Despite being a book for teenagers, Twilight has become a worldwide phenomenon just as its successor Fifty Shades of Grey. Fans were divided into two teams – Team Jacob and Team Edward - and the saga inspired readers into producing their own works of fan-fiction, among them E L James and her trilogy Fifty Shades of Grey. However, E L James is not the only author who got inspired by her favourite books. Meyer also found inspiration for her successful Twilight series in a famous love story from the nineteenth century – Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
What connects Twilight and Pride and Prejudice is not only the central love story but also the lack of sexuality which is rather unusual in contemporary literature. This approach that Meyer undertakes shows a possibility of inspiration by Austen who also ignores the sexual aspect of a relationship in Pride and Prejudice. Apart from that, the main characters present in Twilight also share certain features of those from Pride and Prejudice and this chapter strives to analyze and compare them in order to prove the similarity between the two novels, focusing on the narratives, main motifs and characters.
3.1 The Narrative and the Main Motifs
Throughout the story, the same topic is developed in both Pride and Prejudice and Twilight; the romance and the relationship in particular. According to Daniel Kraus in Twilight: “little happens besides the slight ups and downs of two characters getting to know each other” (Kraus 73). Similar thing is said about Pride and Prejudice by Walter E. Anderson: “The luminosity of Pride and Prejudice resides in its central love story” (Anderson 368). Both novels focus primarily on the relationship of the two main characters and its development, while other aspects of the plot are repressed just as in Pamela and Fifty Shades of Grey. This indicates that the definition of romance by Chappel can be applied to Pride and Prejudice and Twilight too. Due to this uniformity, the main motifs analysed in these novels are almost the same as used in analysis of Pamela and Fifty Shades of Grey: the relationship and its development, the family, the virtue and the social unacceptance.
On the other hand, the relationship in Twilight and Pride and Prejudice is different from the relationship in Pamela and Fifty Shades of Grey, as it does not introduce a struggle of the heroines to gain equality and the desire of the heroes to make them obedient but it is rather a process of the change of the feelings of both the hero and the heroine from negative – indifference or rejection – to affection.
The first interaction of the heroine and hero in both Pride and Prejudice and Twilight leaves the heroine feel rejected. In the former, Elizabeth “remained with no cordial feelings” towards Darcy after she overhears him call her “not handsome enough” (Austen 10). Similarly, when Bella hears that Edward wants to switch classes so that he does not have to attend the same as she does, the heroine cannot help “fighting tears” (Meyer 28). Early in the novel, the hero discourages the heroine and his action becomes the way of introducing the romance in the story. According to Radway, “the cruelty and indifference that the hero exhibits toward the heroine in the early part of the novel are really of no consequence because they actually originated in love and affection” (151). This is true about Twilight in which the hero behaves inappropriately in order to protect the heroine from him; however, Darcy’s affection originates from the cruelty, rather than the cruelty originating from the affection. It is only after he calls Elizabeth to be “not handsome enough” that he acknowledges her “fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman” (Austen 25). Either way, the cruelty marks the beginning of the relationship that later develops in both novels.
Another thing which intensifies the negative impression that the heroes make on the heroines in the beginning of the story is their secret which is communicated though the figure of a rival; Wickham, in Pride and Prejudice, deliberately and falsely accuses Darcy in front of Elizabeth and Jacob, in Twilight, is the one who tells Bella about the possibility of Edward being a vampire. This act alienates the heroine from the hero; Elizabeth calls Darcy’s acts “dishonest” (Austen 78) and forms opinion based on Wickham’s story:
I can much more easily believe Mr. Bingley's being imposed on, than that Mr. Wickham should invent such a history of himself as he gave me last night; names, facts, everything mentioned without ceremony. If it be not so, let Mr. Darcy contradict it. Besides, there was truth in his looks. . . . one knows exactly what to think. (Austen 83)
Bella even thinks of ignoring Edward: “. . . to be smart, to avoid him as much as possible. To cancel our plans, to go back to ignoring him as far as I was able. To pretend there was an impenetrably thick glass wall between us in the one class where we were forced together. To tell him to leave me alone – and mean it this time” (Meyer 138). Despite the negative impression that the action of the hero causes, the subsequent revelation of the truth unites the heroine with the hero in both novels. However, in Twilight, this revelation happens earlier in the novel than in Pride and Prejudice as Bella quickly abandons the idea of ignoring Edward and decides to “do nothing different” (Meyer 139). Elizabeth, on the other hand, is more persistent and lasts until Darcy gives her the letter in which he reveals this secret.
The change of the behaviour of the hero is, in both novels, depicted through the rescuing of the heroine and through the revelation of his secret. When Edward rescues Bella in Port Angeles and when Darcy saves Elizabeth’s sister, their behaviour changes from cruel to caring and protective. In Twilight, this protection is even stronger as Edward saves Bella several times throughout the novel. Either way, this act of rescue makes the heroines think differently about heroes. For Elizabeth, this act represents a new hope:
Her heart did whisper that he had done it for her. But it was a hope shortly checked by other considerations, and she soon felt that even her vanity was insufficient, when required to depend on his affection for her—for a woman who had already refused him—as able to overcome a sentiment so natural as abhorrence against relationship with Wickham. . . . and though she would not place herself as his principal inducement, she could, perhaps, believe that remaining partiality for her might assist his endeavours in a cause where her peace of mind must be materially concerned. (Austen 315)
Additionally, Elizabeth feels “proud” of Darcy and “pleased” with the way her aunt talks about him after she finds out about his heroic deed (Austen 315). In Bella’s case, this act inflicts romantic feelings of the heroine as she admits to be “unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him” after Edward saves her (Meyer 195). The way that the heroines think about the heroes is changed by these actions as both Elizabeth and Bella acknowledge their feelings for heroes afterwards.
But these actions of the heroes prove more as they serve as a means of introducing the good side of the male character: “Elisabeth realizes that Mr Darcy is a good person when he rescues her sister Lydia from social disaster. In contemporary stories with the human vampire this recognition of the vampire’s inner goodness often takes place before the beginning of the (love) story” (Lindén 222). Despite what Claudia Lindén claims, in Twilight the case is different as Edward saves Bella more than once and his goodness is being revealed gradually – therefore it is not easy to say whether this happens before the beginning of the love story or not. On the other hand, it is mainly through his heroic actions that he proves his goodness.
The revelation of the secret also helps transform the relationship between the hero and the heroine in both Twilight and Pride and Prejudice. In the latter, the secret of Darcy becomes his conduct towards Wickham and intervening in Bingley’s relationship with Jane. The heroine learns the truth through the letter from Mr. Darcy which she receives after she confronts him, and despite her primary scepticism – she reads the letter “with a strong prejudice against every thing he might say” – Elizabeth’s feelings are transformed to the point when “she could think only of her letter” (Austen 198, 203). She also feels “gratitude” and “respect” towards Darcy when she thinks about his letter and his proposal (Austen 206). In Twilight, Edward’s secret is the fact that he is a vampire and although Bella partly finds this out herself, his confirmation unites the heroine and the hero as she feels that they are talking “openly, the walls between us gone for once” (Meyer 187).
Despite the difference which Joseph Crawford depicts in the behaviour of the heroine: “. . . while Elizabeth Bennett has to overcome Darcy’s pride and distance through a combination of anger, intelligence and humility, Bella simply lays siege to Edward until he succumbs to the sheer force of her desire” he admits that Twilight “is modelled on Pride and Prejudice” (171). This way, he also suggests that it is, in both novels, the heroine who affects the change of the hero’s conduct. On the other hand, as Lindén explains: “Edward changes in crucial ways throughout the series: Like a certain Mr. Darcy, he must overcome his prejudice, jealousy, class complex and will to dominate” it is the hero who changes significantly (217-18). This way their relationship is developed until the hero and the heroine confess their feelings to each other. In Pride and Prejudice, this happens nearly by the end of the novel when Darcy proposes to Elizabeth for the second time, however, this tension in Twilight is not that great as Bella and Edward confess their feelings early in the novel, assuring each other of their anxiety: “It makes me...anxious...to be away from you . . . It makes me anxious, too” (Meyer 188, 190). Despite the difference in the rapidity of the progress, both relationships end in marriage.
The sexual tension, on the other hand, is equal in both novels as it “remains unresolved until the couple are married” not only in Twilight, but also in Pride and Prejudice (Kokkola 165). However, in the latter, the author does not care to inform the reader about any sexual contact between the hero and the heroine throughout the whole novel. Either way, this approach allows the authors to explore other sides of the romantic relationship outside the sexual, yet it does not fail to allow them to introduce an exciting love story.
Closely connected to the issue of sexual tension is the motif of virtue. Although it is not discussed in Pride and Prejudice or Twilight as much as in Pamela, it still plays an important role in the story. There is not much said about Elizabeth’s virtue in Pride and Prejudice, but that is not because the virtue is not important for Austen. Instead, she uses Lydia in order to make Elizabeth consider the virtue in connection with a marriage: “How Wickham and Lydia were to be supported in tolerable independence, she could not imagine. But how little of permanent happiness could belong to a couple who were only brought together because their passions were stronger than their virtue, she could easily conjecture” (Austen 300). Elizabeth does not think that a marriage without a virtue is a marriage that can last. However, she does not seem to approve of Mary’s opinion “that loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable; that one false step involves her in endless ruin” (Austen 278). Although she realizes the importance of the virtue in marriage, she does not consider it the most important feature of a woman. Austen rather emphasizes the importance of the virtue in both – a woman and a man – than only in a woman “Both parties want more from marriage than utility or pleasure. As virtuous people—or as people who are on the way to becoming virtuous—both Darcy and Elizabeth know, or at least sense, that they will be most happy with a virtuous spouse.” (Garbitelli 30) A similar approach is adapted by Meyer in Twilight; Bella remains virtuous until she is married to Edward who is the first man she is interested in. On the other hand, it is mostly Edward who avoids any physical contact with Bella mainly because he considers it too dangerous. Kokkola summarizes this conflict: “And, despite Bella’s third millennium reluctance to marry, Edward insists on taking her back to the morals of his Edwardian childhood and marrying her before he will agree to have sex (166). Bella does not consider her virtue that important, however, its presence makes her relationship with Edward special as it is the first relationship for her. Meyer manages to preserve Austen’s ideology even in the twenty-first century; that passions stronger than virtue do not secure “permanent happiness.” Therefore, Edward must control his passions otherwise he and Bella would not be together forever. If he gives in, he kills Bella and so ruins his chance of happiness.
Another important motif, which is present in both novels analysed, is the family. In Pride and Prejudice, the primary focus is on Elizabeth’s family, with the author not only offering an insight into their life but also into the character of each individual; as early as in the first chapter we learn a lot about marriage of Mr. Bennet and his wife:
Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three-and-twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character. Her mind was less difficult to develop. She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented, she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news. (Austen 3)
In Twilight, a similar attention is dedicated to Cullen family. Meyer introduces the history of each character when Edward talks with Bella about his family and explains how he became a vampire: “Carlisle brought Rosalie to our family next. I didn’t realize till much later that he was hoping she would be to me what Esme was to him – he was careful with his thoughts around me . . .” (289). Although Meyer’s unfinished Midnight Sun offers a closer look at Cullen family – as it is written from Edward’s perspective – a lot of time is dedicated to Cullens in Twilight too. Just as Pride and Prejudice begins by introducing the Bennet family, the first description of the Cullen children is given by Bella early in the novel: “They were sitting in the corner of the cafeteria, as far away from where I sat as possible in the long room. They were five of them. They weren’t talking, and they weren’t eating, though they each had a tray of untouched food in front of them” (Meyer 19).
In Twilight, Meyer emphasizes the importance of family just as Austen in Pride and Prejudice. Darcy has obligations towards Elizabeth’s family and their “defects” which cause his feelings for her to be “repressed” (Austen 191, 185). Through this act, the author shows the importance of the family one comes from; the more powerful and richer the family is the more freedom the character has in their choice of partner. In Twilight series, Meyer transforms this into creating vampire covens; vampires live in “families” or covens and the most powerful coven called Volturi is superior to all other vampires. Thus, in both novels, the significance of one’s family becomes what determines the power of individual character.
The last issue appearing in both Pride and Prejudice and Twilight is the social unacceptance. In the former, more than one thing becomes socially unacceptable; firstly, it is Lydia running away with Wickham, secondly, it is the behaviour of Elizabeth’s mother and of the whole family. According to Peter Knox-Shaw these two correlate: “it is precisely Mrs Bennet’s relentless match-making that seals Lydia’s fate by putting her into Wickham’s hands, her pandering on this occasion nearly destroying the hopes of her two elder daughters” (qtd. in Sturrock 25). In his words, it is Mrs. Bennet who is responsible for the misfortunes of her elder daughters, however, Darcy criticizes the “total want of propriety” (Austen 191) not only of Elizabeth’s mother but also her sisters and even her father and introduces this as one of the reasons why he ruins Jane’s relationship with Bingley. In addition, Caroline Bingley who teases Darcy for fancying Elizabeth: “You will have a charming mother-in-law. . .” also shows her disapproval of the conduct of Bennet family (Austen 25). However, probably the strongest opponent against Darcy’s marriage to Elizabeth is Lady Catherine who thinks that such relationship “must disgrace him in the eyes of everybody” (Austen 344). Thus, in Pride and Prejudice, the overcoming of the differences between two distinct social classes is still an issue as well as in Pamela. Additionally, just as the motif of social unacceptance works similarly in these two novels, so it does in Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey; in the former, it is Edward being a vampire which becomes socially unacceptable and just as in the latter, him concealing it from the world is what defines the unacceptance of this fact. Edward warns Bella repeatedly to “stay away” (Meyer 84) from him in order to protect her and his family for as he says: “it’s dangerous for more than just me if, after spending so much time with you so publicly . . . If this ends...badly” (Meyer 246). He also says that his family are “looking for privacy” (Meyer 199). This effort of Edward and his entire family to keep their identity hidden from the society shows that the fact that Edward and the whole Cullen family are vampires is what becomes the socially unacceptable in Twilight; the Cullens hide their true identity because they are afraid that society would not approve of it.
3.2 The Characters
The characters of the heroine and the hero in Twilight are also an example of Meyer’s inspiration by Austen. Bella and Elizabeth are both in search of true love and neither of the two heroines gives up this dream in the novel. Despite Elizabeth’s bad financial situation, she refuses to accept Mr. Collins who, as Mr. Bennet says: “may turn you all out of this house as soon as he pleases” because he is the one who inherits his estate (58). The marriage with Mr. Collins would give Elizabeth a chance to save herself and her family from becoming impoverished, however, she decides to refuse him because unlike her friend Charlotte, who claims not to be “romantic” and “whose opinion of matrimony was not exactly like her own”, Elizabeth is (121). Her second refusal only supports this; Elizabeth only accepts to marry Darcy once she realizes that “her sentiments had undergone so material a change” (Austen 352). In other words, Elizabeth must first fall in love with Darcy before accepting his proposal. It is her who chooses her husband and she chooses the one she loves. Money or social conventions cannot make her give up her search of true love.
In Twilight, Bella acts similarly; she refuses three invitations to “spring dance” from Mike, Eric and Tyler only to go to the prom with Edward in the end of the book (77). Bella, just as Elizabeth, wants true love and is also willing to overcome all the obstacles; when she finds out about Edward being a vampire she “decided it didn’t matter” (184). This way, Bella, as well as Elizabeth, becomes the one who makes choice and she also chooses the one she loves “unconditionally and irrevocably” (Meyer 195).
The disadvantage is another feature that both heroines share. Elizabeth and Bella are both somehow subordinate to the hero. In Twilight, the two major differences between the heroine and the hero that make the heroine subordinate are distinguished by Lindén: “Edward and Bella are not just vampire and human but they also have different class backgrounds . . .” (220). It can be said that Bella comes from lower social class than Edward – her car is old, as opposed to Edward’s Volvo, and her house is not as beautiful as the villa of his family – although in Twilight this does not seem to be a problem. However, the difference of the class backgrounds, as Lindén claims, is what links Twilight not only to Jane Austen’s novels but to those of the nineteenth century in general (220). Elizabeth also comes from lower social class than Darcy, but in Pride and Prejudice this fact somewhat complicates the plot; when Darcy proposes for the first time, he asks her: “Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connexions?” (Austen 186) The difference between social classes that the heroine and hero come from becomes one of the reasons why Darcy wants his feelings to be “repressed” (Austen 183). In Elizabeth’s case the “defects” of her family also become her disadvantage as they are the reason of Darcy’s effort to subdue his feelings (Austen 191).
Despite their disadvantage, Elizabeth and Bella are both equally stubborn as they are not afraid to speak their minds. Elizabeth confronts Darcy about “ruining, perhaps for ever, the happiness of a most beloved sister” (Austen 184). And Bella also proves her obstinacy when she asks Edward to “explain everything” and decides she’s “not going to let it go” when he refuses to give her explanation (Meyer 65, 58). In other words, both heroines have their voice.
When it comes to the similarities between the character of the hero in Pride and Prejudice and Twilight, the Harmsel’s “villain-hero” characteristic can be used as a tool for their analysis. According to this definition, the hero is “a villain because his hateful assertion of aristocratic privileges makes him all that the heroine abhors; a hero because his good looks, wealth, and aristocracy make him all that she wants” (105). Just as Mr.B and Christian Grey match this definition, so do Darcy and Edward; there is something villainous about each of them. Darcy, according to Harmsel, is a villain because he is considered to be “the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world” (Austen 9). In addition, his “insulting slight to Elizabeth” only adds to his villainous character (Harmsel 104). The same thing happens in Twilight, when Jessica suggests: “Apparently none of the girls here are good-looking enough for him” (Austen 22). Thus, it can be said, as Jarvis claims, that Edward and Darcy both are “the disdainful, unobtainable male” (102). Their pride and the way they are positioned above the rest of the society is what makes them villainous. In Twilight, nevertheless, the issue of Edward being a vampire and dangerous to Bella also adds to his villainous character.
On the other hand, both heroes possess the money and good looks. Darcy has “tall person, handsome features, noble mien; and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year” (Austen 8). Edward is also described by Bella as “inhumanly beautiful” and his family is also wealthy (Meyer 19). These qualities constitute the heroic part of their characters and balance the villainous side of them.
Meyer’s Twilight adapts various plot twists, motifs and features of the characters from Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Despite being a vampire story from the twenty-first century, the romantic relationship and the main characters between which this relationship develops share similarities with Austen’s. The change of the hero and the change of the heroine’s feelings in a reaction to this change are the two major characteristics of the plot in both novels. Apart from the development of the relationship, the virtue, family and social unacceptance are the main motifs which are shared by both Pride and Prejudice and Twilight and so support the similarity of the two novels. Eventually, the characters of the heroine and hero in Twilight in various ways become the modern recreations of the heroine and hero in Pride and Prejudice; Elizabeth and Bella are both disadvantaged, but also stubborn and determined to find the true love, Edward and Darcy are villainous, handsome and rich. This conventionality of the story in Twilight, however, is not to its disadvantage, but it becomes what makes the novel as popular as its predecessor – Pride and Prejudice. The power of the love story introduced in this novel lasts two hundred years and recreated into a vampire romance still draws attention of many readers who enjoy reading about a disadvantaged heroine who eventually gets her villainous, handsome and rich hero.