Friday, May 15, 2009

The Trouble with Twilight--Part IV: Suicidal Themes

How do you prove that you really, really love someone? Why, you try do to away with yourself if you can't have him or her, of course. You get yourself lost in the woods while you're in a near-catatonic state, or ride motorcycles recklessly, or jump off cliffs. You fly all the way to Italy and provoke powerful ancients to off you in the middle of a town full of tourists. Or maybe, like the third wife in the Quileute Indian legends (which were a fairly interesting part of the story, I have to admit), you stab yourself in the heart in the ultimate self-sacrifice. How else can you prove the depth of your love?

Reminds me of Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther, where the young hero shoots himself because he cannot have the woman he loves. This romantic novel had such an impact that young men all over Europe began to dress like Werther, in a blue coat and yellow breeches. But, more seriously, the novel also spawned the first noted cases of copycat suicides, causing the book to be banned in some parts of Europe. Psychologists now call this phenomenon the "Werther effect."

Stories have power. Think there'll be any kind of "Twilight effect"?

Next week, I'll talk about the role of heroine and hero.

To be continued . . .

[I just started the last novel.]


Anonymous said...

thanks so much for your critiques! I haven't read these books yet and don't really want too. I appreciate some knowledge of them, though. I feel societal pressure to read them!

My daughter (12) has asked me about them. I told her i would want to read them first. She hasn't asked again.

So far, I've not been impressed!

Stephanie said...

I'm glad I've read the series. They're such a huge phenomenon right now, and I'm sure a lot of my students will have read them. I want to be prepared to discuss the books with them and not just dismiss or condemn the saga without having taken the time to read it. I also want my students to know that I read more than just the classics.

It's kind of like Lisa B. said in a response to an earlier post of mine asking about the "best worst" books you've ever read--the plot finally hooked me even though I was aggravated about a lot of things at the same time.

If you think that your daughter will read them (and I wouldn't be surprised if she finally does), I would recommend that you take the time to read the books, so you'll be prepared to discuss them with her.

Jonathan G. Reinhardt said...

I agree with every bit you wrote in these last few posts. And while I am totally with you when it comes to the power of stories, what worries me more is that girls and women (and a few men) pick these books up and feel deeply reflected in them. It sort of makes me despair about the extent of mental issues and dysfunction in the general population...

Thanks also for mentioning Werther. That's a great example because Goethe wrote the character as sympathetic but misled and over-the-top -- and many of his readers couldn't tell. Instilling critical reading/thinking skills is more important than we tend to make it in our adolescents' lives, isn't it.