When I first read the sensational young adult book, Twilight, certain parallels between the book and Mormon culture caught my attention. The heroine, Bella, longs to join the eternal family that her vampire boyfriend belongs to, she drinks Coke (not coffee) to stay awake, she longs for a perfect, immortal body, and her sensual relationship with Edward is technically chaste. But after I posted on Twilight, some readers wondered if I would still feel these books have Mormon parallels once I read books three and four.
Book three, Eclipse, continues to focus on Bella’s desire to join her eternal family, but I would agree with those who suggest that as the series continues its parallels to Mormonism, if extant, are less obvious. In a refreshing reversal of gender roles, it is the vampire Edward who insists on marriage and chastity while Bella wants just one thing. Such a frank discussion of sexuality is uncommon in Mormon culture, even if the conclusion the characters reach, that sex must wait for marriage, is utterly in-line with a Christian worldview. But while the plot of Eclipse is by no means a direct reflection of Mormon culture, it raises questions that are applicable to us. In particular, Eclipse queries a worn idea in an insightful way: what exactly does eternal love mean and how does the idea of it influence our choice of partners?
In this segment, Bella is caught in a love triangle between the vampire Edward, who she loves with a maddening, sometimes violent passion that she compares to those within Wuthering Heights, and her best friend, Jacob, who she turns to for support and friendship only to realize that she also loves as someone more than a friend – just not as much as Edward. At several moments throughout the text, the characters admit that Jacob and Bella would likely be a more appropriate match, but it is Edward who Bella can’t live without. At the same time, Jacob’s pack of werewolves have their own experiences with love. It turns out that werewolves are susceptible to a condition called “imprinting,” in which they fall violently in love at first sight with their “soul mate.” One of the members of the pack must leave his lifelong companion once imprinting causes him to love another woman. Apparently, werewolves have no agency when it comes to love and imprinting comes close to excusing adultery, even though the characters recognize the moral problems involved.
Melodramatic though this plot undoubtedly is, I am curious about how equates eternal love with overwhelming drives that cause people to shirk commitments to others. And, more than that, I am interested in whether the Mormon belief that marriage is eternal can influence how Mormons make marriage decisions. Although in this world it is prudent to make decisions about marriage with the realization that marriage is at least as much an economic, emotional, and biological partnership as it is an expression of love, is it possible that young Mormons primed to think about their marriages lasting into the eternities – into worlds presumably without want or other earthly limitations – are more prone than the general population to seeking their ideal in a perspective partner? Are we more likely to believe that our decision to marry must be confirmed by a feeling that a partner is the one, rather than just someone who would be a good companion? Typically, we discuss Mormon dating expectations in terms of gender differences and imbalances within the church, but I’m curious as to how our doctrinal belief in eternal marriage might also shape our expectations in ways beyond the basic feeling that we should marry in the temple.
Now, to decide if I should read book four…