Film & Media Studies Theory

Whitman College – FMS 387

Forbidden Fruit

4 Comments

Sparkly vampires, Team Edward, and Team Jacob: these are some of the phrases that come to mind when one hears the word twilight. Yet, on the novel’s original cover, there appears nothing more than the author’s name, the novel’s title, and two outstretched, white hands holding an apple; there are no sparkles and no vampires. There is only one clue to prepare the reader for what awaits her.

That is until your identity as a member of Western civilization kicks into full gear and interprets this offered apple as “forbidden fruit.” The connotation is so deeply embedded as to “being very near to finding that it is natural and goes without saying” (Barthes 269). Unanalyzed and unmentioned, the transformation of the hands and the apple into the myth of the forbidden fruit does not become problematic. Unacknowledged, the myth is able to persist and work in service of the novel. Without saying a word, the image tips off the reader that what they are about to consume will involve temptation. For the reader, the image is outstretched to those both in the fictitious world she is about to enter and to herself and other readers. The novel’s image tempts the reader to consume the novel and the knowledge that lies inside of it. When one considers that forbidden fruit refers to “any indulgence of pleasure that is considered illegal or immoral,” it makes sense that many consider Twilight to be a guilty pleasure (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forbidden_fruit).

Moving away from Twilight, the myth of forbidden fruit reaches far beyond literary and visual allusions. The belief that Eve tempted Adam to eat the forbidden fruit which then led to the fall of man does not have to be literally believed in order to carry weight in our society. The idea of the female temptress stems from the leaves of the tree of knowledge. Every time a woman is told that “she was asking for it” and every time a woman is slut shamed for being comfortable with her sexuality, the myth and ideology surrounding forbidden fruit persists. This ideology impacts women who believe that they need to dress modestly and need to play hard to get so as not to be perceived as a temptress.

Back to Twilight, this ideology explains why Bella dresses so modestly, why two teenagers (read: one teenager and one vampire who is more than 100 years old) can’t give in to sexual temptation until after they are married, and why Bella hides her budding relationship with Edward from her parents. Though their love may not be shameful from Bella’s point of view, her inexplicable, all-consuming attraction to Edward is something she doesn’t fully understand except under the guise of true love. Twilight’s narrative and book cover add to the mythology surrounding the forbidden fruit and keep the myth alive in popular parlance. The myth allows for the cover’s dismembered arms and apple to compliment the contents of the text. It enables the reader to not anticipate an apple-related and in fact, to be continually convinced of the cover’s relevance to the text as the story unfolds.

 

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4 thoughts on “Forbidden Fruit

  1. Maria, I thought your post was very well thought out and interesting! I have never read Twilight and have only seen two of the movies, and I do not know the entire story, but I think you make a very good point that this simple image that taken out of context means essentially nothing (just an apple being held in two hands) can take on this much greater meaning when put in the context of the story. It definitely draws back to the myth of temptation (with Eve) by bringing in this symbol of women as temptresses. But do you think Bella falls under that category if she never actually tempts Edward sexually until after they are married? Or is she considered the forbidden fruit that he can’t have until then? This could probably just be my ignorance of the stories talking cause I am definitely lacking in Twilight knowledge.

  2. Maria, I was definitely about to do this exact same thing. I completely agree with your assessment that the apple signifies the forbidden fruit of Adam and Eve, throughout the series, Bella is constantly suppressing her temptations to Edward. She is the one that tries to push their sexual relationship forward only to have Edward stop her. He does not even want to give in to the sexual relationship once they are married, since she is not a vampire. Yet, he does give in and, if I recall correctly, feel terrible about his decision. Most of the sexual advances come from Bella, since she is the temptress.

  3. Oh jeez Bella tempts the crap out of Edward — she doesn’t mean to; it’s just “how good she smells.” The forbidden fruit and the mythology of Eve (and women’s sexuality) intertwines so well with the narrative of the story.

  4. The variety of interpretation and issues you discover to be associated with the cover of this book was great – some of which I have seen discussed separately but never in relation to each other. Well done.

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