Analysis: What's Up With the Epigraph?
Epigraphs are like little appetizers to the great entrée of a story. They illuminate important aspects of the story, and they get us headed in the right direction.
These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder
Which, as they kiss, consume.
Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene VI
This is one of several quotes from Romeo and Juliet in New Moon. Even more, Bella uses Shakespeare’s tragic love story as a template for her own version of the tale, starring Edward as Romeo and Jacob as Paris, Juliet's suitor.
But back to the epigraph: let’s first get the context of this quote in Shakespeare’s play. In the scene, Romeo and Friar Laurence are waiting for Juliet. Romeo is head over heels for Juliet, which causes Friar Laurence to speak the above words to calm the young man down a little. Marriage is for the long term, so he warns Romeo to love moderately because, when things get too heated (when "fire meets powder"), something might blow up. Juliet arrives and, of course, neither of the two lovers listens to such advice. (Check out our full discussion of Romeo and Juliet on Shmoop.)
On her website, Stephenie Meyer tells us that she chose the epigraph to foreshadow danger and potential heartbreak for Edward and Bella. Does that sound on target?
Well, we’d say that slamming powder (as in gunpowder) and fire together ("violently," at that) definitely sounds dangerous. But there’s also something so triumphantly delightful about mixing the two, because aren’t fire and powder made for each other? Made to combust, kind of like the fireworks that occur when drop-dead gorgeous vampire man meets human girl with the sweetest smelling blood that "sings" (22.60) to his senses?
Fire and powder also sounds like war, right? So the epigraph could also point to the epilogue in New Moon, when Bella acknowledges that her transformation into vampire will most likely cause a war between the Cullens and the werewolves. So one could argue that Bella’s "violent delights," meaning first getting romantically involved with a vampire and then becoming friends with a werewolf, have created a situation made of "fire and powder."
Bella’s stubborn determination to be both with Edward and Jacob doesn’t help the situation. It almost qualifies as a double portion of fire and powder. What a classic, supernatural love triangle. How does it compare to the love triangle in Shakespeare’s tragedy? Check out "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory" for some of our thoughts.