The "Twilight" Series

The “Twilight” Series (Books)

(pop culture)

The “Twilight” series consists of four novels by Stephenie Meyer about a teenage romance between a human girl and her vampire boyfriend. The books were published by Little, Brown and Company beginning with the first, Twilight, in 2005, followed by New Moon (2006), Eclipse (2007), and Breaking Dawn (2008). A fifth manuscript, Midnight Sun (2008), was the expected companion novel to Twilight retelling the events from the perspective of the vampire Edward Cullen rather than that of Isabella Swan. Meyer completed only the first 12 chapters of Midnight Sun before it was illegally leaked on the Internet. The incomplete and unfinished manuscript is now posted on Meyer’s website www.StephenieMeyer.com.

In an interview, Meyer has said that Twilight is loosely tied to Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice while New Moon was influenced by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

The “Twilight” series quickly rose to international fame and made record-breaking sales. Publishers Weekly reported book sales of $27.5 million of the four vampire novels in March 2009, which prompted the publication to crown Meyer the “new queen” in children’s literature, succeeding J. K. Rowling and her Harry Potter series. The four “Twilight” books have been translated into at least 20 languages and published in 39 countries with over forty-two million copies sold worldwide. The movie Twilight (2008) earned $69.6 million for its opening weekend in North America and over $191 million for its total domestic gross. The Twilight DVD sold over three million copies in its first day of release. Meyer’s novels have also spawned close to 350 fan sites and inspired Twilight-related merchandise sales over the Internet.

Much of Twilight departs radically from nineteenth-century vampire literature. Meyer has explained that “almost all of the superstitions about vampire limitations are entirely false” in her novels. Her vampires are instead immune to the harmful effects of crosses, wooden stakes, holy water, garlic, and sunlight (which makes their skin glitter like diamonds). Twilight’s vampires do have mirror reflections but do not have fangs. Their pale skin is cold and icy to the touch, and they don’t need sleep. They have extremely quick reflexes and can run fast and leap high, but they don’t shape shift into bats or fly. While Bram Stoker‘s Dracula has bad breath, Edward’s is sweet. But Meyer’s vampires are sustained by blood alone, which lightens their eyes and flushes their skin slightly. They are immensely strong (especially during the first year of their vampire life), and their transformation makes them physically stunning and beautiful.

On the other hand, Meyer’s vampires owe much of their characteristics to juvenile literature and the good guy vampires. In the Twilight series, the Cullens and their extended family call themselves “vegetarians” in that they obtain blood from animals and not by killing humans. Meyer instead has placed the Cullens—especially Edward—in a situation where they continually fight against their vampirism yet retain the ability to make ethical choices. Like the vampire hero St. Germain of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro‘s novels, Edward Cullen is a romantic hero immune to the traditional weapons of vampire hunters and prefers to cultivate a life of scholarship and culture. And like television‘s Angel, Edward was once a vicious killer before he chose to become a “vegetarian,” who refrains from human blood. Edward also develops a romantic attachment to a woman, but in a sharp departure from vampire literary tradition, he seriously raises the issue of marriage and abstains from all sexual relations until marriage.

The subject of werewolves and vampires resurfaces in the Twilight books as well as the movie series. Initially, Meyer refers to the transformation of Quileute tribal members as werewolves, although at the end of Breaking Dawn Edward reveals that the werewolves are actually shape-shifters who take the form of wolves. The vampires of the Twilight series outnumber the werewolves because werewolves can’t change people by biting them but instead can transform only through a genetic link. They do not age as long as they regularly transform into wolves. Although vampires and werewolves are traditional enemies in Meyer’s novels, they eventually agree to coexist peacefully.

Twilight, the first book in the series, introduces seventeen-year-old Isabella Swan (Bella) who is moving from Phoenix, Arizona, to be with her father in Forks, Washington. At Forks High School, Bella meets the handsome Edward Cullen and soon learns that he is a member of a vampire family that drinks animal rather than human blood. Edward and Bella fall in love but the sadistic vampire tracker James tries to confront her and kill her. Bella is seriously wounded, but the Cullens rescue her and return her to Forks.

New Moon, the second book, begins when a minor incident at Bella’s eighteenth birthday party convinces Edward that he and his family are endangering Bella’s life. Edward leaves Bella, and the Cullens move out of Forks. At first, Bella slips into a depression until she befriends Jacob Black, a Quileute Indian who has the ability to transform into a werewolf. Bella discovers that when she places herself in danger, she subconsciously hears Edward’s voice. Meanwhile, James’s mate Victoria returns to Forks to avenge his death, prompting Jacob and his wolf pack to protect Bella. But a misunderstanding occurs when Edward’s sister Alice sees Bella dead in a vision. Edward is heartbroken and decides to commit suicide among the Volturi, a powerful vampire coven in Italy. Alice and Bella fly to Italy to stop Edward, and the couple is reunited. The Cullens move back to Forks and agree to turn Bella into a vampire in the near future.

Eclipse opens with a mysterious string of murders in Seattle. The vampire Victoria has created an army of “newborn” vampires to battle the Cullens and kill Bella. Meanwhile, Bella must choose between her love for Edward and her friendship with Jacob. She pressures Edward to have sex and he refuses until they are married. Edward proposes to Bella and promises that he will turn her into a vampire when she marries him. Edward, the Cullens, and the wolf pack all join forces to fight the newborn vampires and protect Bella. Jacob is furious about Bella’s decision to become a vampire, so he leaves Forks and Bella agrees to marry Edward.

Breaking Dawn, the fourth book in the Twilight series, is divided into three books, two from Bella’s perspective and one from Jacob’s. Bella and Edward are married and he takes her to a remote island off the coast of Brazil for their honeymoon. But Bella discovers that she is pregnant and the child is growing rapidly. The couple rush home to the Cullens, and Bella nearly dies giving birth to her half vampire, half human daughter Renesmee. Jacob rushes back to Forks and is angry when Edward transforms Bella into a vampire. Jacob involuntarily “imprints” on Renesmee, causing the child to be bonded to him for life. A vampire from another coven sees Renesmee and mistakes her for an “immortal child” (which violates vampire law), so the Volturi set out with an army of vampires to destroy her. The Cullens summon their extended family and friends of various vampire covens and together with Jacob’s wolf pack they gather for the final showdown with the Volturi.

Sources:

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Carpenter, Susan. “Web Gave Twilight Fresh Blood.” Los Angeles Times (November 29, 2008): E1.
Gresh, Lois H. The Twilight Companion: The Unauthorized Guide to the Series. St. Martin’s Griffin: New York, 2008. 242 pp.
Hopkins, Ellen, ed. A New Dawn: Your Favorite Authors on Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga: Completely Unauthorized. Benbella Books, 2009. 186 pp.
Housel, Rebecca, and J. Jeremy Wisnewski, eds. Twilight and Philosophy: Vampires, Vegetarians, and the Pursuit of Immortality. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2009. 259 pp.
“Latest Bestsellers of Children’s Series and Tie-Ins.” Publishers Weekly. (May 25, 2009).
Roback, Diane. “Stephenie Meyer is the New Queen in Children’s Succeeding Rowling.” Publishers Weekly 256, 12 (March 23, 2009): 30.
Twilight_News_Updates. Brigham Young University Midwinter Symposium on Books for Young Readers. February 2007. Posted at http://www.twilightlexicon.com/2007/02/09/the-q-a-from-the-february-2007-byu-symposium/. Accessed on April 9, 2010.
Twilight_News_Updates. Deviations from Vampire Legend. December 4, 2006. Posted at http://www.twilightlexicon.com/2006/04/12/deviations-from-vampire-legend/. Accessed on April 8, 2010.
Twilight_News_Updates. Personal Correspondence No. 1. March 11, 2006; April 10, 2006, Posted at http://www.twilightlexicon.com/the-lexicon/personal-correspondence/. Accessed on April 9, 2010.
Vaz, Mark Cotta. Twilight: The Complete Illustrated Movie Companion. Little, Brown and Company: New York, Boston, 2008. 142 pp.