Agapic vs. Erosic love in Meyer’s Twilight series

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Romance writing for adults draws thematically on the classical Greek tradition of distinguishing between four forms of love: storge, philia, eros and agape. Meyer adheres to generic conventions by including and idealising all four. Storge is the term used to describe the deep, unending, committed but asexual love between parents and children, or between siblings. In character, storge resembles philia: love between friends. As the word ‘‘filial’’ has come to refer to familial relationships, we see that philia and storge have become mixed in everyday language. In classical romances, however, the focus is on the division between eros and agape.

Agapic love, which de Rougement (1983/1940) defines as ‘‘Christian love’’ (pp.66–68), is characterised as the love of God, or the love of one’s neighbours, or God’s love for his chosen people. Agapic love is unconditional, self-sacrificing, infinite, irrational and spiritual (Pearce 2007, p. 5). In the romance genre, it is contrasted with erosic love. Although ‘‘eros’’ provides the root from which the word ‘‘erotic’’ is formed, one cannot simply summarise erosic love as sexual love, despite its bodily character. Erosic love is love that is motivated by reason: the erosic lover desires something in return from the loved one (e.g. sexual satisfaction); it is decidedly earthly, and human. (See Pearce 2007, pp. 5–7 for a useful summary of the key features of agape and eros.) The Western tradition has always favoured agapic love over erosic love, so relationships in romantic writings may begin erosically and then become agapic. This happens in the ‘‘Twilight’’ saga: Bella is initially attracted by Edward’s physical beauty, and he is attracted by the scent of her blood. Once it has been established that Edward is a vampire, erosic desires place the couple at risk and so their love is presented in agapic terms.” (170) 

Kokkola continues: “There is a decided difference between the roles Bella and Edward play in terms of the agapic-erosic divide. Prior to the marriage, Bella’s love for Edward is often expressed in erosic terms: the text constantly returns to her desire to touch and be touched by Edward, to gaze at his physical features, as well as her more overt carnal desires. Her love begins to be more consistently expressed in agapic terms when she develops feelings for Jacob. She recognises that, had she not met Edward, she would consider Jacob an ideal partner. Yet her feelings for Jacob are characterised as being of a lower order; her feelings for Edward, in keeping with the courtly tradition, are elevated to defy logic and reason….” (170)

However, not even Bella and Edward’s love for one another can compare with the all-consuming, agapic power of werewolf imprinting. Werewolves are destined to love forever the person upon whom they imprint. It can happen only once, and the ‘‘choice’’ of love object is often unlikely, albeit always heterosexual. Of the four imprinted werewolves in the ‘‘Twilight’’ saga, three love interests are irrational. Sam must abandon Leah when he imprints on her cousin, Emily. Quil imprints on two year old Claire. And, most irrationally of all, Jacob imprints on Bella and Edward’s daughter, Renesmee, just moments after her birth. Only Paul’s imprinted love for Jacob’s sister, Rachel, resembles a typical teen relationship. Imprinted love, the series strives to clarify, is a perfect love, unclouded by petty concerns like sexual desire. Quil is content to remain celibate until Claire grows up, and Jacob loses all desire for Bella once he has imprinted on Renesmee. Both young men are happy to wait for their respective love interests to grow up.” (171)

Ref: Lydia Kokkola ‘Virtuous Vampires and Voluptuous Vamps: Romance Conventions Reconsidered in Stephenie Meyer’s ‘‘Twilight’’ Series’ Children’s Literature in Education (2011) 42:165–179

Reference is made to: Pearce, Lynne. (2007). Romance Writing. Cambridge: Polity Press.

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