The Twilight Saga


Bella Swan ?  "How old does a girl have to be, to be a woman?"
Introduction: In the novel "Sense and Sensibility" the beautiful vivacious sixteen year old Marianne Dashwood is sadly seated, during a dinner party, across from the "boorish, homely, thirty eight year old Colonel Brandon. A man she is going to fall in love with and marry within the year. 
In the play "Romeo and Juliet," having just celebrated her thirteenth birthday, Juliet Capulet looks into the eyes of one of her family's mortal enemies, and falls madly in love. With a love so powerful, and so pure, that through the milenia it shall literaly become a part of the very definition of romantic love.
In the novel "Twilight" the sixteen (?, help me if I am wrong) year old Bella Swan, looks into the eyes of (the "ninety-something" year old) Edward Cullen and explains that her love for him, is more important to her, than life itself.  (paraphrased)
Discussion question: How old does a girl have to be, to make the very adult decision, of bonding with a boy/man for the rest of her life? 

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Dear Doc,
FYI: If memory serves me. The beautiful Marianne Dashwood was sixteen and a half when she met Edward Farris. "Almost" seventeen when she dined with Colonel Brandon and WAS seventeen when she finally met the man of her dreams Willoughby.
Colonel Brandon was thirty five years old when he met Marianne. And I believe that Miss Williams (the Colonel's god-daughter was around fourteen or fifteen when Willoughby began to "use her"  and that she was fifteen when he abandoned her after she became pregnant.
Also, if memory serves me Juliet's parents were discussing the fact that Juliet's thirteenth birth day had either occurred or was about to occur on the evening of their masquerade party. Thus making her "well old enough" to marry or to already have been married.
The reason there is some confussion about Juliet's age come from the fact that although Shakespeare wrote the stage play about a woman who had just turned from twelve years of age to thirteen, his "Sonnet of the flesh" was about a girl aged thirteen almost fourteen. Professor Gayle Whittier offers this explanation: "Juliet's very age suggests that she both represents and defeats a translation of sonnet into flesh. At 'almost' fourteen (and not sixteen, as in Brooke's earlier "Romeus and Juliet"), she has years almost equal to the completed form of the sonnet's fourteen-lined body
Professor P.B. Buttons
I think in modern times, i.e., nowadays, it depends on the experiences she had and what she had to go through. I mean of course they cannot make rash decisions when a girl is 13 and just starting to look at boys (at least thats how old I was haha), and hasn't had to deal with too much as in a boyfriend.girlfriend setting. Of course, there are others who started way too early and by the age of 16 know what they want. But the human mind is indecisive by nature; no one knows truly what they want until it presents itself fully. You can't know anything about it if you have never seen it or dealt with it. Anyways, it depends. I say at least 16, but even then.......I've only been with one person who I believe is someone I'm going to spend the rest of my life with......every girl is different. So I guess, it depends on the person and what kind of romantic life they have led.  To some, the more experience means the better idea they will have on what they want for in a lifelong partner.
Dear Redjeb,
I think that you hit on the key point experience and maturity. I am a physician, and consequently the physical and psycologic nature of people facinate me. When Juliet was alive the typical life expectancy was 32. When Juliet was 16 half of her life was over. Also typicaly each woman had eight pregnancies. And womwn burried 25% of their children before their second birthdays.
Consequently they were much, much more mature for thir age than contemporary young men and women. 
That's quite a difficult question, I didn't consider myself a women till I was at least 25ish but by this time I was already a wife and mother. Before that I considered myself to be a young female I suppose, I think to be a woman is to have a certain wisdom/maturity about you. I wouldnt really consider Bella to be a woman just yet.

I don't think has anything to do with a certain age! but on the maturity level and experiences that she has had. Teen girls now a days are spoiled!

Back years ago it was normal for a girl to be mature enough to be married and have children before thier 19th birthday. But back then there was alot more respondsiblilties put on young people. They were brought up to help their parents at a young age, thus they were taught respondsibilty and maturity.

With Bella being the parent figure in her relationship with her mom, it made her more mature and responsible, than the other teens in he class.  

Hi Doc,

Sorry I've been away for a long while...I love your questions, they really make me stop and think, as I am writing this I have not read any of the other comments to this question, because I enjoy adding my untainted opinion:


I think I kinda straddle the fence on this topic... I believe that when a girl becomes a woman, it's more of a calculation of maturity and experience rather than age. And when I say experience I don't mean in a sexual nature, I mean life experiences. but that's NOT to say that I personally (in my opinion) think that it is appropriate for a mature 16 female to have a relationship with a 30 year old man.  I think that if the LOVE and DEVOTION of FOREVER is there when she is 16 then it should still be there when she is of legal age at 18. Hope that make sense.

that's a very good question doc

girls are known to grow up faster than boys and that's just a part of it

there is no such a thing as specific age for all girls to grow to womanhood mentally or physically in some cold parts of the world that doesn't happens till the age of 14 and in some other parts in the world it physically happens in the age of 11 or less most girls mentally grows at this age and some others remain children in their minds

i guess it depends on how the girl thinks and acts before

Dear Doc,


Like most of the people who have responded here, I think there is no magic age that the transition between girlhood and womanhood happens.  Each person is different, each situation unique, and only the person in question is able to know their own mind and heart.


I do think that in the case of Bella, there are strong suggestions that she has reached a level of maturity that one might associate with womanhood, but there are also signs that she is not yet entirely mature when we meet her. I think we get to see Bella grow from the edge of womanhood into a woman in her own right, and that she matures as the saga progresses.


When we meet Bella, she shows some definite signs of emotional maturity.  The largest of these is her willingness to sacrifice her happiness for others, as she did when she removed herself from her mother's life and away to Forks so that Renee might pursue her own life with Phil.  This took an extraordinary amount of courage and maturity for a girl who, up to that point, had not felt she fit in.  Bella knew she would be putting herself through an uncomfortable situation, starting over in a new location, making herself the oddity all over again, but didn't hesitate because she saw it as a way to make her mother happy.  Bella shows she is able to look beyond her own self-interests and do what she feels is right for all the people involved.  That type of sacrifice is often a mark of emotional maturity. 


I also see Bella's behavior around Charlie as a sign of one type of maturity, though I do think with her father Bella is still a bit of the little girl needing to please her father.  I see this in the way that Bella sort of pastes herself into the corners of Charlie's life, never directly placing herself as a focal point for Charlie.  I think this is a mixed bag situation.  On one hand, Bella is certainly mature enough to handle being mostly on her own.  In many ways she is the parent, the caregiver and household manager.  She was with Renee, and she definitely is with Charlie. This is the mature side of Bella, the old beyond her years side of her.  I think because she presents herself to Charlie as being so entirely capable of managing on her own, he doesn't go the extra mile to involve himself in her life.  

Yet she does things she knows would upset Charlie, and lies to protect him from having to see her as a real person, flawed and willful and determined as she is.  She lies about the meadow, where she's going and with whom she is going. She lies about who brought her home from Port Angeles.  She hides her relationship with Edward until she can't anymore, until Edward wants to meet Charlie and court Bella properly. In New Moon, she is reckless and acts in ways she knows Charlie would not approve of, and hides this from him, often at great personal risk to herself.  She takes off for Italy with only a note and doesn't even call to let him know she's okay.  This is not a mature way to handle things.  If she wants Charlie to treat her as an adult, she should be willing to get to know him and let him know her as an adult, as the person she really is, so that they can establish a relationship based on mutual knowledge and respect.  Bella does fall short on maturity in this instance, in my opinion, because she wants to be treated as an adult but lies and sneaks around like a willful child. She has no way of judging how Charlie would have treated her decisions if she had been honest with him and showed him she was deserving of his trust, because she hadn't proved to Charlie that he could trust she was making mature, rational decisions. Yes, she takes care of Charlie, cooks and cleans and looks after him.  But she is still immature in many other ways.  Being able to cook a meal and do laundry, to shop for groceries and clean the bathroom, those aren't signs of the kind of maturity we're talking about, the kind that signals womanhood or adulthood.  I could do all of those things by age eleven, but I was not in any way ready to make life-changing decisions for myself.


I think where we see Bella mature into adulthood is in Eclipse.  Because this is where she really lays her cards on the table, where she says to Charlie (paraphrased) that she's an adult, and while she won't disrespect his rules, he has to treat her as an adult and allow her to make her own decisions about her friends and romantic partners, and set reasonable boundaries that are age appropriate, not reactionary dad appropriate.  She finally allows their relationship to mature to the level of father and adult daughter.  Of course Charlie isn't going to approve of everything she does.  No parent really ever does.  But she stops hiding things from him (as much as possible when dating a secret vampire) and this forces Charlie to deal with her as an adult.  It's a huge step in their relationship, and to me is a sign that Bella is an adult at that point, at least in the sense that she is willing to establish a relationship with her father based on mutual respect. 


I know a lot of people have said that Bella's wishy-washy treatment of Jacob is a sign of immaturity.  I agree to the extent that I feel she is not one hundred percent certain in her heart that she is making the right choice in forgiving Edward, given all that has happened in her relationships with him.  I think there is a part of Bella that knows if the situation in New Moon happened all over again, Edward would not choose differently, he would still try to do what he felt was best for her even if it meant hurting her to protect her. She knows that she and Edward have many issues that need to be ironed out, and perhaps she's not sure to what extent he is willing or able to change and grow for their relationship. This doesn't sit well with Bella, and I think it makes her hesitant to close the door on Jacob.  It might not be the right way to handle things, but I don't think this reflects on Bella's maturity.  I think it speaks more to the emotional turmoil she is recovering from.  Whether she chooses to acknowledge her feelings for Jacob or not, she does recognize on a deep level that no matter how much she cares for him, it is not the right kind of love to base a commitment on.  So for some, this may be a sign of immaturity.  For me, it is simply a woman trying to heal a wounded heart and leaning on the crutch to which she has become accustomed.  She at least is honest with Jacob, telling him at every instance that her heart is set on Edward and that she cannot love Jake in the way he wants.  She loves him, but she knows herself well enough to know it's not enough and she does try to tell him this.  That takes a maturity and a certain amount of self-awareness, even if she doesn't handle things perfectly. 


It also takes a certain maturity to say to the man you love that you are a capable woman who knows your own mind and heart, and demand to be treated as such, whether the man approves or not. This is the maturity that Bella is striving for in Eclipse.  In many ways, this is the emotional journey to maturity that Bella takes with Charlie that she must revisit again in her relationship with Edward, setting appropriate boundaries on his protectiveness that allow Bella to be honest with him and still be her own person.  When she refuses to go along with Edward's every mandate, that is a sign to me that she is maturing in her love for him, that she is learning to love him without giving herself over entirely to his needs and wishes.  That is a mature kind of love, but it's one she and Edward have to grow into if they are meant to be life partners.  Bella recognizes this, and so she stands her ground and forces Edward to deal with her as a mature and intelligent woman, not as an infatuated girl.  Moreover, she stands her ground even though she is uncertain of the outcome, because she knows it's important that she do so for her own well-being in their relationship.  That's maturity.


Those are my Bella specific answers.  But to answer your precise question, "how old does a girl have to be, to be a woman?" I would have to quote Jacob and say, "age is just a number."  Maturity is being honest about who you are and what you want.  It is knowing yourself well enough to judge what is a valid, rational decision and what is an emotional reaction.  It is being able to look beyond your own self-interests and assess the world, or a given situation, from many points of view, and being able to base your decisions on what insights you may gain by doing so.  Maturity is being able to sacrifice what you want for the greater good, when appropriate.  It is a willingness to compromise when the situation calls for it, and also being willing to face the consequences of your decisions head on.  I'm sure there are more things that could be added to the definition of maturity, but I think this is the minimum one should expect if one wants to be respected as an adult. 

I agree with you wholeheartedly ShannonP, I couldn't have said it better myself.

At least 30 something..... lol

I was way to easily influenced when I was in my teens. I don't think it's realistic to settle down so early in life. When you don't even know who you are yet. I do think that our love is pure when we are so young and naive. I would call it untainted. When life experiences mold us into the women we will become, then we are ready to truly see and find the love of our lives. We know what we want, what we need and what we deserve.

 Yes..... I'm going to stick with 30 something.


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