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I am a 30-year-old woman in love with a teenage vampire. This is not a “National Inquirer” headline. I am embarrassed, but I do not attempt to keep this fascination under wraps. I am in literary lust with Edward Cullen, the hero/antihero of Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight” quartet. I thought I would never say this but Edward Cullen makes me want to be 17 again. I am slightly mollified that while he looks like a 17-year-old boy he is actually a 108-year-old vampire, but I still feel a bit dirty. Edward is brooding, arrogant and exhibits frightening stalker-like behavior. He is also incredibly romantic, a fierce protector and deliciously inscrutable. Edward can read minds, everyone’s but Bella’s. The facet of this series, most especially “Twilight” book, that most draws me is the inevitability of our teenage vampire’s relationship with the heroine, klutzy every girl Bella. He has no choice but to love her as she is. He loves her despite her mediocrity and his inability to read her. Meyer made a masterful stroke in making Bella mundane, because it is easy to discredit her and push her off your mental pier, and place yourself in Edward’s arms.
Edward Cullen may not be a novel hero for the ages. He is derivative and trapped in a ludicrous, gushing young adult book that is still worth reading because it evokes genuine emotion. When I first read “Twilight” pre-sequels, and way before the movie, I was immediately obsessed, but the only other fanatical people I could talk to about the book were the teenage girls that frequent my library. We would squeal and swoon together. Edward is just another handsome hero in an established literary line marching back through the history of the novel—swoon worthy fictional men that give you unrealistic expectations of men and relationships. From Edward Ferrars in “Sense and Sensibility” to Edmund Bertram in “Mansfield Park” to Edward Rochester in “Jane Eyre”, Edward Cullen is a white knight saving another princess making real life for their readers unsatisfactory.
Meyer has sampled and sifted through the great romantic heroes in literature to create her Edward. Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters created some of the most romantic and most imitated heroes. The Bronte’s heroes are brooding and inscrutable. Emily Bronte’s Heathcliff is the prototypical stalker of literature. Austen’s heroes are sometimes charming, always dashing and gentlemanly. Edward Ferrars in Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” faces opposition from family and friends to marry Lucy Steele. In “Twilight,” Edward Cullen faces opposition from family and friends to love Bella. Edward Rochester in “Jane Eyre” falls in love with Jane because her simplicity and plainness contrast so much with the women to whom he is accustomed, similar to Edward and Bella. In fact, Bella, the heroine of “Twilight,” spends her time between obsessing over Edward and finding danger reading “Wuthering Heights.” While Edward Cullen watches her sleep (read stalks her), he reads a few pages of the book on her bedside table, “The Collected Works of Jane Austen.” The authors are to blame. They create these paragons of the page, these testaments to testosterone that lead to unrealistic expectations.