Romancing the Stockholm Syndrome: Desensitizing Readers to Obsessive and Abusive Behavior in Contemporary Young Adult Literature

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Romancing the Stockholm Syndrome: Desensitizing Readers to Obsessive and Abusive Behavior in Contemporary Young Adult Literature
Staub, Lauren
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Subjects / Keywords:
Boundary layer separation ( jstor )
Kidnapping ( jstor )
Literary characters ( jstor )
Love ( jstor )
Narratives ( jstor )
Novels ( jstor )
Protagonists ( jstor )
Twilight ( jstor )
Women ( jstor )
Written narratives ( jstor )
Love in literature
Stockholm syndrome
Teenage girls in literature
Young adult fiction
Undergraduate Honors Thesis


There is considerable variation among the dominant genres of contemporary Young Adult (YA) fiction – science fiction, horror, romantic comedy, etc. But there is a striking consistency in a predominant narrative of much YA fiction: kidnapping tales that tend also to lure the reader into the Stockholm Syndrome that protagonists, usually young and female, develop. I contend that literary desensitizing of obsessive and abusive behavior can have dramatic effects on young readers, blinding them to hazardous situations they may mistake for passionate or exciting. Forced captivity and stalking along with other dangerous idiosyncrasies should not be mistaken for passionate love. Passive surrender to overheated, manipulative and aggressive suitors (the classic "bad boy" of these novels) means surrendering independent agency and defining desire and love in only reactive ways. This is not a positive model for female readers. In this Honor Thesis, I analyze three popular YA novels written primarily for female readers and attempt to understand in their examples the widespread use of kidnapping and Stockholm Syndrome plots. I also briefly consider the literature on the psychiatric condition of Stockholm Syndrome and its popular representation in fiction. ( en )
General Note:
Awarded Bachelor of Arts; Graduated May 7, 2013 summa cum laude. Major: English
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Advisor(s): Terry Harpold
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College/School: College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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University of Florida
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Copyright Lauren Staub. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.


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Page 1 of 26 Romancing the Stockholm Syndrome: Desensitizing Rea ders to Obsessive and Abusive Behavior in Contemporary Young Adult Litera ture Lauren Staub Honors Thesis, Spring 2013 Thesis Director: Terry Harpold Reader: Anastasia Ulanowicz Contemporary works of young adult (or “YA”) litera ture written and marketed primarily for adolescent girls often depend upon co nventional narratives that feature the damsel in distress – that is, plots in which the yo ung woman who needs to be saved from her surroundings, or even herself, by a young man. Such privileging of masculine power – even in contemporary and purportedly progressive narratives – reaffirms the conservative notion that men still hold the power i n relationships, that men's mastery over their female partners is an appropriate expression of passion and attraction. But what happens when the characters in such texts – as well as their readers – confuse abuse for passion? Young women reading stories that portray c ontrolling or over-protective men as paradigms of romance are, I propose, being desensit ized to obsessive and abusive behavior. Forced captivity and stalking, along with other dangerous behaviors should not be mistaken for passionate love. Passive surrender to overheated, manipulative and aggressive suitors (the classic "bad boy" of these YA novels) means surrendering independent agency and defining desire and love in only reactive ways. This is not a positive model for female readers.


Page 2 of 26 In this thesis, then, I will analyze three popular YA novels written primarily for female readers in order to study how the novels emp loy, and occasionally justify kidnapping and Stockholm Syndrome plots. I will bri efly consider literature on the psychiatric condition of Stockholm Syndrome and its popular representation in fiction. I will also survey the cultural impact of novels with massive appeal worldwide to create a visual of just how many adolescents are coming in c ontact with and making personal connections with detrimental role models in literat ure. In turn, I will conduct three interrelated case st udies that analyze variations of this captivity narrative. The first series of novels I h ave chosen is titled, The Breakaway by Michelle Davidson Argyle, which describes a girl wh o decides to remain with the man who has taken her hostage rather than return to her abusive boyfriend and disinterested parents at home. Not only does this novel serve as a bad manipulation of romance, but its sequel – which ambivalently represents the tumultuo us feelings experienced by the protagonist when her captor is released from parole – extends the Stockholm Sundrome model further by describing a love triangle between her prior captor and a new man. My next case study will address the popular Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, discussing how the series skims over obsessive beha vior depicted in the romance between Bella and Edward. Although the series is popular es pecially among teenagers, the idiosyncrasies of the leading love interest, Edward Cullen, should give the reader pause. Through his controlling nature and stalking habits, he places Bella in the role of object rather than subject. My final case study will address Lucy Christopher' s Stolen an epistolary novel whose protagonist-narrator is a girl who is abducte d and taken to a different continent by


Page 3 of 26 an admiring stranger. Although the main character u ltimately finds herself caring for her captor, her inner monologue suggests her complex re sponses to her captivity, as she responds erratically with expressions of both hatre d and fondness for her captor. Through her first-hand account, we see the slow development of a relationship between the captor and captive, perhaps drawing the reader into the sa me sympathy for the kidnapper. When she ultimately returns home to her family, she find s that although she is not physically confined, her mind is still reeling with the events of her past. Despite this struggle, she affirmatively knows that his actions were wrong and hurtful. Her story is, then, proving a successful example of being subjected to abuse but knowing the difference between right and wrong. My thesis will be informed by prior scholarship de tailing the serious nature of manipulating abusive tendencies for the purposes of romantic entertainment. For insight into Stockholm Syndrome and its effects on its vict ims, I will initially focus on two scholarly articles, “Stockholm Syndrome_: Psychiatr ic Diagnosis or Urban Myth?” and, “Understanding Stockholm Syndrome.” These texts wil l help us make sense of the reactions and thoughts of our protagonists as they find themselves in separate but comparable situations of abuse. To better understan d the appeal of romantic fiction in general, I have relied on Janice A. Radway's Reading the Romance which addresses why women gravitate towards certain types of narratives and how it influences their perception of reality. In the selection of these popular YA texts, I beli eve I have created a representative selection of narratives of the kind under consideration, whether through scenarios of captivity or dominance relationships. My aim is to argue for the need for


Page 4 of 26 authors and publishers alike to better understand t heir effects on the masses. Even though these books have been for entertainment, it must no t be forgotten that literature may strongly influence the self-understanding of reader s who connect on an intimate level with fictional characters. The Breakaway There has always been a human interest in the depi ction of traumatic experiences, drawing our attention to events that seem inconceiv able in every day life. This is what individuals to read stories: to take them out of a comfortable realm to experience an untrodden territory as a form of escapism. Such sto ries entice readers with suspense, intrigue, and elicit intense emotions that are for most of us rarely felt outside of fiction. But what happens when elements of romance are incor porated into a traumatic experience? The depiction of such serious matters a s kidnapping for a romantic scenario is not to be taken lightly. Even more difficult bey ond this is writing a romantic captivity narrative geared toward young adult readers. Adoles cents are in a period of maturing and are limited on insight into the ways and actions of intimate relationships. When they read an enthralling novel about sparks of romance felt b etween a captor and his captive, the overall message to the reader may be unclear. Abuse may be mistaken for passionate love, or obsession for care. Consider the YA novel The Breakaway by Michelle Davidson Argyle. The novel follows a young high school student named Naomi as she is kidnapped by jewel thieves during their escape when they accidentally strike h er with their car and believe that she knows their identity. In an attempt to protect thei r identities, they take her to a different


Page 5 of 26 state and force her to reside with them, threatenin g her with the hovering idea of death if she were to attempt an escape. For months she resid es in a bedroom, often showering multiple times a day or sleeping just to pass the t ime. She eventually gains permission to enter other areas of the house: in the dining room where she eats dinner with her captors, or in the den where she plays billiards. Over time, she develops relationships with a few members of the group, seeming to forget that they a re responsible for her entrapment. She begins to believe that most of them are actually de cent people, not once questioning her changing attitude. After a year of captivity, the m ember with whom she has become closest releases her, returning her to the world fr om which she has been absent. Everything has changed for Naomi after being freed, but the person she has evolved into seems jaded and out of place in her former life. The cover of the novel depicts a girl cowering in the corner of a room in the presence of a man with a gun in his hand, his shado w hovering over her on the wall above. This image of fright and intimidation coinci des with the beginning pages of the novel, but this mood seems to quickly dissipate. Th ere is one domineering figure of evident abuse, Eric, the leader of the group. He ph ysically abuses Naomi whenever she disobeys him or talks back, grabbing her and slappi ng her hard enough to leave bruises. But the other members of the group are often depict ed more positively, even as figures of comfort. The tone of the narrative seems to disrega rd the fact that all of these individuals are part of this plan of keeping her hostage; they are all equally guilty of the crime of holding her against her will. Missing from this nov el is any inner struggle within Naomi when she forms these relationships with her captors Not once does she question whether she should be feeling these positive emotions towar ds these criminals. She truly feels like


Page 6 of 26 these individuals have just been caught in a sticky situation and begins to see them startlingly as family. Even at the end of the novel when the kidnappers are charged and incarcerated for the crime, she misses them and fee ls as if they do not deserve this fate and are simply misunderstood. This lack of inner co nflict on the part of the primary character would seem to suggest that the actions of those who hurt us can be justified because those individuals provide what seems to be comfort or care. The girl we see fearing for her life on the cover grows over time t o forget the forced circumstance that controls all of her actions. Especially as a charac ter for a young adult novel, Naomi lacks any strength that might serve as an example for you ng women who may find themselves in a compromising situation. Instead, she is a weak figure that supports the age-old stereotype that women are feeble-minded, emotionall y labile, and reactive. The character of Naomi, although the main protagon ist, lacks anything substantial in regards to personality and human action. She has no additive idiosyncrasies that make her interesting, relatable, or real. Perhaps this w as a conscious effort on Argyle's part, who attempted to create an empty character in whose place the reader can easily place herself and experience her situation vicariously. T his is the danger: an adolescent reader will fill in the blanks of the character with her o wn distinguishing features. This idea is supported by Radway in the book, Reading the Romance which discusses the ideology of female identity in romance literature. She observes “Although it is true that romance reading evokes a process of identification whereby the reader responds to events lived through by the heroine, this is not the only level at which the reader reacts. The act of romance reading must first involve any reader in a complex process of the world construction through which the reader actively attr ibute sense to the words on a page. In


Page 7 of 26 doing so, that reader adopts the text's language as her own and appears to gesture toward a world she in fact creates” (Radway 187). But the truth of the matter is, there is nothing endearing about Naomi that would make a reader want to be in her position. She is easily overcome by her captors, hardly putting up a fight or trying to get away from them, despite having multiple chances to escape. It is ha rd to find admiration for a character who wants to be controlled, as shown in the one esc ape attempt she did execute. In a moment of sudden energy, Naomi runs out of the hous e but is almost immediately caught by her most abusive captor who beats her. But inste ad of fighting back, she sees this episode as confirmation that she wants to stay with captors with whom she has formed bonds, especially the one she has fallen in love wi th. Without any struggle to improve her situation, she is in bondage not only by her captor s, but by her own delusional mentality. Naomi's portrayal is not the only aspect of this s tory that is lacking substance. The relationship between she and her mother is lacking any sort of affection or even realistic components. Her mother has a powerful job as one of the top lawyers in her city, which the narrator immediately cites as the reason why Na omi's relationship with her mother is distant. The novel is organized so that every few c hapters, we shift from Naomi's situation to her mother's, Argyle accomplishing thi s by writing in the third person. When we do arrive at Naomi's mother's point of view, she speaks distantly with everyone she comes in contact with, even when discussing the dis appearance of her daughter. This disconnect with reality is excessively detached, as she evokes no emotion whatsoever at the name of her daughter or shows no sign of strugg ling with the fact of the kidnapping. It isn't until page eighty where she hears an old v oicemail from Naomi that she shows more human quality. When she hears her daughter's r ecorded voice, the narrator reveals,


Page 8 of 26 “She had never missed Naomi before, but now she did It was a sharp ache in her stomach that wouldn't go away. Maybe it was guilt, but she suspected more than that” (Argyle 80). It becomes increasingly clear as the s tory goes on that this disconnect between Naomi and her mother is one of the driving forces for Argyle to justify a cultivating relationship between Naomi and one of h er captors. If Argyle can present an absent mother to the reader who hardly seems to car e, then if Naomi finds someone who cares for her elsewhere, her feelings for her capto rs will be more easily accepted by the reader. What Argyle seems to neglect is that even i f there is lacking evidence of love at home, it should not mean that a young girl is willi ng to look for love even in the most desperate of situations. The other character that appears to push Naomi fur ther into the arms of her captors is her boyfriend from home, Brad. Rather th an being emotionally distant like Naomi's mother, he is physically abusive; Naomi is no stranger to the harms of abuse. Because of her experience with such matters, she sh ould, we may surmise, be more aware of instances that wave red flags when approached, b ut she in fact sees less that is wrong captivity the more time passes. Before Naomi had be en kidnapped, her boyfriend had struck her – leaving a prominent bruise on her face – outraged that she wanted to attend a different college than him. This pattern of abuse h ad been consistent for the extensive period of time they had dated, although she curious ly never questioned it. He has also forcefully instructed her that she should not speak to any other man after a friend of his had expressed interest in her. She also describes p ainful sexual relations with Brad which she had never protested, as she assumed the rough n ature of his intimacy was what he enjoyed. These elements of her story suggest that s he cannot recognize abuse until she


Page 9 of 26 finds herself in another abusive situation that she is unaware is also hazardous, and ultimately never sees it as such throughout the nov el. Naomi is misguided in her views of what romance should be and, because of this distort ed view, fails to see abuse for what it is. For the reader, the most important of Naomi's rela tionships is with Jesse. One of her youngest captors, Jesse is one of the jewel thi eves who was among the participants of the burglary operation. Described as handsome with tousled, dark red hair and a kind freckled face, his actions toward Naomi are almost immediately disturbing. After she is settled in to her new surroundings under captivity, he does startling things such as express his attraction towards her, telling her she is beautiful, and crawling into her bed at night to hold her. Argyle is plainly making an atte mpt at creating a swoon-worthy figure amongst Naomi's destitute surroundings, creating an instance of finding love that makes her realize that her previous relationship with Bra d was not love, rather just a figure of simulated security. In summation, Argyle appears to want to make Jesse into a character who changes Naomi's life for the better, showing he r what true love is, and how it differs from any other relationship she has had before. Exc ept there is one issue: Jesse is the reason she is in captivity in the first place. Desp ite his good looks, kindness, and intelligence, he is a figure of abuse that is glori fied by the narrative. Even when he makes the decision to drop Naomi off in front of the poli ce station to set her free, it is only after a year of incarceration. The apparently positive qu alities given to his character create a romanticized scenario that portrays the kidnapping and captivity as a glamorized circumstance where male authority over a woman is r omantic and subjection by a woman is acceptable, because it is supposedly all for lov e. Love does not emerge from being


Page 10 of 26 conquered, as this story suggests without ambiguity Domination should never be confused with love, and a controlling nature should never be seen as an indicator of romantic passion. The most startling event in the novel between Naom i and Jesse is when they become caught up in a whirlwind of romantic feeling s and sexual tension. In a moment that replicates the tone of a Harlequin romance nov el, the narrative intones, “The solid look in his eyes intensified. He slid one bra strap down her shoulder, eyeing her hungrily. He reminded her of Brad in so many ways, it made he r sick. When she stopped to think about why, she began to understand herself in ways that made her head swim. The truth was she wanted Jesse to force her” (Argyle 113). Es sentially, what the narrator is expressing here is that Naomi wishes to be overpowe red, “It was comfortable that way, familiar, just like Brad. It was the only way she k new how things worked, and as he pulled down her other bra strap she felt a small wh imper of delight build in her throat. Jesse was the only solid thing she had been able to hold onto for months. She didn't want him to go away” (Argyle 113). In cases of Stockholm Syndrome, disorder and disarray of thoughts can create confusion for the sufferer when confronted with strong emotions, but what is startling here is that there is no confusio n. Rather, she sees no fault in her submission to him, even thinking that Jesse will di sappear if she doesn't surrender to him, despite his being one of her captors. That expresse s her desire for him to force her into sexual intimacy is shocking, considering the demogr aphic for which this book is written. Even if the character's reasoning were explained wi th nuance, her attitude reflects an unhealthy understanding of love relationships. A yo ung woman should never feel how


Page 11 of 26 Naomi does in this moment. Once again, aggression a nd control are incorrectly viewed as a romantic tactic. Another indicator of the novel's worrying philosop hy is the narrative's frequent allusions to Kate Chopin's novel, The Awakening Published in 1899, the novel served as one of the first feminist works of literature and a landmark for the feminist movement. Following Edna Pontellier as she struggles to live within the constraints forced on women in her era, the novel recounts her courage to make her own decisions and also act on her sexual desires, and the costs of this to her. The n ovel is given to Naomi by Jesse who evidently understands its importance in modern lite rature. Naomi reads it multiple times, but never seems to associate her actions with Edna' s when these are in fact opposite to one another. Naomi refuses to even acknowledge how her surroundings are unhealthy for her. When she finally does make a decision, she cho oses to be with Jesse and expresses her love for him, even though he is one of the main reasons she is being held captive in the first place. Edna is famously known for fightin g against anything that restrains her, knowing it is her own right to choose her future fr eely. In contrast, The Breakaway 's main character falls in love with someone who dominates her and never acknowledges that there is anything wrong with that. Fundamentally, s he is presented with a scenario she goes along with rather than choosing her own path o f contentment. It becomes even more surprising when you learn the re is a sequel to this novel. Pieces a Breakaway novel by Michelle Davidson Argyle con tinues the tale of Naomi as she leaves home to attend college, still reeling fr om the events that happened in her past. But just when we think she has the slight chance of an ostensibly healthy experience, Jesse conveniently makes parole and brings drama in to her life once again. He wants to


Page 12 of 26 run away with her, though this time he does ask, ra ther than kidnap her. But as an added plot twist, Naomi meets Finn, a fellow college stud ent who complicates her life even further. It comes as a surprise when she ultimately chooses Finn in the end, despite still feeling love for the former. Argyle ultimately has created a story where it is difficult to feel any sympathy for its characters as they are co mpletely unaware of any wrongdoing that is occurring. Never once is Naomi self-aware o f the truly awful nature of someone who would keep her captive for over a year and enga ge in sexual conduct during that period. The fact that she isn't even conflicted wit h reconnecting with Jesse until Finn comes in the picture seems to endorse the belief th at a woman cannot venture forward in life unless she has a man to act as a role of prote ctor and provide security for her. Radway explains this, saying, “...These women are p articipating in a collectively elaborated female fantasy that unfailingly ends at the precise moment when the heroine is gathered into the arms of the hero who declares his intention to protect her forever because of his desperate love and need for her... T hereafter, she is required to do nothing more than exist as the center of this paragon's att ention” (Radway 97). Throughout the first and second book, Naomi is merely serving the interests of predatory men. Twilight One of the most influental instances of obsessive behavior seeming to serve the interest of romance is the hugely popular Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. These four books follow the adventures of a human girl and her otherworldly relationships, and young adults (human) readers across the world have been captivated by the novels' love triangle between humans, vampires and werewolves. A s we take in the story through the


Page 13 of 26 eyes of the main character, Bella, the reader is pr esented with not only a supernatural story of good versus evil, but also what seems to b e a tale of true love and its undying effort to prevail despite obstacles it may encounte r. By starting a relationship with a vampire who is over a century old, the heroine give s herself up to a inhumanly beautiful man who thirsts for her blood, and his desire to ki ll her. The cover of the first novel portrays a set of hands holding forth a red apple, suggesting the forbidden fruit that tempted Adam and Eve into sin. In the case of a world-wide publishing and media p henomenon such as the Twilight series, the cultural impact of the Stockholm Syndr ome device is particularly noticeable. Twilight has shattered book sales and box office records ac ross the world. As of November 2009, the series has sold approximately 85 million copies and has been translated into 37 languages, spending 235 weeks on the New York Times bestseller's list (Click 3). Over 300 English language fan sites revo lve around the series and has been credited to revitalizing the vampire genre (Click 4 ). Fascination with the novel and its characters has overflowed into the media universe o f celebrities, leaving fans of an overzealous nature to closely follow the lives of t he actors who portray their favorite characters, following their off-screen romances and lifestyles. The books have even prompted the rise in the popularity of baby names B ella, Jacob, Edward, and Renesmee. The novels' main female protagonist, Bella Swan, i s described as a timid girl with somewhat angelic features, including pale skin, sle nder frame, long brown hair and pink full lips. Her meek behavior would usually leave he r isolated and somewhat withdrawn from her surroundings due to her antisocial nature, but in the book she seems to have become incredibly popular without uttering a word. Because she is a new arrival to the


Page 14 of 26 town of Forks, Washington, she attracts attention f rom the male population immediately, acting as a shiny new toy to serve as a subject for objectification. But not only does she catch the eye of every individual with a Y chromoso me, she also attracts the attention of the undead Edward, who because of his unusual appea rance and old-fashioned mannerisms provokes her interest. Edward's supernat ural nature though also serves as a perfect catalyst to Bella's inclination to play the damsel in distress figure. Multiple times she finds herself in precarious situations that are ultimately remedied by Edward, creating a high degree of codependency not just towards him, but also the werewolf Jacob. Meyer has claimed that Bella is a respectable character f or young women since she is in charge of her own decisions and outcomes, but in reality t he opposite appears to be true, as Bella constantly emotes how Edward has an uncontrollable pull over her. This pull leads her to making decisions that are purely for the sake of he r relationship and not for herself. Because of all of these factors, Bella should be co nsidered a modern day girl with disstorted attitudes due to outside male influences Edward Cullen has become one of the most admired fictional characters of this generatio n. With his devastating good looks and his old-fashioned manners, he is a paradigm of a ga llant, sophisticated man that is purportedly absent from the modern world. When chiv alry is often presumed dead, females readers turn to this fictitious vampire to find what they desire in a relationship. But Edward also has dangerous flaws masked by his flawless facade. Edward accelerates Bella's anti-feminist role of the damse l in distress through his desire to be wherever she is, even if she is not aware of his pr esence. He attributes this unvarying close proximity to his protective nature, but in es sence it is a heightened form of obsession. In a metaphor for their relationship, Ed ward says, “And so the lion fell in love


Page 15 of 26 with the lamb...” (Twilight 274). He is assuming th e role of the empowering, controlling figure, which is shown in his controlling nature. W hen his immortal sister, Alice experiences premonitions regarding Bella, rather th an consulting Bella on the matter, he conceals it from her. He takes the reins since he b elieves he knows what is best for her and attempts to alleviate situations before involvi ng her in them. But Bella is perfectly capable of making her own decisions, and as an indi vidual has the right to know details of matters pertaining to her. Not only is Edward in control of information, he is also at times in control of her actions. In one instance, B ella climbs into her truck to visit her friend Jacob, only to find that Edward has removed the cables from the car battery. He say, “You know it's out of the question for you to be around a werewolf unprotected, Bella. And it would break the treaty if any of us c ross over onto their land. Do you want us to start a war?” (Eclipse 28). Not only does he leave her with no options, he follows up his enforced rule with a line that sounds a lot lik e a guilt trip, meant to quiet any resistance she may have to his will. He continues b y saying, “I don't know how to phrase this properly. It's going to sound cruel, I suppose But I've come too close to losing you in the past. I know what it feels like to think I have I am not going to tolerate anything dangerous... Please make a conscious effort to keep yourself safe. I'll do everything I can, but I would appreciate a little help” (Eclipse 33). Under the mask of a caring statement, he emphasizes how he will not permit her to do anyt hing that he decides is unsafe. In addition to this, he also slips a condescending mes sage to her that she is not capable of deciding what is best for her in the matter of her safety. He concludes, “Do you really have any idea how important you are to me? Any conc ept at all of how much I love you?” (Eclipse 34). Here, he attempts to justify al l of his manipulative actions in the


Page 16 of 26 name of love, but in principle he is doing all of t his because of his personal dispositions. Jacob Black is Bella's other male love interest. H aving grown up on a close-knit Indian reservation that emphasizes the importance o f familial tradition and folklore, his background is the perfect foundation for the mythic al werewolf he becomes in the series. Younger but compelling, Jacob serves as another pow erful male character within the series who, not surprisingly, also finds himself ro mantically interested in Bella. Although another alpha figure within the novel, Jacob is dif ferent from Edward, in that he has an awareness that Bella has free will that, as an indi vidual, she is permitted to utilize. Edward assumes he knows what is right at all times for Bella, leaving her with few options or sometimes none. Jacob, on the other hand may want Bella to choose a certain resolution but knows that ultimately it is her own decision as an individual to choose what she believes is best for herself. While Jacob does give free rein for Bella's feelings, he does also serve as another crutch for her. Speci fically in New Moon Bella is left heartbroken after Edward ends their relationship – yet another decision Edward assumes is right for Bella without consulting her – leaving her emotionally damaged and unable to cope. To fill this void, she employs Jacob as the r eplacement male figure to numb the pain of her recent breakup. Although Bella is incre dibly depressed about the matter, she cements her damsel in distress role, incapable of s upporting herself or moving forward on her own. Jacob serves as an emotional crutch who pr events Bella from standing on her own, as referenced in a quote where Bella says, “I waited for the memory to hit – to open the gaping hole. But, as it so often did, Jacob's p resence kept me whole” (New Moon 214). Jacob's presence is implied to be necessary i n order for Bella to keep herself together. Without a man present, she is fundamental ly destitute.


Page 17 of 26 A startling detail of the series is the act of imp rinting that occurs within the group of werewolves. Throughout the series, their existen ce has been defined by very mythical terms to coincide with characteristics of Native Am erican beliefs as all of the werewolves are part of the Quileute tribe in the Pacific North west. Through oral tradition, their customs and beliefs have been passed down through g enerations to properly inform them of their past and ancestry. But an uneasiness emerg es when imprinting is introduced, which none of the characters exude negativity towar ds as they should. Imprinting is an involuntary connection one makes with another human after the initial contact, and is seen as the way a shape-shifter finds his or her so ul-mate. Jacob explains the phenomenon, stating, “It’s not like love at first s ight, really. It’s more like... gravity moves. When you see her, suddenly it’s not the eart h holding you here anymore. She does. And nothing matters more than her. And you wo uld do anything for her, be anything for her... You become whatever she needs y ou to be, whether that’s a protector, or a lover, or a friend, or a brother” (Eclipse 176 ). The latter part of his explanation is key to understanding the problematic concept of love th at Meyer's novels communicate. Imprinting can involve a person of any age, as when Jacob imprints on Bella's child immediately after birth in Breaking Dawn Because of this process, this child will be constantly under the watchful eye of Jacob. She may learn to love him back in time, but she is left with no future decisions of her own bec ause of his presence. What is most disturbing about the situation though is that Jacob will presumably be there for all stages of life, and as noted in the latter part of the quo te, a sexual relationship will most likely occur between Jacob and the child when she is of ag e. Meyer has, perhaps without knowing it, created a scenario of child grooming, w here an adult forms a trusting


Page 18 of 26 relationship with a child with a future intent of h aving sexual relations with her or him. Not only has Meyer created yet another scenario whe re women are absolved of decisions, she has painted a distressing relationship that may be considered highly abusive. Meyer has reported that idea for the series came t o her one night as she slept, dreaming of a forbidden relationship between a huma n and a vampire who sparkles in sunlight. Unable to shake her dream, she decided to write down everything she remembered, then elaborated and created a story aro und it. Not only does this story reflect the basic elements of the dream, it also re flects her religious beliefs and attitudes regarding romance and dating. Bella Swan is a chara cter illustrated admittedly after the author's personal appearance and experience. Meyer reports that when she changed schools midway through high school, she suddenly ha d the attention of many male suitors based on her new girl appeal. In the case of an aut hor creating a character modeled on herself, we may wonder how much Stephenie Meyer is living vicariously through her creation. If this is the case, the author herself m ust be held responsible for fantasies of a powerful male and passive, subjugated female. The r isk here is that this unhealthy model of female-male relations and romance will be projec ted in such a way that nave young readers may identify with its structure and outcome Stolen – Lucy Christopher Throughout my research within YA literature, I hav e found it surprisingly difficult to find novels that tread around captivit y narratives with sensitivity rather than exploit them for intentions of entertainment. There also seems to be a fine line between what is perceived as affection versus obsession. On e novel, Lucy Christopher's Stolen


Page 19 of 26 seems to effectively balance the two, describing an enthralling story of kidnapping and Stockholm Syndrome, but also pointing out the confu sions that can blur the line between love and obsession. Presenting a realistic kidnappi ng narrative, the novel also manages to tell an incredibly interesting story without resort ing to sensationalism. The deep analysis of the complex relationship between captor and capt ive makes it a stunning review of just how bewitching an abusive relationship can be withi n and how it becomes all the more difficult when the victim begins to understand what seems to be a good-hearted nature of her captor. Stolen begins with the narrator, Gemma, explaining how sh e is writing to her captor about her experience in captivity. While in an airport on her way to a vacation destination, Gemma meets a young man who unknowingl y drugs her and, through a methodical and premeditated scenario, manages to ta ke her to the rural terrain of Australia. Surrounding by barren surroundings in a country she knows nothing of, she fights her captor and manages multiple escape attem pts, but all of her efforts are unsuccessful. Lacking hope, she begins to unwilling ly bond with her youthful captor and starts to feel affection for him despite her simult aneous hatred for him. By way of the novel's epistolary structure, we are exposed to an intimate glimpse of the protagonist as she battles with not only her kidnapper, but also h erself, even as she develops an attachment to him. We thus have access to her inner monologue, and an effective pathway to feel every emotion and struggle alongsid e her. The evidence of a strongly written novel include our feeling for the character as if we knew her, and in this case, falling into her inner conflict. We may wonder if w e have developed a form of Stockholm Syndrome as well. Most of the narrative follows two main characters, the captor and the


Page 20 of 26 captive; and as we delve into their lives and minds it becomes increasingly easy to understand the connection Gemma feels with her capt or. Gemma Toombs is an unusually strong individual, ev en at the young age of sixteen. She provides audience with powers of perce ption that are very keen and mature, which may have been developed during her years of i ncreased independence due to her parents' demanding jobs. She has a very strong cons cience, knowing clearly the difference between right from wrong, which makes it all the more difficult when she is captured by Ty. The letter she writes to him that i s the focus of the novel is heartwrenching as she remembers very distinctly every mo ment she spent with her captor in the middle of a monolithic expanse of sand and wild erness. Unlike the protagonist of The Breakaway Gemma has the strength and determination to make multiple attempts to escape, even when she starts to develop feelings fo r her captor; she is aware that what she is feeling is horribly wrong. Each attempt at freed om ends with Ty saving her from the wilderness in which she becomes lost. She even init ially attempts to slit her wrists in order to avoid whatever fate her captor has planned for her, but she is saved then as well. Due to the isolation of her location, she starts to bond with Ty as he is the only one within miles to speak with. The escalation of their affect ions toward each other increases when they discover a camel in the desert that they claim as theirs. On the matter of her developing bond, Gemma explains plainly, “The peopl e we care for aren't always the ones we should” (Christopher 290). But what becomes the complexity of the novel is whether the feelings she is developing towards Ty a re feelings of love or merely an attachment she has gained due to her isolation.


Page 21 of 26 Tyler “Ty” MacFarlane is the male figure of author ity in this novel. He has orchestrated the abduction of Gemma to a detailed d egree. The fact that he thinks he can give her a foundation for a new life with him is un settling, as he is truly believes what he is doing will be best for her. But the author's sty le and method are able to elicit a surprising sense of sympathy. Not only do we see in side of Gemma's mind and her struggle, but we also hear of past events Ty had ex perienced that led him to this point. He is not doing any of this out of ill will; he truly believes he is doing something for the good of both of them. From his childhood where ran away from his father to live alone in the outback, to when he was captured and sent to En gland with his mother and indulged in drugs and alcohol, we begin to understand his un balanced psyche and through that understand his actions and emotions. Ty feels more than infatuation towards Gemma. It is evident that he truly feels and ardent love for her and the makes the story all the more tragic. He wanted to bring her to the land that he knew and loved and thought she would be happy there, as he was as a child, away from the ir halfhearted parents. The book does an impressive job at describing the character in a way that creates the picture of Ty that Gemma sees. As the plot progresses, we slowly begin to transition from fear to affection towards him, something that is startling but also b rilliant in the sense that the reader gets a taste of how she or he would feel in this situati on. As Gemma says, “It's hard to hate someone once you understand them” (Christopher 279) The good arises even in the most dire of situations when she is bitten by a venomous snake and Ty must make the decision whether to attempt to tend the wound himself or see k help. Even though he knows he will be arrested and charged for his crime, he goes for help.


Page 22 of 26 The role of a form of psychological disorder much like Stockholm Syndrome in both The Breakaway and Stolen would appear to serve the plot development as well as create a way for the reader to form a connection wi th the main character and her choices. A stark difference between the two novels, however, is how they shape the reader's understanding of what has happened in each case. Wh ile The Breakaway addresses the mental condition briefly and trivially, Stolen addresses the matter earnestly with a degree of reasoning that could also be applied to abusive situations in reality. In the conclusion of Christopher's novel, Gemma has been flown to the hospital to save her from the snakebite where she sees Ty for the last time. With his absence comes a void that she is not used to, believing that these strong feelings a nd desire for his presence constitue love. The doctors and her mother tell her otherwise, info rming her that she is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. Back home with her parents afte r her extended stay in Australia, the audience is still left wondering whether she is suffering from the mental delusion or if she truly loves Ty. This open-ended conclusion to t he novel makes the situation that more realistic as her muddled state of mind is the same the reader feels after revisiting this journey with her. In some of her final words to Ty, Gemma explains to him, “What you did to me wasn't this brilliant thing, like you thi nk it was. You took me away from everything – my parents, my friends, my life. You t ook me to the sand and the heat, the dirt and isolation. And you expected me to love you And that's the hardest bit. Because I did, or at least, I loved something out there. But I hated you too. I can't forget that” (Christopher 297). This blunt statement to Ty summa rizes the inconsistency of her thoughts and understanding of her experience. The b ook ends with Gemma observing that she is preparing to see Ty in trial for her ki dnapping, the first time since she has been


Page 23 of 26 admitted to the hospital. She expresses that she do esn't know how she'll feel, that she does miss him, but what she does know is that what he did was wrong. She appears to be – Christopher seems to be – reassuring the audience that although she has been swayed by his passion and his actions, the reader must sta nd with her against him despite how difficult it may be. Conclusion A common thread of these novels together is the th eme of absent parents. This raises an obvious question: why do the authors grav itate towards this plot element? The female protagonists of these novels are all deficie nt in supportive relationship structures, often leaving them to rely wholly on themselves to make decisions without outside support. They appear unprepared to deal with a new figure in their lives, who suddenly shows what seems to be powerful affection for them. Individuals want affection, and sometimes are unaware of this desire until they fee l this connection with someone new. Perhaps, because of this seemingly perpetual lack o f prior tenderness, the protagonists are more susceptible to connecting with someone with au thority over them because that is what has been missing in their lives before. Their need for externally imposed structure is met by the love interests who provide care and also control. By providing both of these elements to female protagonists, the male captors e ncourage the formation of an attachment and dependency, establishing the foundat ion for an illness like Stockholm Syndrome. But in order for this development to be r ealized, the relationship between the protagonists and the parents must be discussed to e stablish the background of the main character. The neglect of any relationship structur e within Argyle's The Breakaway hurt


Page 24 of 26 Naomi's character from being properly developed, th e absence of any background resulting in an underwhelming character who seeming ly accepts love easily from multiple abusive situations without contest. The us e of parental figures in Twilight is evidently used solely for the intent of making Bell a appear to be mature beyond her age, as she makes the decision to leave her mother and h er new romantic relationship to give them space, and to provide meals for her policeman father. Christopher's Stolen on the other hand delves into the absence of parental supp ort in Gemma's life, detailing an insight that even Ty uses against her, that her par ents are there physically but not in any other role. This emotional factor on Gemma's part c ontributes to the back-and-forth in her inner monologue, creating an incredibly keen percep tion on the matters of absent parents and their role in romantic developments. The real question that is left is, what drives the fascination for captivity narratives, or narratives in which the heroine is left overwhel med by a man? Radway observes, “In reading about a woman who manages to find her ident ity through the care of a nurturant protector and sexual partner, readers might well be teaching themselves to believe in the worth of such a route to fulfillment and encouragin g the hope that such a route might yet open up for them as it once did for the heroin” (Ra dway 187). She is referring to the fact that a woman's sexual identity is often left unreal ized until a man claims his right over her, because if a woman were to explore her erotic desires she would immediately be seen as immoral. This recurring trope of male autho rity over females then presents an opportunity for a woman to imagine a world where sh e is not held accountable for her sexuality. The girls in The Breakaway and the Twilight series in turn take on passive roles where they are dominated by male characters. These men assist the women in touching


Page 25 of 26 on erotic agency – but not freely chosen agency – s o the females are not shamed for embracing their sexual side. This is a symptom of s ocial pathology in a culture that denies independent sexual agency in women. As a res ult, it has become more acceptable for a woman to be controlled and dominated by a man rather than for her to experience her emotional and erotic life at her own will. A vi sible change needs to occur where women are admired for their independence and free a gency rather than their submissive romances with men who take control over them. This message significantly needs a voice in young adult literature to help propel a generati on of young women forward into more independent-chosen, self-realizing models of love a nd bonding. Works Cited Argyle, Michelle Davidson. The Breakaway Moses Lake, WA: Rhemalda Pub., 2012. Print. –––. Pieces Moses Lake, WA: Rhemalda Pub., 2012. Print. Christopher, Lucy. Stolen: A Letter to My Captor. United Kingdom: Chicken House, 2009. Print. Click, Melissa A., Jennifer Stevens. Aubrey, and El izabeth Behm-Morawitz. Bitten by Twilight: Youth Culture, Media, & the Vampire Fran chise New York: Peter Lang, 2010. Print. De Fabrique, Nathalie, Stephen J. Romano, Gregory M Vecchi, and Vincent B. Van Hasselt. "Understanding Stockholm Syndrome." FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin 76.7 (2007): 10-16. Web. Meyer, Stephenie. Twilight New York: Little, Brown and Co. 2005. Print. –––. New Moon New York: Little, Brown and Co. 2006. Print. –––. Eclipse New York: Little, Brown and Co. 2007. Print.


Page 26 of 26 –––. Breaking Dawn New York: Little, Brown and Co. 2008. Print. Namnyak, M., N. Tufton, R. Szekely, M. Toal, S. Wor boys, and E. L. Sampson. "‘Stockholm Syndrome’: Psychiatric Diagnosis or Ur ban Myth?" Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. (2007): 4-11. Print. Radway, Janice A. Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1984. P rint.