the plot resolves itself. Despite the disasters the little mermaid causes, only other people suffer the consequences of the wrong she has done, and in the end she gets everything she wants. Charming as she is, she is really a selfish brat whose only abiding impulse is a shallow romantic passion.
"In the original Anderson tale, the little mermaid faces some difficult moral decisions and decides for the good, choosing in the end to sacrifice her own desires so that the prince will remain happily married to his human bride.”
The net result of this heavy-handed editing, says O’Brien, is that “the meaning of the story is seriously distorted, even reversed …. You can play with evil and get away with it, maybe even be rewarded for your daring by hooking the handsomest guy in the land, winning for yourself your own palace, your own kingdom, and happiness on your own terms.”
Sound familiar, Twilighters?