There’s a lot of criticism in the YA blogosphere about Bella Swan and the whole “passive heroine” thing. I admit I’ve taken a stab at her myself. The truth is, I’ve only read the first book and I find the movies faintly ridiculous, so I don’t think I’m really qualified to further comment on this issue. I hate people who argue about books they haven’t read; I certainly don’t want to become one. But I have to, just a little bit.
The reason this is on my mind is because of something that I’m realizing about my NaNo manuscript (yes, it’s still not finished). I envisioned this book as a dark but romantic sci-fi action adventure. So far I has a touch of dark, some sci-fi, a bit of action and adventure and A LOT of romance. It’s turning out to be much more romantic that I expected. In fact it’s so romantic that I’m starting to feel that my heroine might be turning into Bella Swan – a heroine whose only goal is to love the anti-hero. Now I’m asking myself – is that so bad? Am I developing a soft spot for poor Bella?
Bella Swan is often held in stark contrast to Katniss Everdeen. (For a slightly lighter hearted taste check out this awesome video). At any rate, it’s hardly a fair comparison. Perhaps if Bella was offered a choice to be blasted into the horrible future world of The Hunger Games, she might have gone for it as a way to escape the adolescent malaise that was her life before Edward Cullen came along. And we all know that if Katniss had been whisked with Gale into perfectly dull Forks, WA, she would have happily settled down with him in a cabin in the woods. Bella spends her time trying to break out of a perfectly safe world. Katniss spends her days trying to break back in. Katniss spends so much time ruminating about how she can never marry and have children that it becomes clear that’s in fact ALL she really wants. She’s not sure with whom, stupid girl, at least that’s one thing Bella has over her. She knows who she wants.
If you are able to pick through the blood soaked rubble in The Hunger Games trilogy there is, at its heart a kind of love story. And it’s here, at the very core of things that Katniss edges Bella out, by an arrow tip. Bella wants Edward and she goes for it, good for her. But do I ever believe that she wants him for anything other than her own selfish desire? He’s the one who leaves her because she’s in danger. She never leaves him, despite the fact that their relationship has raised the ire of the Volturi. Never mind that she also strings Jacob along, unforgivably in my opinion, just because she feels like it. Bella is passive, yes, but it’s her selfishness that I can’t get past.
Katniss on the other hand, whether she wants Gale or Peeta, wants them only because they need her, Peeta especially. She never, until the very last pages, deems herself worthy, or ready, or willing, but she genuinely tries to love them both, simply because she knows that is what they want. Also, when she finally does accept the love that Peeta offers her, it’s because she know she needs it, to repair her own broken soul. Only by loving this boy she was once prepared to kill can she be whole again. But this occurs in the last pages of the trilogy, up to that point all her motivations have been unselfish. She volunteered to save Prim, she lied and faked love for Peeta to help herself survive only so she could return to care for her family. She continued the ruse to protect Gale from President Snow and then to help Peeta survive in the Quarter Quell. She became the Mockingjay to free the Districts.
So yes, Katniss is strong, yes she’s brave; her strength and her bravery help her in the arena and in the war. But in her love story it is the selflessness that makes me love her in a way I could never love Bella.
All this is a rather long winded way of saying that a heroine whose only goal is to love the anti-hero is maybe okay, as long as she loves him because he NEEDS her, not just because she WANTS him. Perhaps if I read the rest of the Twilight Saga I might get that from Bella, but that’s not likely to happen. Sorry folks, Suzanne Collins is a better writer than Stephanie Meyer. I just can’t do it.