What Twilight Means: John Granger, Professor of Meyerology

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The Cullens as Trinity or Divine Human Triptych are just background figures for this Eden drama which is the core allegory of the Forks Saga. Again, you cannot get at this if you’re fixated on the YA Harlequin genre, the borderline politically incorrect details of the allegory (Edward as Stalker), or the relatively pedestrian prose of the novels. Meyer’s millions of readers obviously enjoy the simple prose without aesthetic majesty or heights for the accessibility it provides to the greater meaning and experience they get from the story.

You — somewhat reluctantly, but very sportingly — examine the question of how Meyer’s Mormon faith gets worked out in her fiction. What influence does Mormonism have on Twilight?

You can read Meyer and love Twilight, obviously, without knowing anything about Mormonism. Relatively few of her readers understand the depth of the Latter-day Saint influence on her work (or, frankly, care to know about it), so its not the focus of Spotlight. But I had to explore it at some length, however indifferent her Gentile readers are to the subject and despite how prickly to the point of nasty Mormon readers have been in nay-saying that the books are LDS fantasy.

Reading Meyer’s work at any depth and neglecting her LDS world-view is as fruitful as closing your eyes to the Christian content of Lewis, Tolkien, or Rowling. Lewis said once that “to construct plausible and moving ‘other worlds’ you must draw upon the only real ‘other world’ we know, that of the spirit.” The only real “other world” Mrs. Meyer knows, of course, is that of her faith, the Mormon faith of her childhood — complete with rules governing her diet, dress, and dating — of her family life, of her education (BYU), and of the place where she lives. Her personal, family, community, and spiritual identities are all LDS. Her favorite author? Orson Scott Card. Most influential book? Book of Mormon.

It’s daft, then, to think her books can be understood without looking through Mormon seer stones. The mythic content of her stories which are the power of her writing and the real Romance of the books in Frye’s terms, come wrapped in an LDS cloak.

In the last part of Spotlight, consequently, I am obliged to look at Meyer as a Mormon writer. I do that by reviewing the way her books reflect core dogma as well as peripheral LDS beliefs, the ways her books act as apologetic “fantasy conquests” of controversial issues dividing Mormons and Gentiles, and in the several fun ways her books act as criticisms of the LDS world in which she lives, especially the prevalent misogyny. Taking the alliterative route, I think Meyer has to be understood as Mormon Artist, Apologist, and Apostate simultaneously and I try, even though I am not a Mormon, to begin this discussion.

I’ve been disappointed, if not especially surprised, by the Mormon maven response to my taking Meyer’s faith and works seriously. It’s very sad that they dismiss the possibility that she is writing at multiple levels and using traditional tools like literary alchemy and archetypal allegory just because she “isn’t that smart.” A good bit of her books’ criticism of Mormonism, as I said, is about individual and cultural misogyny, and that quality is hard to miss in the patronizing responses to her as a writer made by her faith community’s apologists.

Worse, though, is the online insistence by these Melchizedek priesthood types that there is no meaning in Meyer’s repeated use of Mountain Meadows as scenes of revelation and conflict, of Carlisle Cullen being a 17th century Christian from London, or that Meyer gives Rosalie, the raped and left-for-dead fiancee of Royce King II in Rochester, NY, the maiden name of Joseph Smith, Jr’s first and only legal wife. These religious readers and LDS gatekeepers are as nominalist as the academic deconstruction hard-liners and even more insistent that story only be read at its surface. It reminds me of the odd bed fellows that made up the Harry Haters back in the day: Ivory Tower eggheads and Christian fundamentalists, which groups despised each other as much as they shared a common enemy in Rowling’s literary magic.

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