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‘New Moon’: Do Vampires Have Souls? And Other Pressing Questions

Note: This is the second post in CAPC’s coverage of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga. Check out Carissa Smith’s post on Twilight for some thoughts on the series’ first novel. This post focuses on New Moon, the second volume in the series. Next up: Eclipse.

Vampires may be undead, but in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga, they can be killed. Granted, it’s very difficult to kill a vampire: it requires ripping them into pieces and then burning the pieces, thus almost guaranteeing that only another super-strong vampire can perform the deed. But what happens to the undead after they die?

It turns out that this is one of the central questions behind the dilemma of whether Bella Swan will give up her mortality to stay eternally young with her vampire love Edward Cullen. You see, Edward believes that vampires have lost the souls they once had as humans, and so he’s adamantly opposed to Bella’s risking her soul for him. At this point you may be asking (as I certainly was): what, in Meyer’s fictional world, is a soul, exactly? It’s not entirely clear. Evidently it doesn’t mean that part of a person that directs the conscience or responds to the divine, because Meyer’s vampires have a clear sense of good and evil and Edward and Carlisle (at least) believe that God and heaven and hell exist. However, Edward doubts that any sort of afterlife exists for vampires—and that, if it does, it involves eternal damnation.

Bella’s fairly eager to take that risk, since, as she points out, she’s been raised “fairly devoid of belief,” and she thinks that being with Edward is “heaven” enough. (Whatever.) I think we’re supposed to regard her recklessness with eternal matters as somewhat misguided. Time (and the rest of the series) should reveal more. However, the introduction of this aspect of the Bella-Edward dilemma raises the stakes (so to speak) significantly and makes New Moon an important building block in the series.

Meyer has said in an interview that each of the Twilight books is loosely based on or inspired by a classic work of literature: Twilight is Pride and Prejudice; New Moon is Romeo and Juliet; Eclipse is Wuthering Heights; and Breaking Dawn is A Midsummer Night’s Dream and one other book that Meyer refuses to reveal, because it would be too much of a spoiler. Back to that Romeo and Juliet and Wuthering Heights bit. Neither is what I would call an inspiring love story, unless love involves killing yourself over mistaken assumptions or trying to make your loved one miserable by tormenting her family and weaseling away her estate. Yet both are hailed as incredibly romantic, for reasons I cannot fathom. By using these works as models for her fiction, is Meyer trying to revise them, or is she merely paying tribute to them?

I’m really not sure, but I do know that, after reading New Moon, I think she may have tried to stick too closely to Romeo and Juliet, to the extent that her characters’ motivations feel wrenched to fit another plot. To discuss that in more detail, I’m going to have to get into some spoilers, so if you plan to read New Moon and haven’t yet done so, you might want to stop reading here.

There are some effective ways that Meyer uses the Romeo and Juliet story, most notably by introducing the ages-old feud between vampires and werewolves. There are also some ineffective ways (Edward the suicidal vampire, I’m looking at you). Yep, at one point Edward thinks that Bella is dead, and so he goes to Italy and tries to get a vampire clan there to kill him. You’d think that, with all Edward’s high principles and his practice of self-control, he might classify suicide as a selfish indulgence of emotion,* but I guess not. I suppose vampires do tend toward the emo side. Of course, there are two more books left in the series, so Edward obviously doesn’t succeed at his goal. However, I’m disturbed that, by the end of New Moon, he is still willing to be so careless with his (undead) life that, as he and Bella are discussing what would happen if she stayed mortal, grew old, and died, he answers, “I’ll follow after as soon as I can.” Bella calls that idea for what it is: “sick.”

But did you notice that what Edward said implies that, at some level, he thinks there might be an “after” for him after all? His attempted suicide does set up a situation that proves that he’s not entirely convinced of his own soullessness . . . but surely there could have been other ways to accomplish that in the story.

So it seems that both our protagonists have some growing to do, to learn what they should be willing to trade for life together. I have to admit, I’m hoping for a bittersweet ending that involves Bella and Edward sacrificing something other than their lives—or their souls.

*I don’t want to sound insensitive here to those who have lost loved ones to suicide—while it’s not an action I can approve of in any circumstances, I feel great sorrow for those who, due to despair or chemical imbalances, have taken their own lives.

About Carrisa Smith
  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    Interesting take on souls. Have you read any Murakami? In many of his books (notably in Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Sputnik Sweetheart), there is a sense of soul that is apart from (though perhaps related to) that thing that motivates, drives, and is otherwise responsible for the inner life of a person. In Murakami, the soul of a person seems closer to being that thing (I want to say spark) makes a personality unique.

    Those who are missing that piece of themselves tend to behave in rather zombie-like fashions, holding only tentative grasp on the world about them. There are characters who are missing this piece of them and feel wrong and there are those who are missing it but in finding this part of themselves absent become so little interested in anything that seeking their missing piece is an activity to which they cannot possibly motivate themselves. And other people notice as well. In the first story in the After the Quake collection, a wife leaves her husband because he is hollow and it’s like being in a room with nothing but air.

    Still other characters either have this soul-thing corrupted or have an additional, corrupted soul-thing forced inside them. It’s all pretty fascinating to me, and your discussion of Twilight here reminded me of it.
    _________________________

    p.s. The famous work that the the fifth book reframes is, I have on good authority, Harry potter and the Half-Blood Prince. You can see why she’d want to keep that mum.

    The Danes last blog post..20080721

  • Carissa Smith

    I’ve heard of Murakami, but haven’t read him. I’m not sure Meyer’s actually being that creative with her concept of the soul. What you say of Murakami actually sounds a little more like Philip Pullman’s (insert requisite hissing noise here) daemons in His Dark Materials. The children who are surgically separated from their daemons sort of become hollow like that. Of course, in some ways, Pullman’s daemons are more like animal familiars than like souls, but . . . yeah.

  • Carissa Smith

    Re: Harry Potter . . . Hee. I’ve been grumbling to people that the second inspiration for Breaking Dawn had better not be the New Testament, because I don’t think I can take any more shallow versions of dying-and-rising again, a la Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. My husband pointed out that vampires are already sort of dead-and-risen again, though, so hopefully she won’t go that route. Though we do already know that the searingly painful transformation from human to vampire takes three days . . . Sigh. Just because I love Christ doesn’t mean I want my books populated with shallow Christ-figures. Hopefully Meyer’s not going that direction.

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    Wow. It would be a huge disservice to Murakami to mention in the same breath with that hack Phillip Pullman and not do it in a contrasting manner :) Maybe describing the “soulless” as zombie-like wasn’t exactly right (as it does sound pretty similar to those children in The Golden Compass who had their familiars stripped. The characters in Murakami’s books are at least competent enough to narrate a story as they sometimes do. It’s more just like a piece of them is missing and they don’t know what it is but they know it’s wrong and so they’re kinda broken.

    Or something.
    ______________________

    Re: HP
    Maybe it’s actually because you love Christ that you don’t want your books populated with shallow Christ-figures. That’s pretty much how it works for me.

    The Danes last blog post..20080721

  • Kristi

    I love this review! It’s pretty funny. I have been reading Twilight and just bought New Moon. As a Christian, I have been debating about continuing. Though so far it has been pretty tame compared to others of its genre and in most pop culture these days, I always tend to ask myself what the message is, if indeed there is a message in Twilight. I have read Meyer commenting about how they are pretty much purely escapist, so maybe she intended them not to convey anything in particular. I guess the main thing which has bothered me is the fact that Bella does indeed tend to put this relationship above and beyond everything, and as I peeked ahead a bit in New Moon, I discovered the whole line about heaven, which I love your response to, by the way “(whatever)”. Does anyone know how they address this specifically later on? Thanks, and great work. BTW, I love Harry and the Deathly Hallows, but I found what you said about shallow Crist figures very interesting. I thought the way Rowling handled it with Harry was awesome, at least until the train station and his choice to come back or go on. Still though- I’m thoroughly glad Deathly Hallows was so Christian in its themes.

  • Fuffy

    In buffy the vampire slayer 2 vampires have a soul which was gained


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