Sunday, September 2, 2007

More on My Favorite Friendly Neighborhood Vampires: Alice Cullen and a Bit on Sin and Damnation.

My favorite character in the Twilight series is without a doubt Alice Cullen. She is small, dark-haired and is constantly described in the books as having pixie like features. She is a high energy almost manic individual. Think of her as the very sweet but pushy rich girl, who is devoted to remaking other people’s lives, particularly Bella’s, and is convinced that she knows what is best for everyone else. In Alice’s case though she sort of really does know what is best for everyone else as she has the knack for seeing glimpses of the future. Amongst other things this gives her quite a talent for picking stocks. Meyer does an effective job in handling Alice’s talent, focusing mostly on the holes in Alice’s sight and how things go wrong. Werewolves are completely outside of her line of vision. As the Cullens are living next door to a whole pack of werewolves this is a pretty serious limitation. Alice’s other limitation is that her sight is dependent upon choices that have already been made. Because of this she cannot predict anyone making spur of the moment decisions. Anyone can avoid her sight as long as they do not make any actual plans, but simply shoot from the hip.

Alice’s background story is a sitting question mark which suggests that it is going to be an important plot point for later books. What we know about her is that she woke up in an insane asylum sometime during the 1920s as a vampire. She has no memories of having ever been human nor does she know how she ended up in the asylum or how she ended up as a vampire. The chief villain in the first book, James, indicates that he knows something about Alice’s background. Since Alice foresaw that she would one day meet the Cullens and join them, she was able from the very beginning to live in accordance with their lifestyle and never went after humans. While in search of the Cullens she found Jasper, whom she later married, and brought him along.

Of all the Cullens Jasper has the most blood-soaked history. He served as a sort of vampire “recruiting sergeant” during the nineteenth century, helping to create armies of newbie vampires which could then be used to go after rival groups. Jasper, on his own, came to reject the life that he was leading. He abandoned his comrades and tried to live cleanly. Despite the guilt that he felt over his actions he was never able to succeed at this until he met Alice and became one of the Cullens.

To analyze the Meyer’s characters from the perspective of sin and salvation one could say that the vampires represent fallen mankind struggling within the grasp of sin. In this case sin takes the form of attacking humans and drinking their blood. While the main characters in the story are all very flawed individuals, their flaws are also the flipsides of their strengths. Jasper is man who recognizes that he is a sinner, hates sin, but is still unable to overcome his own desire for sin until he discovers law. Of all the Cullens he is the one at the greatest risk of falling away. There is an ambiguity to his personality. Do we see him as the redeemed penitent who more than any of the Cullens has overcome his nature or do we see him as a ticking bomb waiting to go off. Alice is the prophetess who, even though she did not possess the law, was still able to foresee its coming and live according to it. Carlisle is the lawgiver, who offers the others law as a way to salvation. He is the one Cullen who was able to overcome his thirst for human blood, by himself and through his own will power. Carlisle believes that vampires have souls and that they can therefore still be saved. (Because of Carlisle’s role as the teacher, lawgiver and because he is the father figure here, particularly for Edward, I strongly suspect that he is going to be killed off in the later books, leaving the others to live according to his example even though he is no longer with them.) In contrast to Carlisle, Edward does not believe that vampires have souls and assumes that they are all damned no matter how good they try to be. It is for this reason that Edward is so set on not making Bella a vampire; he wants to save her soul. From his perspective, allowing Bella to be turned into a vampire would be the most selfish thing that he could possibly do. The irony here is that in a sense, because of Edward’s “rejection” of salvation, his motives are purer then even Carlisle’s. Since Edward does not believe that there is any heaven waiting for him if he were to die at some point he has no motive for living as he does and for making the sort of sacrifices that are asked of him except sheer unselfish goodness. This is particularly poignant as he is faced with sacrificing Bella, who means everything in the world to him. Like Edward, the werewolf, Jacob Black is also out to save Bella’s soul. Ironically enough while Black is the character who is unfallen and outside of the threat of sin, of all the major characters he is the most flawed. His attempts at saving Bella’s soul come across as him trying to steal Bella from Edward for himself. Jacob is, on one hand, someone who selflessly gives of himself to others, but his very selflessness comes out as a form of selfishness. Despite all the effort being put into saving her soul, Bella is about to willingly become a vampire herself? She is Eve, willingly placing herself under the power of sin? The interesting thing is that she is doing it for all the right motives. She is acting out of her love for Edward and her desire to protect the Cullens. Whether she will fall or not still of course remains to be seen.

What is going to become of Carlisle’s law? This is very speculative on my part but I suspect it is meant to be a form of Old Testament law. It is built around thou shall not. It is able to stop people from sinning but is it truly able to bring salvation, as Carlisle believes? Despite all the Cullens considerable efforts they are still trapped by their vampire selves. Carlisle’s law offers no escape for that. What is needed is a new law that is built, not on though shall or shall not, but on love. Is Edward’s love for Bella meant to be this new redemptive law? To go out on a really big limb, what is behind Bella being impervious to almost all the various vampire knacks? Why are the Volturi so interested in having her made a vampire? By having her willingly join they believe they can corrupt her and use her power for their own benefit. Could it be that Bella is the pure soul who can transcend this fallen world and possibly even save it?

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