Twilight encourages racial tolerance

by Alicia Rudnicki, Library Mix

Teachers can’t help noticing the books that are enticing students to read and read and read. That is the case with Stephenie Meyer’s quartet of vampire romances, the Twilight series in which each book is well over 400 pages long.

Squeaky clean novels
Furthermore, Meyer’s novels are nearly squeaky clean. They aren’t peppered with lots of questionable language and sex scenes.

None of the central characters are demonic, despite worries such as those of Edward, who fears that his vampirism has robbed him of his soul.

Teachers can allow students to choose these novels for class projects without fear of a major parental backlash, because the parents are too busy reading the books themselves.

Furthermore, Meyer’s novels engender passionate feelings of either love or hatred in readers, which means that they also inspire lots of student ink.

At each other’s throats
Potential themes for student papers include racial tolerance. Unlike the vampires of Bram Stoker’s 1897 classic, Dracula, the Twilight vampires find werewolves disgustingly smelly and disagreeable. In fact, vampires incite the same feelings and olfactory repugnance for werewolves.

There are a number of moments when Meyer’s vampires and werewolves are almost, quite literally, at each other’s throats.

But then their mutual need causes the Cullen vampire family and the Quilleute werewolves to help each other and, consequently, see each other from a different perspective.

I am not alone in noticing this aspect of Meyer’s work, which is particularly strong in the last novel Breaking Dawn.

Academic Scrutiny
This past summer, in volume two of its journal, International Research in Children’s Literature, Edinburgh University Press published a treatise by New Zealand teacher Shelley Chappell concerning werewolf (lycanthrope) literature. Chappell cites Meyer’s work among her sources.

Because of the current fantasy trend to represent lycanthropy as a genetically inherited or inborn feature, with werewolves frequently belonging to werewolf families and/or packs, many contemporary narratives for children and young adults encourage readings of lycanthropy as a metaphor for racial or ethnic difference. Diverse representations of lycanthropy, from monstrous and sympathetic werewolves to benevolent and idealized werewolves, non-essentialist werewolves, and incommensurable werewolves thus suggest shifting conceptions of race and ethnicity.

Money is very nice, but academic consideration may be even sweeter for Meyer, who holds a degree in English literature.

Similar to many readers of the Twilight series, I am not a pushover about what I consider to be inventive, compelling storytelling. I enjoy a wide range of novelists from Jane Austen and Sherman Alexie to Margaret Coel and Stephen L. Carter.

So I will come right out and say it: similar to many students, this teacher loves Stephenie Meyer’s novels. I found them at the library, and you can too. Just be prepared to place a few holds.

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