Friday, January 22, 2010

Edward Cullen vs Natty Bumppo

When I was in library school one of the books we discussed for young adults was Twilight. In the course of the discussion it came out that many of the individuals in the class felt that Edward was a terrible role model for how a boy friend should behave. He does a number of inappropriate things such as: driving too fast, sneaking into Bella's bedroom at night and is not always truthful. My thought at the time was "Well he's a vampire and so what do you expect? By his very nature he's going to do what would be considered bad behaviors by human standards."
Thinking about this lead me to think about other arch-typical male characters in other series and I wondered about Natty Bumppo, James Coopers protagonist in the Deerslayer series. I wondered if people had the same type of discussions when that series was first published? Did young girls sit around the parlor, taking tea, and say things like "Oh, that Natty is so dreamy." Did they tell the young men who came courting "Why can't you be more like the Pathfinder?" Did adults wonder about the appropriateness of the Pathfinder as a role model for their sons? Or did they view Natty and say "Well yes, he is brave and loyal, but really all he does is run around in the woods with his Indian friends and I don't really think he would be a wise match for my daughter."
Both are fictional characters but both can provide insight into what is considered popular fiction of the day. And providing that type of reading material is important for any library's patrons. And in some ways Natty & Edward are very similar: they both disregard contemporary social standards, they both make their own way in a hostile environment, they are both guided by their interpretation of ancient standards that they have learned from an elder and they both have an object of affection who is portrayed as being helpless in the setting she finds herself. And all of those components are often to be found in a good book. I would add another thought though: People were still reading Deerslayer a hundred years after it was first published, I wonder if the same will be said about the Twilight series at the turn of then next century?

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting to me that the people in your class found Edward to be a poor role model because Bella has always stood out more to me. Maybe I expect reckless behavior from 'young' men, but perhaps it's also because I'm a woman. I'm not a particularly "female-empowerment" type of woman, but something about Bella bothers me. She is not the role model I'd want to provide for my daughter. She is not a character that I would have identified with as a youth. She's weak, helpless, dependent, insecure; the list goes on and on. Her love affair with Edward is laughable (I am "team-Jacob" reader, apparently). Add to this the lack of depth in characters (something achievable in Young Adult material) and I really am left scratching my head asking, "Why?"