So the arrival of Laurent causes a massive shift in the narrative here. No longer is the story just about a teen girl whining and moaning about how her boyfriend dumped her, but an exciting life-or-death struggle to evade vampires after being thoughtlessly abandoned.
So I'm going to try to analyze this turning point in the story.
EACH TIME THAT I OPENED MY EYES TO THE MORNING light and realized I’d lived through another night was a surprise to me.
This is really exciting! I mean, now Bella's not just emo and wanky, but genuinely afraid for her life!
This also really deepens her character, since she must put aside her emo wanky ways and focus on her beloved father. After all, Charlie's safety is much more important to Bella than her own love life or safety!
I could tell he was worried—watching me jump at any loud sound, or my face suddenly go white for no reason that he could see. From the questions he asked now and then, he seemed to blame the change on Jacob’s continued absence.
Yes, we see here that Charlie makes logical deductions that the teenage male is always responsible for any problems his daughter has, ranging from teenage mood swings to potential pregnancy. This shows the really complicated family dynamic that underlies the wholesome family environment.
And indeed, Jacob is the cause for Bella's angst, in addition to her terror of death. Now, it may seem like self-indulgence and a lack of an identity for Bella to be obsessing on a yet another man she's alienated, but it's a sign of how strong the bond between her and Jacob has grown. Until, of course, he ditches her to groom his child bride.
It had been bad enough to be alone before I was scared silly. Now, more than ever, I yearned for his carefree laugh and his infectious grin. I needed the safe sanity of his homemade garage and his warm hand around my cold fingers.
This is a striking change for someone as self-reliant and independent as Bella. After all, Smeyer's books have already proven that she doesn't need a man to define her identity or her life. So having her whine about how much she misses a boy is a sign of how her life has been thrown into turmoil.
And much to Bella's chagrin, Jacob does not contact her, despite her hanging out by the phone and calling him repeatedly. She also suspects that Jacob's father is deliberately blocking her calls, since that is the only possible explanation for nobody being at home. After all, handicapped people are constantly confined to the home, unable to live the rich full lives that we non-handicapped people have. It's common knowledge.
I’d half expected him to call on Monday. If there had been some progress with Embry, wouldn’t he want to report it? I wanted to believe that it was worry for his friend that was occupying all his time, not that he was just giving up on me.
This scene truly shows how unselfish and caring Bella is. She desperately wants Jacob to be trying to help his brainwashed friend, because the friend's well-being truly matters to her more than spending time with a buff teenage boy. It's not that she can't cope without having a sexy teen boy hanging around talking to her, but that she CARES.
And it is BECAUSE she cares that she wants Jacob to report to her even though she barely knows Embry, not because she's clingy and obsessive. That would be the easy, snarky explanation!
On Wednesday I called every half hour until after eleven at night, desperate to hear the warmth of Jacob’s voice.
Let's all stop and observe how truly alone Bella is in the world. A smart, strong, independent teen girl in the modern world would not be stalking a boy like this, so the only possibly explanation is that Bella has has been so isolated in the world of the supernatural that when things go wrong, she has no one to turn to.
However, this is not the fault of Edward or the Cullens. The author has assured us of their moral perfection and intellectual superiority to us mere mortals, but those aren't the only reasons. There is also Alice's precognition.
Clearly if Bella was in any real danger, Alice would have foreseen it. The same goes for suicidal emo-ness, which clearly is not a problem with Bella because if it were, Alice would have done something about it.
Thursday I sat in my truck in front of my house—with the locks pushed down—keys in hand, for a solid hour. I was arguing with myself, trying to justify a quick trip to La Push, but I couldn’t do it.
Why is Bella doing this? Because she knows that after days and days, Laurent must have gotten back to Victoria. So if she goes to see Jacob, she might endanger him. She's also anxious because Charlie is constantly in danger because of her presence.
So she does the sensible thing: absolutely nothing. Now, this may sound like unforgivable laziness on the surface, but I believe that Smeyer is drawing inspiration from the brilliance of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, a series second only to the Twilight saga in genius. In that series, Harry's loved ones are constantly threatened by the supernatural evils that he battles, and frequently they are wounded, tortured or even killed by his enemies.
Clearly Smeyer, being the voracious reader and towering intellectual she is, has read everything else in the genre she occupies. And so, she depicts Bella as paralyzed by the inevitable threat to her loved ones despite no evidence that they will be hurt. Clearly even if she withdrew her money from the bank and drove away as a legal adult, she could not keep them from being attacked by the evil vampires.
But Victoria would still come to his house first, looking for me. Maybe, if she found me here, that would be enough for her. Maybe she would just leave when she was done with me.
This is the only logical conclusion that any person could come to. Remember, there's NO chance that if an evil, evil person checks your house to see if you're still living there... that they will leave your loved ones unscathed. If they were to find that you had left the house days ago and left town, they clearly would kill all occupants of the house for no explicable reason. The ways of evil are mysterious.
The only logical, compassionate decision is to continue living in the same house as the people you're trying to save, so they will DEFINITELY rather than POSSIBLY be attacked.
So I couldn’t run away. Even if I could, where would I go? To Reneé? I shuddered at the thought of dragging my lethal shadows into my mother’s safe, sunny world. I would never endanger her that way.
Now, you might think that this is incredibly hypocritical since Bella had no trouble endangering her mother in the previous book, where she directed the evil vampires right to her mother's home without checking to see if she was there. But this is just a sign of how Bella has grown since then, and how her unselfish love for her birdbrained mother now means she would never put her in danger again.
You may also be wondering why an eighteen-year-old with a car needs to "run away" to either of her parents, when she is a legal adult with a college fund she doesn't plan to use. The answer is that Smeyer is subtlely showing us how the "child" phase of people's lives has been lengthened in modern America, and how merely being legally able to leave town and hole up in a motel doesn't mean you are emotionally ready for it.
Intuitively sensing his daughter's turmoil, Charlie decides to check on his closest friend, whom he hasn't spoken to in weeks. Charlie warned me not to make a nuisance of myself—Jacob would call when he got around to it. Pshaw! As if such a humble and unselfish person could annoy others. Much like Mother Teresa, she cares more for the well-being of others than for her own safety.
So then Bella makes a brilliant assessment of the situation, and comes to the conclusion that no lesser mind could possibly have come up with: Jacob has been taken in by that creepy cult led by Sam Uley! Which makes sense, because no man would ditch a wonderful girl like Bella for his friends unless he has been brainwashed.
Fortunately, this gives the ever-unselfish Bella an opportunity to see Jacob, since she is far too loving and selfless to ever allow someone to be endangered by her inaction. And since a whole week has gone by with no vampire attacks, Bella suddenly realizes that probably they weren't coming for her very fast.
Most likely, as I’d decided before, they would come for me at night.
This is truly a genius deduction, especially since a lesser intellect might recall that she first ran into the evil vampires in the middle of the day. But that would be the easy answer, and we all know Smeyer will never do THAT.
So she decides that like any selfless friend, she will risk her life by driving through remote forested areas where the evil vampires could easily attack her. Her goal is to talk to Jacob and possibly kidnap him, which she knows from her extensive PBS-fueled knowledge on deprogramming brainwashed people. Now, this would sound insane and stupid for a regular person, but to a font of knowledge such as Bella, clearly knowledge of single-handed deprogramming is to be expected. It would be like Black Snake Moan, but with sexy teen boys and bondage.
And since she now has intimate knowledge of the cult and all its workings, she calls her father so the police can also intervene in its goings-on. She's like Anonymous trying to take down the Church of Scientology.
“I’m worried about Jacob.”
“Why?” he asked, surprised by the unexpected topic.
Oh Charlie, you silly. Don't you know that Bella cares about everyone except herself?
But sadly, the evil cult that clearly has Jacob in its clutches has also reached its corrupt, insidious tentacles into the police force. Charlie does not believe the ever-wise Bella about Sam Uley. This shows us three things:
- That humans are unworthy creatures who cannot hope to match the intellectual prowess of vampires.... and also those destined for vampirism because of their superior personality.
- That the police are easily corrupted by cults, and thus are untrustworthy.
- That Native American culture should be classified as a harmful cult, luring innocent Native American children into spending time with their own people on tribal land with tribal traditions, instead of spending it as they should be, among the bland white Mormon Church.
These are all valid observations. Thank you, Smeyer, for showing us these things.
Like Cassandra in her time, Bella is unable to convince Charlie that something evil is afoot, and that Billy is unwilling to save his son from the evils of Native American culture. It turns out that there have been more wolf attacks, and that that is Charlie's main interest. Clearly he isn't unselfish enough.
“Well, Bella, then I’m sure it’s okay. Jacob’s a kid; he was probably just messing around. I’m sure he’s fine. He can’t spend every waking minute with you, after all.”
“This isn’t about me,” I insisted, but the battle was lost.
How foolish of Charlie to think that Bella would ever think of herself! She wants Jacob to spend all his time around her for his own good, so she can protect him from his own culture.
And even though two campers are missing, Bella is more interested in the giant mutated wolves that failed to eat her. This is a subtle environmental subtext of the series, and one that shows greater maturity and awareness of the earth's power than most urban fantasy does. So Bella calls Billy instead.
“Hey, Billy,” I almost growled. I tried to sound more friendly as I continued. “Can I talk to Jacob, please?”
“Jake’s not here.”
This is truly a heartwrenching scene, as we see the terrible effects that a teenage social life has upon true friendships.
So Billy confirms that Jacob is out with Embry but not Quil, confirming that he is indeed enmeshed in a cult. There simply is no other explanation. So in her selfless devotion to her friend, Bella drives out to the reservation and plans to camp out at Jacob's house until she is able to get to him. Some might call this stalking, but I call it saintly unselfishness.
And while driving, she encounters Quil. However, he is miserable and emo, clearly showing that he is a character to be empathized with. Bella's concern for Jacob is so overwhelming that she can't even offer to give Quil a ride without demanding to know whether he's seen Jacob. This shows Bella's honesty, and her unwillingness to engage in subterfuge that might imply that she's being kind without an ulterior motive.
Quil confirms that Jacob has fallen in with Sam Uley and his friends, and that he's spookily refusing to leave Sam. Also, he's terrified that he will be the next one brainwashed by Native American culture. After dropping Quil off, Bella arrives at the Black household. In a nod to classic gothic movies, she sees Billy looking at her through the front window, looking sinister.
And then... Jacob returns!
And he looks radically different, with more muscles and short hair. And he's accompanied by all the other boys who are also huge, muscled and short-haired. Now, some might consider this an insensitive depiction of Native Americans, since most Native American cultures treasure long hair on males and consider it a sign of cultural identity. And one might consider the depiction of all the Native American males as being large and overmuscled as being racist. However, this is a subtle subtext about male puberty.
It was his expression that made him almost completely unrecognizable. The open, friendly smile was gone like the hair, the warmth in his dark eyes altered to a brooding resentment that was instantly disturbing. There was a darkness in Jacob now. Like my sun had imploded.
This is a truly SHOCKING twist that I did NOT see coming! It's especially stunning because it's impossible that any male could be resentful of Bella Swan's presence.
Yes, Jacob is inexplicably enraged by Bella, and so are all the other boys except Sam Uley.
More than anything, I wanted to be fierce and deadly, someone no one would dare mess with. Someone who would scare Sam Uley silly.
I wanted to be a vampire.
Such subtle foreshadowing! I commend Smeyer with not being obvious in hinting at Bella's destiny to become one of the elite.
And at the same time, she highlights Bella's weakness and ineffectual presence, much as she did when Edward kindly pointed this out in the previous book, and in the brilliant Midnight Sun. This wish to become a vampire hurts Bella, hurts her almost as much as Jacob's anger toward her. Clearly her heartbreak over the loss of her one true love has not diminished, and it's only her deep selfless nature that leads her to chase after other men.
Bella demands to speak to Jacob, and Sam allows it, bringing the other boys into the Black house.
I took a deep breath. “You know what I want to know.”
He didn’t answer. He just stared at me bitterly.
Now, an embittered cynical reader might assume that Jacob is upset with Bella for stringing him along for weeks without making it clear that she has no romantic intentions toward him, and then calling his home constantly when he doesn't spend time with her. But that is the shallow, easy approach. Jacob must know of Bella's selfless, pure-hearted intentions and was merely happy to bask in her presence - meaning that something sinister must be afoot if he is no longer happy with that!
Since Sam is watching, Bella starts walking off into the woods to a hidden spot, but Jacob blocks her. It would be easy to make a sexual joke here, but the sexual purity of the Twilight universe means that such a joke would be out of place.
I was distracted by the overt grace of his movement. Jacob had been nearly as klutzy as me with his never- ending growth spurt. When did that change?
Haha, Bella is clumsy! I had forgotten her one flaw! It brings such charm and humor to these otherwise dramatic books!
Jacob declares that the cult of Native American culture is not what he previously thought, and that he cannot tell Bella what it is. He also makes it clear that they are not friends anymore.
Mean-spirited people might assume that Jacob no longer wishes to be friends with Bella because of her previous treatment of him, but those who have read this book know better! She's too selfless to ever string someone along!
“Jacob, please,” I whispered. “Won’t you tell me what happened? Maybe I can help.”
“No one can help me now.” The words were a low moan; his voice broke.
This scene makes it abundantly clear that to be a viable romantic interest, a person must be tortured and self-loathing. That is the only possible way to be attractive to the opposite sex. I know this because my favorite relationship guides tell me so!
Since Bella is merely a weak woman and can't show any anger outwardly, she immediately starts crying while she yells at Jacob. Jacob's behavior is revealed to be truly cruel when he defends Sam Uley by doing something truly unforgivable: he insults the Cullens!
“You asked for it,” he growled at me, eyes glinting hard. “If you want to blame someone, why don’t you point your finger at those filthy, reeking bloodsuckers that you love so much?”
Clearly this shows us the terrible effect of Jacob's current lifestyle. After all, if he had spent time with the white Mormon girl instead of those terrible Native American boys, he would NEVER have insulted the perfect sparkly rich Cullens! Nor would he have ever said anything to hurt the selfless, kindly girl in front of him!
Bella of course is devastated by this, but she pretends to not know what Jacob is talking about even though he clearly knows all the facts. And she comes to the conclusion that they must be a cult entirely devoted to hating vampires, despite there being no vampires in Forks.
“What’s set in motion? What’s too late? What are you blaming them for?”
He was suddenly right in my face, his fury glowing in his eyes. “For existing,” he hissed.
This is clearly setting up the werewolves as antagonists, since they have an automatic hatred for the perfect white vampires. This is a subtle hint at the many racial divides in our society, and how white Mormon people (ie the Cullens) are perfect and non-racist... while anyone who is NOT is a bigot. Always pushing the envelope, Smeyer!
And to heighten the excitement of this riveting scene, Edward's voice begins to speak in Bella's head. Bella finds this perplexing, since she does not consider herself to be in immediate danger. Now, some might insist that it shows Bella's stupidity that she doesn't even consider that Jacob might try to harm her, but I argue instead that it shows her trust and wisdom!
Jacob refuses to speak any further to her, and goes back to the house. But Bella stops him by shouting that she saw Quil today!
“I ran into Quil today,” I yelled after him.
He paused midstep, but didn’t turn.
“You remember your friend, Quil? Yeah, he’s terrified.”
Jacob whirled to face me. His expression was pained. “Quil” was all he said.
This is a truly wrenching scene, and it shows Smeyer's grasp of human psychology that she could write something so un-cliched and heartfelt as a person being stopped by the sound of a friend's name.
I goaded him further. “He’s frightened that he’s next.”
Jacob clutched at a tree for support, his face turning a strange shade of green under the red-brown surface. “He won’t be next,” Jacob muttered to himself. “He can’t be. It’s over now. This shouldn’t still be happening. Why? Why?”
This may seem hackneyed and over-the-top, sort of like the acting you'd expect from a bad SyFy movie... but it's not! It's a sign of how intensely Smeyer's characters feel!
And then he breaks a tree in half, and stalks off back to Sam! Such brilliant foreshadowing.
“Go home, Bella. I can’t hang out with you anymore.”
The silly, inconsequential hurt was incredibly potent. The tears welled up again. “Are you...breaking up with me?” The words were all wrong, but they were the best way I could think to phrase what I was asking. After all, what Jake and I had was more than any schoolyard romance. Stronger.
This is a truly shocking moment, since it indicates that Bella may have romantic feelings for Jacob despite her constant denials. This comes COMPLETELY out of nowhere! Even though they've spent most of the book spending time alone together every single day and hinting at their unique bond based on friendship and mutual liking, Bella SAID she wouldn't ever date him, and that was enough to convince me!
Jacob also says outright that he isn't going to be friends with Bella anymore, and he doesn't seem very torn up about it. This shows the pernicious effect of Sam Uley and Native American culture!
“Jacob...why? Sam won’t let you have other friends? Please, Jake. You promised. I need you!” The blank emptiness of my life before—before Jacob brought some semblance of reason back into it—reared up and confronted me. Loneliness choked in my throat.
Now, the evil haters who try to bring down Stephenie Meyer might argue that this is a sign of Bella's codependent need for a man to give her life purpose, and her inability to cope with living her own life without a man for her to center it around. Or they might say that Bella is not truly acting as a friend toward Jacob and is merely using him to dull her own pain. But they are not keeping in mind that Bella is smart and selfless, so these things could NEVER be true!
So Bella tries to wheedle him back to the light side by implying that she might end up feeling romantically toward him, if only he would stay around her: “I’m sorry that I couldn’t...before...I wish I could change how I feel about you, Jacob.” I was desperate, reaching, stretching the truth so far that it curved nearly into the shape of a lie. “Maybe...maybe I would change,” I whispered. “Maybe, if you gave me some time... just don’t quit on me now, Jake. I can’t take it.”
And because he is now tormented, angry and dark, Jacob declares that it isn't Bella's fault that he's acting this way, and that instead it's all his fault and that he's unworthy of her now. Then he runs away from her, signaling that like Edward Cullen, he has become a valid romantic interest for Bella Swan because he has declared that he is a terrible monster and then run from her.
Bella responds to this by standing out in the middle of a rainstorm, waiting for Jacob to return until Billy comes out and basically tells her to go home. This may sound pathetic and delusional, but it actually shows Smeyer's mastery of the novel form by using repetition in the story. This scene is demonstrating that Bella is being devastated by the loss of a loved one once again, but since she is able to drive home in her truck, the devastation of losing Jacob is nowhere near as hurtful as losing her beloved, sensitive, caring Edward. This is a subtle hint about which one she is destined to be with - the poor dropout Native American or the wealthy cultured Caucasian.
Bella reassures herself that since she did not collapse and require a massive search party this time, it isn't as bad as when Edward left. This shows her greater maturity and growth in self-knowledge, since Bella's awareness of her own psyche is only tempered by her extreme humility.
So she gets home, and Charlie says, “Billy called. He said you got in fight with Jake—said you were pretty upset." But then he realizes how devastated Bella is, and how Jacob has hurt her yet again.
Once again, we see that Bella is acting much like Cassandra in the legend of Troy - she speaks of a disaster, but none believe her until the disaster crashes down on them. Only now does Charlie realize that there is something truly wrong with Sam Uley, and what a sinister Native American figure he is.
So while she showers, Charlie calls Billy and shouts at his best friend of many years. Why? Because Billy is siding with his own son, instead of siding with Charlie's daughter as he should! This reinforces the ongoing theme that "friends" are mere shallow distractions, and that a person's TRUE allegiance should only be to the nuclear family.
“You got that right—those boys set one toe out of line and I’m going to know about it. We’ll be keeping an eye on the situation, you can be sure of that.” He was no longer Charlie; he was Chief Swan now.
This is truly a sign of Charlie's moral strength. By putting his daughter's emotional well-being first (and implicitly threatening the boys who are not even under his jurisdiction), he is demonstrating his respect for the law. I wish cops so incorruptible lived in my town!
So that night, Bella convinces herself that Jacob is the prey of a dark, sinister conspiracy of some kind, and that it is in no way her fault.
She also has a new nightmare, where the "new" Jacob suddenly turns into Edward and then vanishes.
The symbolism of this dream is almost too subtle for the average reader to comprehend, but careful analysis shows that Bella is acknowledging that she is attracted to both boys, and that both of them have deserted her both physically and emotionally.
And then... something starts scraping her window! Oh, the suspense! I don't think I can wait for the next chapter!