What’s up with Bella and Rosalie?
They are less than friendly in the first novel, “Twilight.” Yet by the close of “Breaking Dawn,” they’ve become the best of buds. For much of the series Bella is preoccupied with Rosalie’s beauty and seems very self-critical in comparison. We finally learn in “Eclipse” that Rosalie is completely envious of Bella’s humanity and ability to have children. By the end of the series, Bella has had a kid and become a beautiful vampire herself. Rose then acts as a kind of nursemaid/proxy mother for Renesme when Bella is recovering from her vampire transformation. The apparent dichotomy is solved.
I just don’t buy this antagonism, or its resolution. Bella, despite all of her protestations to the contrary, is very conflicted about marriage and motherhood, especially early motherhood. As we learn more about Rosalie, it’s also obvious that she has a lot of “beauty issues.”
I’ve recently chatted up some of my female friends about this whole conundrum. As a guy, I’ve never quite understood this woman on woman competition in the looks department. My friends’ consensus seems to be that women do in fact compete with one-another about looks. This is then complicated by the fact that sometimes men’s and women’s views of feminine beauty do not correspond, leading to additional tension. (Personally, I think there’s a similar problem with guys, though most of us would never dare admit it.)
Then there’s that childbearing bugaboo. One of my friends tells me that it’s just sort of assumed that a woman could potentially have a child, whether she chooses to do so or not is beside the point. With this basic assumption, the idea that it is impossible for a woman to bear a child is so disturbing that it almost challenges a fundamental aspect of female identity. In this way, willingly, or unwillingly in the case of Rosalie, to give up this god-given right seems bizarre if not completely insane.
I feel like the fairy tale ending of the series glosses over some serious problems related to perceptions of beauty and biological motherhood about which both Bella and Rosalie struggle. Is it enough for Bella to “become” beautiful as a vampire, or was she always lovely, but failed to recognize this until she changed? Did Rosalie really lose something beyond her ability to reproduce when Carlisle transformed her into a vampire? Was Bella’s casual acceptance of forgoing children to marry Edward believable? Is Rosalie’s being a sort of aunt to Renesme enough to compensate her for this extreme loss that she feels? What if Bella and Edward want a second child? Steph raises the questions but seems very short on providing answers.
I am especially troubled by the section in “Breaking Dawn” where Bella discovers that she’s knocked up while honeymooning on the tropical Brazilian isle (book 1 Bella, chapter 7 Unexpected). Somehow she arrives at this explanation for her supernatural pregnant state:
Of course Rosalie could not conceive a child, because she was frozen in the state in which she passed from human to inhuman. Totally unchanging. And human women’s bodies had to change to bear children. The constant change of a monthly cycle for one thing, and then the bigger changes needed to accommodate a growing child. Rosalie’s body couldn’t change….
….And human men—well, they pretty much stayed the same from puberty to death…..Men had no such thing as child-bearing years or cycles of fertility.
Here we have this elegant “solution” which seems to conclude that a woman can either be fertile and plain or stunning and barren; just not both at the same time. Do people really believe it’s either beauty or babies? This is not the case with Edward, clearly: he looks like an angel and his stuff works. By extension, then, all men have the potential to be both beautiful and fertile simultaneously. This double standard is intolerable!