Eclipse, or dating into the eternities

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…

Bookmark Eclipse, or dating into the eternities

Comments

  1. I think book 4 will leave you with more questions than the first three.

    I do think that knowing we can be together forever does influence marriage choice, but the pressure to marry young can offset the desire to make sure you are marrying the right person. I think the ‘right person’ too frequently turns out to be the ‘person with the right sexual chemistry’ and that isn’t always a good basis for decision making.

  2. I think you’ll find the eternal family themes intensified in the fourth book.

    And are you kidding? you really think you won’t break down and read it? You make me giggle Natalie B.

    You know, my dating preferences have wildly changed since I was a teenager–the traits I thought were important in a life and eternal partner are very different from what I”m looking for now. At some point in my late 20s, I whittled down my must have list to one trait: kindness.

    Of course, there are a lot of other compatibility issues that must be solved, but that’s my dealbreaker. The importance of that wouldn’t even have been understandable to me as a teenager.

  3. Natalie B. says:

    Of course I’ll read book four at some point!

    You know, Karen, your comment about how your dating priorities have shifted, which I think is very natural, makes me think. Mormons rarely discuss appropriate grounds to terminate marriages, but thinking about this book series does make me wonder what naive teens ought to do who marry a wrong person. I wonder what advice our culture gives them. But, of course, I don’t mean that being married to someone really hot (like Edward) isn’t enough to sustain a marriage!

  4. Natalie B. says:

    Here is another question: Does the age at which we decide to marry impact our view of what marriage means? Obviously, our understandings of marriage change through time, but do people who marry young v. old have a different perspective on marriage as a consquence of when they tied the knot? And how might those perspectives differ?

  5. When I got married at 20, my non-member friends were aghast that I could marry so young and to someone I’d known less than a year. I’d always been taught that mormons take marriage more seriously b/c of eternal commitments, etc, but talking to my friends, I realized that in a lot of ways we take getting married less seriously. To non-members, divorce is a very real possibility and so they try as hard as they can to make sure they’re marrying “the one” in order to try and prevent divorce from happening. I don’t think young, giddy, single mormons think about the reality of divorce as much, so we go ahead after praying about our decision and jump into marriage pretty blithely. On the other hand, I don’t regret my decision at all and I think my husband and I are pretty happy about our choice to get married, young or not..

  6. I think the idea of marriage being for eternity can serve to counteract the urge to marry just for sex. When I imagined growing old with someone chiseled abs were less important than a pleasant demeanor.
    On the other hand I think it also can serve to increase the urge to marry just for sex. One young man I know expressed the idea to me that “If sex is great now with a hot wife, then imagine how great it would be in heaven when she’s not just hot but perfect!” I wasn’t especially fond of that particular young man.

  7. in book #4 you get to contemplate the concept of eternal sex. interesting vision of those perfected bodies!

  8. I think there is a fair amount of correlation for Mormon women between educational levels and marriage rates. At least this has been the case with BYU students in recent years.

    The latest census data for Utah says that only 37 percent of women and 21 percent of men are married by the time they turn 25. Does this mean most Mormon singles now believe they will be sufficiently mature for marriage when they reach their mid- to late-20s? Have Mormon singles become more selective and willing to take their time to find the right one? As they become more educated and established in their careers, are Mormon singles telling themselves that they don’t need to settle for someone but they can afford to wait for the right person?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,437 other followers