top of page

Bella Swan: The OG Austen-Brontë Superfan?

Bella Swan, circa 2008

Hello, dear readers! Today, I would like to talk about something you likely never expected to find on this blog: Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling young adult Twilight series, complete with bloodthirsty vampires, shirtless werewolves, and one of the most controversial literary love triangles of all time. Forgot Austen versus Brontë—were you Team Edward or Team Jacob?!?

(Personally, this author would choose a tan, chiseled werewolf over a whiny, bedazzled vampire any day... But I digress.)

Before you roll your eyes, shaking your head at my stereotypical Gen-Z love-hate-obsession with all things Forks, Washington-related, hear me out. While the film adaptations largely brush over Bella Swan’s bookishness, Meyer’s original written protagonist enjoys her status as a certified bookworm just as much as the rest of us. And like most of us here at JASP, her tastes tend to veer towards the classics.

In fact, with the exception of Shakespeare, whose Romeo and Juliet and The Merchant of Venice are key plot points in New Moon and Breaking Dawn, respectively, the only authors Bella lauds in particular detail throughout the series are Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters. Consider these remarks from the early pages of Twilight: “I had decided to read Wuthering Heights—the novel we were currently studying in English—yet again for the fun of it” (Meyer 34-35); “In English, Mike took his accustomed seat by my side. We had a pop quiz on Wuthering Heights. It was straightforward, very easy” (Meyer 38). Having already read Emily Brontë’s magnum opus multiple times—a rare feat for the average high schooler—Bella enjoys and comprehends this famously elusive novel, even calling it “fun.”

Which supernatural hunk stole your heart in the early 2000s?

Later, Bella ponders what to read after finishing her homework for the evening: “I had a small collection of books that came with me to Forks, the shabbiest volume being a compilation of the works of Jane Austen…. My favorites were Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. I’d read the first most recently, so I started into Sense and Sensibility, only to remember after I began chapter three that the hero of the story happened to be named Edward. Angrily, I turned to Mansfield Park, but the hero of that piece was named Edmund, and that was just too close. Weren’t there any other names available in the late eighteenth century?” (Meyer 147-148).

First of all, Bella’s copy of Jane Austen’s collected works is described as the “shabbiest” volume in her collection, indicating that it is also the most often read and loved. Secondly, rather than referencing the Regency era, into which Austen’s works often are assumed to exist, she acknowledges that Austen actually began working on most of her stories in the late 1700s. Clearly, she is no ordinary fan—Bella Swan knows her Jane Austen history!

Cathy and Heathcliff, BBC

In Eclipse, too—the third book of Meyer’s four-book series—Bella and Edward spend the entire novel comparing their relationship to Catherine and Heathcliff’s doomed love affair in Wuthering Heights. In the first chapter, when Edward sees Bella re-reading the book yet again, he says, “‘Don’t you know it by heart yet?... I don’t understand why you like it. The characters are ghastly people who ruin each others’ lives. I don’t know how Heathcliff and Cathy ended up being ranked with couples like Romeo and Juliet or Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. It isn’t a love story, it’s a hate story’” (Meyer 28).

Defending her love for Emily Brontë’s classic novel, Bella responds, “‘I think it’s something about the inevitability. How nothing can keep them apart—not her selfishness, or his evil, or even death, in the end…” Edward then remarks that Wuthering Heights would be a better story if either Cathy or Heathcliff possessed one redeeming quality, to which Bella replies, “I think that may be the point…. Their love is their only redeeming quality’” (Meyer 29).

Throughout Eclipse, they continue to argue over who is the source of the major conflict in Wuthering Heights—Cathy, with her selfishness, or Heathcliff, with his temper and general malice. However, as the events of the novel unfold (no spoilers for those of you who may not have read it!), Edward begins to sympathize with Brontë’s brooding hero, realizing they have more in common than he originally thought.

“‘I’m discovering I can sympathize with Heathcliff in ways I didn’t think possible before,’” he says midway through Eclipse, having begun to reread Wuthering Heights while Bella sleeps. When Bella wakes up, she flips through the book to find the passage he’d been reading:

… You may look incredulous, if you please! I never would have banished him from her society as long as she desired his. The moment her regard ceased, I would have torn his heart out, and drank his blood! …

Creepy, right? Bella shudders as she realizes the implications of the passage: the promise to tear one’s heart out and drink their blood holds a significant amount of weight coming from an actual vampire. Clearly, Cathy and Heathcliff aren’t the healthiest couple in the world—but then again, neither are Bella and Edward.

Toxic, anyone...?

Later in Eclipse, once Bella has made her final decision re: Edward versus Jacob, she reckons with her own connection to Brontë’s heroine: “I was selfish, I was hurtful. I tortured the ones I loved…. I was like Cathy, like Wuthering Heights, only my options were so much better than hers, neither one evil, neither one weak. And here I sat, crying about it, not doing anything productive to make it right. Just like Cathy” (Meyer 517).

Well, girl… at least you can admit it! Self-awareness is the first step to getting the help you need.

So, JASP readers and devotees—what do you think? Where does Bella fall within the great Austen-Brontë debate? Are you Team Edward or Team Jacob? Most importantly, am I the only one who can’t stop picturing Heathcliff with sparkly skin and coiffed hair prancing across the moors in search of his next meal? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!


Meyer, Stephenie. Twilight. Little, Brown & Company, 2005.

---. Eclipse. Little, Brown & Company, 2007.


i love this article, sarah!! such a lovely read!! sincerely, a team edward enthusiast

Replying to

dearest na'dayah, your words warm my heart -- although they do raise concerns over your taste in fictional men!

bottom of page