Twilight: The Texts and the Fandom, Discussion Questions for Week 8 – Twilight and Religion
1. Do you think Meyer “intended” to put religious tenets into her saga? Does it matter whether she intended to or not? Why, as critical readers, is it important to recognize the religious underpinnings of the saga?
2. A crucial Mormon belief is that humans can become divine. How is this echoed in Twilight? How does Meyer alter the concept of “vampire” and “werewolf” to make them more like angels than monsters? How might we read Edward and Carlisle as “gods”?
3. A unique Mormon teaching is that marriages are “sealed” for eternity and will continue in the “celestial kingdom” (the Mormon concept of heaven).What in the saga reflects the Mormon belief in marriage being sacred and forever?
4. How might “imprinting” be read as reflecting Mormonism? What do you make of the fact that vampires fall in love while the wolves imprint?
5. Mormon’s value the notion of overcoming “natural man” ( i.e. to rise above base and carnal human desires in order to struggle for holiness). Who in the saga overcomes this “natural man” state? Who fails to?
6. LDS doctrine believes in the concept of eternal families and that reproduction can occur even in the afterlife. How might we read the Cullens as reflecting an eternal Mormon family? Why might this idea of eternal family be particularly appealing to modern readers and/or to a character such as Bella? How does the Volturi’s “family” differ? Who do you think the Volturi are meant to represent?
7. Religious scholar John Granger notes Mormons “believe that when a non-Mormon is baptized into the Church, the convert’s Gentile blood is cleansed from their body and they are given a new internal makeup” (159). Smith and Brigham Young both spoke of this as purging of blood, explaining that conversion cleansed Gentile blood from the system and replaced it with Mormon blood. Are there echoes of this belief in the saga? In what ways might vampires be read AS Mormons?
8. While a woman can only be sealed to one man, men can be sealed to more than one woman. While men hold the priesthood from age 12, women never can. How do we see some of these differences of power reflected in the saga? Might we might read Bella’s lack of power in relation to women’s lack of power in the Mormon church as well as their limited choices if they wish to remain in good standing in the church?
9. Is Bella a “better” Eve? How about the Mormon’s concept of a “fortunate fall” (or the notion that the fall was necessary to allow humans the opportunity to gain eternal life)?
10. Mormonism is a religion that values wealth and the Mormon Church has huge financial power. Believers are expected to “tithe” at least 10 percent of their earnings to the church. How can we see echoes of the championing of wealth in the saga? How might Stephenie Meyer’s tithing practices help further the religion and its beliefs?
11. Belief.net covers some contemporary Mormon beliefs, summarizing them as follows:
“Abortion is wrong. Homosexuality is wrong, and homosexual rights vehemently opposed. The divine role of woman is mother and wife, helper to the husband. Men are regarded as the head of the family, provider, leader, and teacher. Marriage is regarded as eternal, but divorce is permitted if necessary.”
How does the saga accord with these contemporary Mormon beliefs?
12. Mormonism has come under a lot of fire for its history with racism. The Book of Mormon indicates that those with dark skin are cursed. The way for these “cursed” people to become “white and delightsome” is to accept the Mormon faith. More recently, men of color were barred from holding the priesthood until 1978. What echoes do we see of this legacy of racism in the saga? Do you feel Meyer subverts this legacy?
13. Mormons have suffered a great deal of persecution. They were violently driven from east to west, murdered, tarred and feathered, and more generally ostracized via claims Mormonism is a cult rather than a religion. How might we read the saga as reflecting some of these themes?
14. Mormonism does not condone sex before marriage, masturbation, oral sex, the watching of R-rated movies, or the drinking of caffeine or alcohol. How do these beliefs make their way into the saga and why might such a “chaste” story be so appealing at this particular cultural moment? How might we read the saga as reflecting some of these themes?