Saturday, April 3, 2010

"New Moon" and racism?

I was thinking about New Moon this evening, and it occurred to me: does it look at racism? You won't need to have read the book to understand what I'm talking about, since I'll explain it, but still...


I figured it was only fair to warn you.

You have werewolves, and you have vampires. The werewolves only exist because of the vampires -- when vampires are in the area, a few of the youngsters of the Quileute tribe turn into werewolves. (I actually just discovered via a Google search while writing this post that there is really a Quileute tribe, and am a little shocked. Forks, the place where the main character Bella lives isn't real, so why did Meyer use a real tribe?) A few generations before the story takes place there was a werewolf pack, and in New Moon there is a pack of five werewolves.

The werewolves don't like the vampires. I guess this is a little understandable, because their whole purpose in life is to hunt vampires. After all, none of the Quileute youngsters will turn into werewolves unless there are vampires in the area, and they resent the vampires for that.

But it goes beyond simple disliking. Bella's best friend, Jake, who happens to be a young werewolf, tells her "Vampires don't count as people" (p 359).* And later, one of the other werewolves seemed "amused that the vampire had had a name" (p 381).* So it seems that vampires are only prey to them, not real people.

The dislike seems to be mutual. Yet when I go back to reread the parts where Jake meets two of Bella's vampire friends, I can't find anything in particular to point at proving my point, like I can with the vampires.

I can, however, tell you that the vampires smell the werewolves on Bella. and they think it's a nasty smell. It works the other way too. You can see this on pages 444 and 470.* I just thought that it was an interesting -- and amusing -- little detail.

Another rather interesting thing is that the vampires and werewolves can't really be in each others presence. The explanation given is that Jake is a young werewolf, so how well he can control himself is questionable. If he loses control of himself someone might wind up dead, and Bella's friends on both sides of the vampire/werewolf line don't want to hurt her by hurting her friends.

This is rather difficult on Bella since Jake is her best friend, but at the same time she also has some vampire friends, including her boyfriend. But while the vampires and werewolves are both in town she sort of has to choose between them, as the following excerpt from a conversation she has with Jake shows:

" 'Can't I just be friends with both of you at the same time?' I asked, my voice not hiding an ounce of the hurt I felt.

He shook his head slowly. 'No, I don't think you can' " (p 469).*
So, is Meyer exploring racism? I seem to recall that the comic strip Over the Hedge uses cute little animals to look at racism, so why not use vampires and werewolves?

*The page numbers are for the large print 2006 edition.


jaz@octoberfarm said...

hmmmm....i didn't read the book so i am going to have to think about this from just seeing the movie. have a happy easter!

Sarita Rucker said...

Just based on seeing the trailers I think that the movie plot is slightly different from the book plot. So I have no idea if it handles the racism differently. I'd love to hear what you think, at least comparing it to what I've written here, though. :)

Happy Easter to you too!

Carrie said...

Forks actually does exist. It's experienced a huge tourism boom since the books were released. ;)

Sarita Rucker said...

It does exist? I'd heard it was fictional, but I guess I heard wrong. Thanks for letting me know!


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