The character of Jacob Black is a hard one for me. For one thing, half of his problem was what I talked about in the love triangle section of this series. However, there is enough wrong with him that I think that I can justify a rant.
So, as a statement before we start, I’m not going to talk about the representation issue in this section. As far as I’m concerned, that needs its own thing to talk about, so the way that the Cullens actually treated Jacob isn’t going to be talked about much.
Part 7: Jacob Black
So, when Twilight came out, as I’ve said in the past, Jacob didn’t get a lot of screen time. He was going to be a werewolf that fell for Renesmee, but for the most part, he wasn’t all that important. Bella fake flirted awkwardly with him, Jacob dispensed important plot related details, and that was that. Meyer hadn’t really planned on anything beyond that. Of course, then Meyer realized that she didn’t just want to leave it with Forever Dawn and things quickly spun out of control.
The two ends of a love triangle, should, ideally, be two sides of the protagonist. Neither is bad per se, not unless this is a seduction novel, but one represents something that she wants more. The reason that New Moon initially worked in regards to the love triangle was that Jacob represented normalcy. He was just a normal, sweet guy who could give her happiness and relate to her in some ways that Edward would never be able to. They were both modern teenagers with modern ideas. Jacob even appealed to Bella’s maybe more dangerous side by encouraging her to ride a motorcycle or cliff dive. Even when Jacob…exploded…into a werewolf, he still represented life, and the fact that Bella could perhaps grow and change, where with Edward, even if she remained human, there were going to be problems in the future.
Jacob should have been the alternative.
While he was more passionate than Edward and much more inexperienced, he should have appealed to a different side of Bella, one that found the adventure fun, who could learn about live with her, one that wanted the more simple life that he could have offered. Jacob should have been the character that represented a normal life, where he and Bella could learn together.
And that was what he did. For all of half of New Moon.
The problem of Jacob lies in the fact that there wasn’t ever supposed to be a love triangle.
While Jacob had been supposed to have a crush on Bella, he was supposed to be more like Mike 2.0 than an actual threat to Edward, and Meyer writes New Moonlike it. You’ll see Bella calling Jacob her crutch, the only thing that fills the black hole in her heart that Edward left her, and other things, but there’s clearly nothing in her narrative that so much as hints that Bella is interested in Jacob as anything more than something to focus on while she bemoans the fact that she’s a lonely little moon without her planet to orbit around.
Her words, not mine.
However, the fanbase didn’t see things that way. They saw Jacob as a rival. Some really saw him as better for Bella. After all, he seemed more normal, didn’t stalk her, and while he definitely seemed interested in her, he wasn’t going to push her. At least, that’s why he was like before becoming a werewolf, but even that, given that he wasn’t there so much, was alright.
Now, people claimed that Meyer, on seeing the reaction, tanked the character so that Edward would get more popularity, but I don’t think that’s really true. Meyer decided to make Jacob a more worthy love interest for Bella. By making him just like Edward. And that, in reality, is the real heart of the entire problem.
Meyer, rather spectacularly, missed the point.
His Personality Flips
One of the worst things about Jacob is the fact that his entire personality has a habit of flipping around.
In Twilight and the beginning of New Moon, he’d been, for the most part, he’s a cheerful kind of character, isn’t overly interested in some of the traditions on the reservation, and seems more interested in working on cars, and possibly doing that professionally. This is actually an almost developed character. He’s got a goal, he’s distinct from other characters. Yet, when you compare this to his personality in Eclipse or Breaking Dawn, things are very different.
Now, in New Moon, this wasn’t an issue. While he’d been a more cheerful, pleasant person, the fact that he’d just turned into a werewolf was an understandable reason for him to be generally hostile to the world at large for a while. Just about anyone would be. However, by the time that Eclipse rolls around, Jacob is nearly unrecognizable. He’s angry, pushy, force kisses Bella, and is generally unpleasant. In many ways though, he’s essentially become Edward 2.0. Younger, brasher and with a more physical interest in Bella, but still Edward. The character who inspired ‘team Jacob’ doesn’t really even exist to an extent.
And Meyer thinks that that was a good thing. It’s clear that in Eclipse is the only point where Bella acknowledges that there might possibly have been something. Only when his behavior is more like Edward’s is Jacob even really someone to consider an actual rival for Edward.
Meyer honestly finds Jacob’s new behavior to be romantic. Because, in her mind, Edward Cullen is the perfect man, and thus, to make Jacob a good love interest, he needs to be like Edward. She’s not tanking him in her mind, she seems to think that she’s giving the fans what they wanted.
Of course, all of this really boils down to one thing, Meyer doesn’t see that there’s anything wrong with Edward. Not only that, but she can’t conceive that anyone could see something wrong with Edward. I’ve mentioned this in Edward’s section, but it’s something to remember. It even makes sense in a twisted kind of way.
Meyer Does Not Understand her Audience
Fundamentally speaking, the problem with Jacob is a problem with how Meyer sees Edward.
Meyer does not understand that her readers could be uninterested in Edward. As I’ve said before, she sees Edward as the perfect man to end all men, so naturally, she’d attempt to make her rival more like him to give him a fighting chance.
The problem is that, as a writer, Meyer has failed to see that audiences do not always share the author’s ideals. While it is the general goal of a writer to have the reader like the characters that are supposed to be liked, that is not always the case. People attempt to humanize villains, characters that are written as complete jerks are given the Leather Pants treatment, female characters are often turned into shrill harpies for the crime of being female in a story where the writer wants to male leads to kiss. Sometimes, writers will work with the fans. For instance, in Gravity Falls, the Cipher Wheel wasn’t originally supposed to have a significance, but then, when he creators saw the fan effort that had gone into deciphering it, they gave it a place. However, if you do this, you need to be able to work with it, not just sort of hand wave it in awkwardly while it really doesn’t have a place.
Since she honestly can’t see that people do not see Edward the same way as she does, she is going to completely miss what it was about Jacob that made him preferable in the eyes of some of the fans of the series.
In some ways, the reason is because Meyer is writing for one person: herself. She writes her fantasies, her fetishes, and her ideas without really caring too much about other people, then, maybe because of agents and editors, or maybe because, in her own way, she does want to please her audience, she sort of gives them what they want, but can’t get past her primary audience: herself.
Meyer Does Not Really Care About the Character
Now, I’ve talked about this with Bella and Edward, and mentioned how neither of them are technically characters in their own right, but rather ideals of what Meyer wants, and the same holds true with Jacob. He’s not really a character. He is exposition, he is an emotional crutch, he is a rival, he is a useful, but he’s never actually a character. Jacob is defined by the function that he serves at the time of the story, and his character and personality change in order to service that role.
There’s really nothing more to it.
In all honestly, there are two characters in the series that Meyer actually cares about from what I’ve seen, and those are Bella and Edward. Everyone else is a place holder for a role that needs to be played. Jacob might have more screen time, but that doesn’t change anything. He’s really not that important, so Meyer’s not going to really care that much about him.
That is one of the reasons that she seemed so surprised by the negative reaction to his imprinting on Renesmee. Meyer doesn’t care that much about the character, and now he’d fulfilled the real function that he had. So why is it that people are throwing a fit now of all times?
Meyer writes for one person: Meyer. This is her fantasy, her story and her dream. All other characters are really there just to add to the setting. And her readers didn’t really see just how much that was true until the final book. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing that a writer primarily writes for their original vision. Pandering to the audience doesn’t make a good book. However, there’s a different between writing to what you were planning and completely ignoring the fact that plans have changed, and the audience is expecting something completely different.
Jacob needs to be a character in his own right. It’s as simple as that. Meyer would have to let go of Forever Dawn and accept the fact that once a character has been expanded on for an extra two books, the original plan isn’t going to work. That’s the joy of outlines, if you find that they’re not working, or things took on a different aspect than what was originally planned, you can change the plan and decide how you’re going to change the plan before crud like this happens.
Letting Forever Dawn rest would also mean accepting that the baby imprint subplot wasn’t something that was going to work for must audiences, and that he probably could have played a larger role in the plot than was originally thought.
The closest to Jacob was to having his own character was really the second book, where he had a mystery that was completely independent of Bella on his mind, that also happens to be the time when Jacob was actually well liked by people, so honestly, work with that personality. There were already grains of things that were conflict and issues with the character, and working with those would have likely lead to a character who, love triangle or not, was reasonably interesting.
Jacob had the potential to be a good character, all Meyer had to do was let go of her original plans and to allow things to happen that did not completely revolve around Bella and Edward’s relationship, and he would have been. Unfortunately, this never happened, leaving fans frustrated over a pointless love triangle and a character whose potential was never realized.