Abraham "Bram" Stoker (November 8, 1847 – April 20, 1912) was an Irish novelist and short story writer, best known today for his 1897 Gothic novel Dracula. During his lifetime, he was better known as personal assistant of actor Henry Irving and business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London, which Irving owned.

M. Carmen Gomez-Galisteo: Vampire meets girl: gender roles and the vampire’s side of the story in twilight, midnight sun and the vampire diaries

NeoAmericanist;2011, Vol. 5 Issue 2, January 2011

by M. Carmen Gomez-Galisteo, Universidad de Alcalá (Spain)

The Monday after New Moon, the film based on the second book of the Twilight saga by Stephenie
Meyer, opened worldwide, I asked my junior year students in my seventeenth- and eighteenth-century
American literature seminar if they had watched it. That in the middle of a discussion about Jonathan
Edwards’ fear-filling sermons about the dangers and the extreme pain awaiting sinners in Hell. Though
the looks on my students’ faces said — “This is it, she has lost it after reading so many sermons by wackos,”
my question was to the point. The Puritans lived in a world where they believed that supernatural
happenings could take place anytime, where the Devil was always lurking to stalk them by sending witches
or sea monsters, and where miracles might happen (though they were rather called instances of God’s
providence, reflecting the Puritans’ rejection of the Catholic terminology). That there exist men who can
transform themselves into wolves or evil creatures feeding on others’ blood would not have been a matter
of too much wonder for them. Even reputed Puritan divine Cotton Mather, author of over 400 books,
had devoted a section of his masterpiece Magnalia Christi Americana (The History of Christ’s Church in
America) to supernatural occurrences. The Puritans’ fascination with natural sciences and their interest
in the new scientific methods that were being developed at the time did not prevent them from believing
in the Occult or the supernatural, just the contrary. The Devil being a constant presence in their daily
lives, surely, the Puritans would have had no qualms in attributing vampires’ and werewolves’ special
characteristics to witchcraft or the devil’s doings — and put them to the bonfire right away. Because the
Puritans would have found it a perfectly logical explanation for the Cullens’ mysteriousness and their
sometimes bizarre behavior that they were vampires, the Twilight saga thus is heir to an early American
tradition of believing in the supernatural.
It is recurrent among twentieth-century rewritings of famous monster stories that the point of view
is no longer that of the more or less helpless victim or even that of the rather cold, and unsympathetic
(to the monster’s plight) omniscient third-person narrator; instead, we are privy the point of view of the
so-called monster, whose monstrosity comes to be questioned. In these retellings, the monster appears
to be much more human, having feelings and emotions that up to them had been impossible for him to
have due to his very characterization as a monster. For instance, Mary Reilly by Valerie Martin, through
the eyes of the homonymous protagonist, the servant of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, offered a much more
humane vision of the physician and his nemesis than Robert Louis Stevenson had provided. Mary
Shelley’s Frankenstein, the most recent cinematographic adaptation of the popular nineteenth-century
novel, brings attention to the story’s authorship to claim a version closer to the original, far from other,
somewhat sugar-coated and at other times frankly risible representations of Victor Frankenstein’s
creature as a man with a greenish face and screws from his temples. This Frankenstein’s creature is
far from being happy with his lot and pledges revenge on his maker for his present anguish. In these
contemporary, post-modern retellings, the focus (and thence, the reader’s sympathy) is on the monster
that cannot prevent his condition, much to his own chagrin, no matter his efforts to put an end to his
situation. These are monsters, indeed, but they try their best not to be. They also suffer from pangs of
their consciences, telling them not to kill unnecessarily and, even when forced to kill, they are plagued by
remorse and guilt. These monsters are, in way, moved by biological determinism: they try to avoid being
what they are, but they miserably fail, because of their very natures — or their genetic makeup, if you wish.
A sequel told from the point of view of a character from the original novel is a rather popular
literary development. Well-known examples include Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (off Jane Eyre
by Charlotte Brontë), The Wind Done Gone (off Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell), March
by Geraldine Brooks (off Little Women by Louisa May Alcott), or Pemberley by Emma Tennant (off
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen), just to name a few. In 2008, Stephenie Meyer’s work in progress,
Midnight Sun, was posted all over the Internet, with all the efforts to put a stop to this violation of
copyright miserably failing. Eventually, given the multiplicity of pirate versions, Meyer decided to give up
writing Midnight Sun and instead posted the manuscript in draft form as it was in her own website (www.
stepheniemeyer.com). What was intended to be the fifth book of the Twilight saga represents Edward’s
side of the story. It is a very rare gift to have an insight into the male protagonist’s thoughts. See Pride
and Prejudice— we don’t know Darcy’s true thoughts till the end. This makes Midnight Sun so relevant to
the study and better comprehension of the Twilight saga. In Twilight we see Bella’s despair for receiving
the cold shoulder from her biology class lab partner during her first days in Forks. It is not until later in
the novel when we discover Edward’s reasons for such an attitude towards Bella. Midnight Sun analyzes
Edward’s thoughts at meeting his forbidden object of desire.

One of the reasons why Edward is so appealing to the millions of Twilight fans (or Twi-hards, as they
are also called) is that he is mysterious, larger than life, he can resist seemingly unendurable temptation
(especially in Eclipse in the chapter “Compromise”). In Eclipse, in the chapter “Fire and Ice,” we get an
insight into Edward’s head when Jacob, frustrated that it is always Edward listening to his most inner
thoughts, aware of the workings of his mind (and, by extension, of the whole werewolf pack’s collective
mind), demands from Edward that, just for a night, he tells him what’s going on in his mind. Though there
might be some editing on the part of Edward, readers and Jacob now learn that, for all of Edward’s boast
of confidence about his hold on Bella, he also has his moments of doubt. This is all the more interesting
when Bella herself begins to fancy herself in love with Jacob when she willingly kisses him before Jacob
goes to take part in the battle against Victoria’s army of newborns. Midnight Sun goes beyond this
retelling and offers Edward’s thoughts and feelings first-hand, without mediation, interference or self-
censorship. Midnight Sun was to take a step further beyond into Edward’s mind.1 Far from being regarded
as an aborted project, it is interesting to analyse Midnight Sun in regards to the four official Twilight
series books. That the director of the Twilight movie, Catherine Hardwicke, filmed a scene from Edward’s
point of view according to Midnight Sun (though this scene did not make it to the theatrical version of the
movie, it was included in the two-disc edition DVD), testifies to the importance of Midnight Sun to the
Twilight saga.
While especially in the U.S. the Harry Potter books have often been accused of apology of witchcraft
and of spreading an anti-Christian worldview, Twilight has been supported by the most conservative
American groups, which have found nothing to worry about in a human’s love for a vampire up to the
point of being very willing to risk her immortal soul to follow him and for spending “eternity” with him,

1 Meyer has again explored the mind of the vampire in her 2010 novella The Second Brief Life of Bree Tanner, based on
Eclipse, the third book in the Twilight saga.

even if it means kissing goodbye to Heaven. Whereas Rowlings’ texts have been thoroughly examined
for hints of black witchcraft even though she is not known to have any inkling to Wiccan beliefs, Meyer’s
books have not been so much widely examined for traces of Mormonism, despite Meyer’s well-publicized
condition as a member of the Church of the Latter Saints. Yet, for all of the praise that the chastity ideal
and the no premarital sex advocacy of “Twilight” have encountered among conservative groups, feminists
have not taken long in finding fault with Bella and Edward’s relationship and the gender roles the saga
puts forward. The protagonists’ relationship is from the very beginning fraught with misunderstandings
based on lack of communication, hardly a positive role model.
Many have characterized Edward and Bella’s as an abusive relationship, moreover, for here physical
danger and sexual violence to the female body are presented as appealing and titillating even, a charge
brought to many different cultural creations, going from Gone With the Wind to the movie Captivity
much more recently.2 In Twilight, its attackers contend, we see the same feeling of being sexually aroused
by danger or by the threat of physical harm inflicted on the female protagonist. According to professor
Gina Barreca,
the big thing that really makes Twilight a really bad book is that fear should never be an aphrodisiac.
The idea that you fear your lover should not make him sexier and that is a big part of these books. ... It
distresses me to see that in any form, whether or not it’s supernatural. It’s a damaging fantasy. ... It’s the
idea that she feels as if she is in a dangerous relationship and she doesn’t know how to get out of it and
that finally, however much in danger you feel, love has to conquer. ... No, when you feel yourself in danger,
you have to go away, put yourself in another novel.”3
Feminist readings of the Twilight saga denounced that jealousy is regarded as a sign of love (and not
as a flaw), that rough sex can be pleasurable even though it can be harmful, that giving up one’s dreams,
aspirations, lifestyle … becomes a positive choice for American teenage girls. It all ends up presenting
a picture of love as full of sacrifices and personal renunciations for women. Even more harmful, being
more than willing to make costly personal sacrifices (even renouncing to one’s family), and losing friends
in the process (that is, getting isolated socially) are seen as indicators of love — forgetting that one of the
very signs of wife-beating includes the victim’s isolation from those who might help her out. All in all, the
Twilight saga endorses traditional values such as no premarital sex, early marriage …
If feminists have complained about the kind of relationships portrayed in “Twilight” or women’s
roles in the saga, vampire purists have also criticized what they have deemed an “unrealistic” and sugar-
coated portrayal of vampires, where they can go outdoors in broad daylight or are vegetarians, these being
things that go beyond our understanding view of vampires in common parlance. Still, offering a much
more sympathetic (and we would even dare to say, human) side to supernatural beings is no new literary
development with whose originality we could credit Meyer. The protagonist of The Vampire Diaries (first
published in the 1990s and conveniently reissued in 2009 after the success of Twilight, with three more
novels being added to the former four-novel saga), Its protagonist, Elena Gilbert, is the most popular girl
but now she feels she does not belong. Similarly, Bella Swan feels a bit alienated from her high school

2 Curiously enough, fan fiction writers, fond of re-writing their favorite texts into new contexts and situations, have
also perceived the similarities between Gone With the Wind and Twilight by creating cross-overs between the two
texts.
3 Quoted in Kathleen Megan, “Fear As An Aphrodisiac” Hartford Courant November 18, 2009 http://articles.courant.
com/2009-11-18/news/09111712259486_1_young-girls-dangerous-twilight-books accessed March 17, 2010.

mates, and though she is popular, this is new to her, and she cannot quite get used to, suddenly, being
hot stuff. Stefan soon feels a hunger for Elena he will not indulge in … Does this ring a bell? The Vampire
Diaries present Stefan’s thoughts more readily, from the very beginning of the first book, The Awakening.
We are privy to his thoughts, his feelings, his memories and even his Powers.
The portrayals of Stefan and Edward are heavily dependent on the description of the dark hero. This
dark hero was a stock character in nineteenth-century American fiction, peopling such works as Augusta
Jane Evans’ very popular Civil War novels Macaria or St. Elmo, Mr. Rochester in Charlotte Brontë’s
Jane Eyre, Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and even Margaret Mitchell’s Rhett Butler
(off Gone With the Wind) can be considered a continuator of such a trend. But if these dark heroes are
to be redeemed, this is to be achieved only through the love they feel. Stefan “was a sucker for maidens
who needed to be rescued,” very much like Edward, he is afraid of hurting Elena though he vows he will
never and he is determined not to make her give up sunlight. It is interesting that where in Twilight we
had a religious interpretation of vampirism and Edward does not want Bella to renounce to her immortal
soul, in The Vampire Diaries what is most difficult to give up, in Stefan’s view, is not the salvation of
one’s soul but sunlight and all this involves — such as fulfilling his public duties as citizen of Renaissance
Italy. Civic duty then replaces religious concerns. Far from traditional depictions of vampires as ruthless,
cold bloodsuckers, avid of blood and new victims and careless about the consequences of their actions,
these postmodern vampires are not 100% comfortable in their own skin and, therefore, do not want to
turn the women they love into vampires. These vampires who miss human life and sometimes reject their
condition do not want to make more vampires.4
In contrast to the appeal of the dark hero description, female models presented the Twilight saga
are far from being so attractive. The female role models Bella can aspire to fulfill in the Twilight saga are
quite limited. Following the path of her mother involves a personal sacrifice, for her mother has rejected
the comforts of her own home to travel with her new husband, in the process having to renounce to her
daughter too. Her mother will not do as a good female role model — she is presented as a sort of surrogate
daughter for Bella, who has to take care and protect her constantly from real life events in general terms
or from vampires in particular. Her girl friends are her best friends in Forks until she becomes Edward’s
girlfriend, when she promptly forgets all her other friends.
Within the vampires, she admires Alice, who is a role model for her in that Bella aspires to be a
vampire just like her prospective sister-in-law. Also, not only does she want to be like Alice, Alice can
help her become what she wants. This role model does not only apply in the traditional sense of role
models helping us to model our personalities, dress style, hairdo, etc., so as to resemble that of the person
we admire; here, Alice can literally transform Bella into a vampire, thus exerting a powerful influence
on her. Emily is a rather good role model — caring, protecting her men, but, still, she poses an ugly face
(literally and metaphorically) — the danger that might come from getting involved with werewolves. Still,
Emily’s choice has involved a danger to her physical integrity. Also, the notion that werewolves “match
up” with their partners involves no choice, no free will. The novel is also plagued by other traditional
female roles — Bella is almost a dutiful wife to Charlie, quite a Cinderella: she cooks and takes care of
the housework, conveniently forgetting that Charlie somehow managed to survive such menial tasks for
4 The ones who do want to make new vampires are happy enough with their condition as killers are evil, as seen by
the portrayal of Victoria in Eclipse.

more than a decade after Bella’s mother deserted him. Additionally, not only is Bella looking for a role
model for herself in her own process of growing up into adulthood. She has also become a role model
herself for million of female readers (teenagers or not). All in all, if the description of the appealing male
vampire resonates with echoes of the Victorian novel dark hero and the twentieth-first century sensitive
to woman’s needs metrosexual man, these stories are problematic when it comes to offering suitable role
models for the female protagonist other than the outdated damsel in distress stereotype.
The Vampire Diaries series and the Twilight Saga are both of them a celebration of small town
America. If “Twilight” is set in Forks, Washington, The Vampire Diaries is set in similarly small Fell’s
Church, Virginia. These vampires are a vindication for the traditional American values of small towns now
in the process of getting lost (in contrast to the much more urban vampires of True Blood) as well as an
embodiment of conservative agendas, more so in the case of “Twilight” with its abhorrence of premarital
sex and its endorsement of chastity. They offer conventional views of manhood (as protectors) and
womanhood (as beings to be cherished and protected). Female protagonists in these novels are damsels in
distress ready to be rescued from the stupidity they have brought upon themselves: Bella wanders alone
after dark in the city and has some guys chasing after her, Elena leaves the homecoming dance with a
disreputable character and he gets too rough with her …. The appeal of old-fashioned ideals for teenagers,
such as chivalry, being a gentleman, getting married before having sex … might be surprising at first
glance, but it can be better understood when we bear in mind that these novels also capitalize on the rush
of emotions and hormones that control teenagers such as teenage angst, the anxiety about an uncertain
future, (college, unstable job market, moving away from home and friends …), alienation, the search for an
identity of one’s own while conforming to social rules and norms (be them the high school microcosm or
society as a whole) …
The uncanny comes closer to home, maybe even too close for comfort. For instance, The Faculty has
a student’s worst nightmare come true — that your teacher is really a monster. If the premise of Prom
Nights From Hell, the short story collection co-authored by Stephenie Meyer, Meg Cabot and two other
authors, holds true, vampires and other supernatural monsters are about to come a fixture of prom nights
and high school dances as much as beautiful dresses and punch. In these stories, high schools can very
well be a horror site, as teenage movies have showed over and over again. All in all, by presenting a more
understanding and sympathetic view of the vampire, the Twilight series and The Vampire Diaries also
offer an agenda of their own, whose influence on teenagers remains to be seen other than the rapid rise of
the use of Isabella and Edward as two of the most popular baby names in the U.S. right now.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Gomez-Galisteo, M. Carmen. “Beware! This is a Ghost-Free Ghost Story: Revisiting the New England
Folklore in Remember Me by Mary Higgins Clark.” Contemporary Legend: the Journal of the
International Society for Contemporary Legend Research. Vol. 9. (2006): 53-68.
. “Flight from the Apocalypse: Protestants, Puritans and the Great Migration.” In Karolyn
Kinane & Michael A. Ryan (eds.) End of Days: Essays on the Apocalypse from Antiquity to
Modernity. Jefferson, NC & London: McFarland, 2009. 103-119.
. “Remember Your Puritan Past: The Haunted House in Remember Me by Mary Higgins
Clark.” Ad Americam: Journal of American Studies. Vol. 8 (2007): 21-29.
Megan, Kathleen. “Fear As An Aphrodisiac.” Hartford Courant. 18 November 2009. Available at: http://
articles.courant.com/2009-11-18/news/09111712259486_1_young-girls-dangerous-twilight-books.
Date of access: 17 March 2010.
Meyer, Stephanie. Breaking Dawn. London: Atom, 2009.
. Eclipse. London: Atom, 2008.
. Midnight Sun. Available at: http://www.stepheniemeyer.com/pdf/midnightsun_partial_
draft4.pdf. Date of access: 7 September 2009.
. New Moon. London: Atom, 2008.
. Twilight. London: Atom, 2008.
Smith, L. J. The Vampire Diaries I. London: Hachette Children’s Books, 2009.
. The Vampire Diaries II. London: Hachette Children’s Books, 2009

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