A loner at heart
Bella’s real name is Isabella but she prefers to go by Bella. She enters the series as a 17-year-old from Phoenix, Arizona, who has just moved to the small town of Forks, Washington, to live with her dad. Shy and insecure, she is dreading her first day at a new school and all the attention she’s sure to receive.
Most teenage girls are interested in boys and fashion. But Bella is not your average teen. She takes little interest in the gossip and trivialities that preoccupy her friends. She’s not into music or movies or sport of any kind. She hardly ever wears make-up, pays little attention to her hair, and prefers wearing loose comfortable clothes to anything high fashion.
She doesn’t care about money or possessions, and rejects the luxurious life that her vampire boyfriend, Edward Cullen, offers her. She refuses to let him buy her expensive gifts or replace her old pick-up with one of his expensive cars (at least until after she’s become a vampire). In fact, she barely tolerates anyone buying her anything at all.
A loner at heart, she doesn’t care about being popular or having a social life, and has to force herself to hang out with her (non-vampire) friends. Preferring her own company, or ideally that of her vampire boyfriend, she is content to sit in her garden reading a romance novel, or re-reading her favorite book, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. (Photo: Bella Swan and Edward Cullen as portrayed by Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson in the Twilight Saga.)
Putting others first
There are a few characteristics that Bella has in common with many teenagers, such as a sense of inadequacy and low self-esteem. She can’t believe that anyone as remarkable as Edward would ever be interested in her, and has no idea of her own appeal.
She is easily embarrassed and hates being the centre of attention. The only time she acknowledges her beauty is on her wedding night, when Edward forces her to look at her reflection. Bella is, above all, unconventionally open-minded. When she finds out that Edward is a vampire and later, that Jacob has become a werewolf, she pretty much takes it in her stride.
Bella is sometimes stubborn, particularly in regard to her wish to become a vampire so that she can spend an eternity with Edward. She refuses to reconsider despite Edward’s objections, the prospect of being unable to see her parents and her own fears. However, she’s also capable of compromise, which she demonstrates by agreeing to marry Edward before making the transformation.
Mature, selfless and compassionate, she always puts the feelings and interests of others before her own. She gives up her life in sunny Phoenix so that her mother can spend time alone with her new husband. She hides her occasional fear of Edward and his family to spare their feelings. And when in danger of being murdered by vampires, she risks her life to save the ones she loves.
Even when Edward leaves her, Bella tries to hide her heartbreak for her father’s sake. The only thing that stops her ending her life is the pain it would cause her parents. However, when she accidentally almost drowns, she feels relief and not distress at the prospect of death.
Born to be a vampire
Twilight’s main character has incredible strength and self-control. She fights the urge to give into exhaustion on a trip home from Italy so that she won’t miss a second with Edward. She refuses to allow Dr Cullen to abort her baby despite the agony she has to endure to carry it to full term. Even when she’s transforming into a vampire - an agonizing process – she resists the urge to cry out, knowing that any sign of her distress will cause Edward pain.
It is this self-control that underlines Bella's vampire existence. As a human, she is clumsy and insecure. As a vampire she is elegant, coordinated and (knowingly) beautiful. She also has astonishing self-control. Most new vampires are incapable of resisting their desire for human blood. But Bella finds the strength to fight it so that she can be around the humans that she loves, including her human father, Charlie, and her half-human daughter, Renesmee.
Edward can hear everyone’s thoughts except Bella’s. The human Bella is impervious to his powers, and that of other vampires. And the vampire Bella is able to extend this imperviousness to other vampires to protect them like a shield. Bella was never a gifted human but she is an extraordinary vampire. As she acknowledges to herself, it’s as though she were born to be a creature of the night.
Above all, it is Bella’s love for Edward and Renesmee that makes her who she is. She almost dies giving birth but her love of her daughter brings her back from the brink of death. And in the final chapters of Breaking Dawn, she draws strength from the love of her vampire family to shield them from attack from the Volturi. Finding themselves outnumbered, the Volturi retreat, leaving Bella, Edward and Renesmee to savor an eternity together.
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