by Stephenie Meyer
Isabella "Bella" Swan
Bella in Denial
Throughout Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse (except for the Epilogue), Bella has been our sole narrator. Her eyes have become ours and we have learned to trust her. But what if she isn't telling us the whole truth? That shouldn't surprise us. After all, she's become the queen of half-truths since she first got involved with a vampire boyfriend and a werewolf best friend. We also know that she's strong-willed, and "the stubbornest person alive" (21.195) when it comes to conforming the world to her wishes. So when she finds herself confronted with a vampire army, her impending transformation into a vampire, and her choice between Edward and Jacob, she falls straight into self-denial.
When Jacob declares his love for her and seals it with a forced kiss, she punches him and throws a fit. Yet, here's how she describes the kiss: "His mouth was soft, despite the anger his lips molding themselves to mine in a warm, unfamiliar way" (15.33). That sounds kind of pleasant, right? In fact, Jacob believes she kissed him back. Of course, Bella denies it.
Although Bella avoids physical closeness with human Jacob after the kiss, she has no problem with furry werewolf Jacob licking her face. Again, Jacob appears to nail the truth: "…it's easier for you to be near me when I'm not human, because you don't have to pretend you're not attracted to me" (21.227). Bella's mouth drops and, of course, she denies it. But then…
Jacob finds out she's getting married to Edward. He blackmails her into kissing him, and this time, his strategy works: Ding! Bella acknowledges the truth to Jacob and us: she's been in love with him all along as well.
Just like Bella stubbornly insists that she's not "in love" with Jacob, she keeps marveling at Edward's selflessness and lack of jealousy, despite blatant evidence to the contrary. In the tent in the woods, we're right there with her when Edward admits that he's insanely jealous of Jacob, but he's "not such a fool as to wear it on [his] sleeve" (22.121). Yet, Bella denies Edward's imperfection until the very end.
Lastly, there's Bella's habit of talking in her sleep. "I thought Bella was never going to shut up," says Jacob after spending the night in the sleeping bag with her. Ask Sigmund Freud or just your friendly neighbor and they'll tell you that talking in your sleep is a sure sign of suppressed emotions, a.k.a. denial. Although Bella acknowledges her dreaming habit with embarrassment, she often doesn't remember or bother to elaborate to us.
So, in short, our Bella is crumbling at the edges. Or maybe she just doesn't know any better…
Bella as Cathy – or Bella, the Selfish Monster
Asked about the characters' tragic flaws in Eclipse, Stephenie Meyer says that Bella's big flaw is her lack of self-knowledge:
She never would have pursued her friendship with Jacob if she had realized how much more than friendship it really was. You don't give up your friends when you fall in love; however, you do give up your other romantic interests. If Bella had understood herself better, she could have saved everyone a lot of heartbreak. Sometimes that happens when you try to do the right thing. (source)
Throughout Eclipse, Bella torments herself over her selfish choices and actions, yet doesn't seem to stop her "hideous" (23.13) ways. The problem is that she doesn't know what she wants, because she lacks self-knowledge. Makes sense. She therefore doesn't understand the consequences of her actions. "It's what she wants – at least, she thinks she does" (22.158), Edward says to Jacob. Bella believes she has no choice but to love Edward. He is her one true love.
Bella compares the inevitability of their bond to that of Cathy Earnshaw and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. At the same time, just as Cathy loves two men, Bella has strong feelings for Jacob. She kind of wants both Edward and Jacob, which is why, in the beginning of the story, she arranges to be shuttled back and forth across the front lines between Edward and Jacob. Although her actions clearly hurt them all, including her, Bella keeps putting off choosing between them, because she is mostly thinking of her own needs.
Bella commits another act of selfishness when she asks Edward to sit out the fight and stay with her. Although she says that she doesn't want him to choose her over his family, isn't that exactly what she is asking him to do? Yet, she can't help it. "Cruel, I accused myself. Selfish, selfish, selfish! Don't do it! I ignored my better instincts" (19.116-117). Bella doesn't seem to realize how selfish her actions are until Jacob finds out she has agreed to marry Edward:
I was selfish. I was hurtful. I tortured the ones I loved. I was like Cathy, like Wuthering Heights, only my options were so much better than hers, neither one evil, neither weak. I couldn't allow what hurt me to influence my decisions anymore. (23.158-159)
When Bella finally makes the choice to be with Edward not Jacob, she hurts him and herself, but she knows the made the right, unselfish choice and recognizes her pain as part of growing up.
Bella's Coming of Age
After examining Bella's denial, selfishness, and lack of self-knowledge, we think it's time to give the girl a break. She's still young and she's only human! Yes, she's officially an adult now, but did she ever get to experience a real teenage life? She always had to take care of her parents, she's taking care of Charlie now, and her first boyfriend turns out to be very mature 100+-year-old vampire. Sorry. No time for rollercoaster hormones, for doing stupid stuff without thinking of the consequences, for wanting to have sex because you shouldn't, for being stubborn and selfish, and for having no idea who you are. Well, what often happens when we try to just skip things is that they re-enter our lives with a vengeance.
That's exactly what's happens to Bella. Loaded with the emotional pressures of war, love, life, death, or transformation into a vampire, her self-control cracks and out slips…a teenager! Swayed back and forth by emotions and hormones, she cries, punches, argues, and tries to seduce a vampire. The discovery of her hormones prompts her to ask Edward for the one human experience she wants to have before her transformation: sex. And now, preferably before marriage.
She exhibits the same teenage reactions when it comes to marriage: in her mind, marriage sucks, period, and she leaves out no "gah" or "ugh" exclamations when describing her feelings about "matrimony." Yet, when Edward puts a ring on her finger to see if it fits, she only "feigns" a lack of interest and secretly admits to that it wasn't "quite as awful" as she imagined. She even hints at the fact that her whole marriage allergy is nothing but a reaction to her parents' failed marriage (20.264). If that doesn't have teenage rebellion written all over it…
Then there's her transformation into a vampire. Until the day is just a week away, she's dead set on becoming a vampire with all that entails, at least as she's seen it up until this point: beauty, eternal youth, and supernatural skills. But suddenly faced with the reality of it all, she gets cold feet. Of course she plays tough in front of Edward and hides her fears – unsuccessfully. When he tells her that she doesn't have to change now or ever, she gets mad at him.
Finally, though, Bella gets a grip on her hormones and decides to act responsibly again – the way we know her. She realizes that she owes her parents a human wedding, and that she really does think marriage should come before sex and before transformation. She says to Edward, "Everything in the right order. I will tie myself to you in every human way before I ask you to make me immortal" (27.179).For more info on Bella, check out her "Character Analyses" in Twilight and New Moon.