by Stephenie Meyer
Where It All Goes Down
Forks, Washington; Volterra, Italy
Like Twilight, New Moon happens during modern times (around 2006). The book mainly takes place in present-day Forks, Washington, with a short trip to Volterra, Italy, and back.
Rainy, foggy, cold – Forks is still Forks, proudly claiming the highest rainfall per year in the United States. But Bella doesn’t mind the weather anymore, because she now associates Forks with Edward. In fact, Bella describes her blissful summer with Edward, as "The happiest… and the rainiest summer in the history of the Olympic Peninsula" (1.28).
As in Twilight, the woods play a central role in adding a dark mood to the story. However, in Twilight, the forest possessed some redeeming elements, while in New Moon, it always represents tragedy, nightmares, and a dangerous, inhuman world. As for tragedy, Edward breaks up with Bella on a walk in the forest. The darkness of the woods matches the darkness in her heart:
Was it always so dark here at night? Surely… some… moonlight… would filter through the chinks in the canopy of trees, and find the ground. Not tonight. (3.217-218).
After Edward’s departure, Bella is plagued by a recurring nightmare. Although the nightmare changes and evolves, it always takes place in the woods:
There was nothing really. Only nothing. Just the endless maze of moss-covered trees, so quiet that the silence was an uncomfortable pressure against my eardrums. It was dark… only enough light to see that there was nothing to see. (5.17)
When Jacob appears on the scene, his loving warmth becomes Bella's "personal sun" (8.194). Without the company of Jacob, though, the forest only holds supernatural danger for Bella. In search of the lovely meadow, her safe and sunny harbor of love with Edward, Bella nearly gets killed by the vampire Laurent. It’s also where she sees the werewolves for the first time. Her visit to the Cullen house, also in the woods, further leaves her alienated from this place that was once so benign.
The lane was so overgrown, it did not look familiar… the house was there, but it wasn’t the same… It was creepy. For the first time… it looked like a fitting haunt for vampires… I was anxious… to get back to the human world. (7.21)
Volterra is far away from Forks in typically sunny Italy. But it’s wintertime over there too, and "Even in the sun, the wind was glacial, and the wet made the cold actually painful" (20.44). Moreover, sunshine, at this point in the story, has become a tool of death: it will publicly expose Edward as a vampire and force the Volturi to fulfill his death wish.
Bella describes the city itself as medieval and ominous:
The street was very narrow… cobbled… faded buildings… darkened the street with their shade. (20.29)
In short, Volterra is a city where time has stopped. What a perfect home for the Volturi, the vampire world’s most ancient and powerful family. Even more macabre is the fact that it’s St. Marcus Day, a tribute to the saint who allegedly drove all vampires out of Volterra. The streets are packed with people, celebrating the safety of Volterra, dressed in vampire robes and red shawls, which Bella describes as "a patch of bloody color against the ancient, dull walls" (20.8).
While the Forks forest radiates evil because of its spacious, eerie silence, Volterra’s evil comes from its bustling voices and bodies, which establish a strong sense of claustrophobia. Bella has to fight her way through the crowd to get to Edward.
The Volturi’s underground tunnel system is even scarier. Never-ending and claustrophobic, it appears to lead into an even darker lair. To Bella’s surprise, she finds herself in a posh reception area with cozy couches. Underneath the "inviting" atmosphere, danger lurks. The smell of flowers reminds Bella of a funeral home (21.5).
So, all in all, the setting seems to act against Bella, which again echoes the title, New Moon – a dark, moonless atmosphere to accompany the darkest moments in Bella’s life.