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Near the close of Breaking Dawn, the final installment of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga, Edward asks his new wife Bella a question. “When will you ever see yourself clearly?” (Dawn 744). Bella has no answer for him. Edward's question and, more importantly, Bella's apparent inability to answer is symptomatic of a broader issue throughout Breaking Dawn, in which, even as Bella obtains all that she has desired, her sense of self begins to fracture. Breaking Dawn formalizes Bella’s union with Edward through a series of increasingly binding steps: first through legal marriage, then sexual intimacy and pregnancy, then through vampiric transformation, and finally through her admission of Edward into her mind. Each of these steps grants Bella the power and equality with Edward that she has craved since the series' beginning. But these events also formalize the fracturing of Bella's identity and make her dependent upon Edward for self-definition. Breaking Dawn, therefore, characterizes Bella's marriage to Edward as a simultaneous source of joy and unease. I argue that we can make sense of this apparent paradox by examining Breaking Dawn in light of two of its intertexts: Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. Both works grapple with a construction of marriage engendered by John Milton's depiction of Adam and Eve in Paradise Lost, a construction in which two individuals do not just legally unite but also fuse their identities, becoming a sort of plural self. Breaking Dawn, as the daughter-text of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, necessarily wrestles with this same construction of marriage. Bella does not merely become Mrs. Cullen but melds her identity with her husband, losing her independent self completely.


Undergraduate Research Awards - 2021 Winner, Junior-Senior category