As Edward drives Bella back home, she asks him how old he really is. He was born in 1901, and Carlisle found him in a hospital in 1918, dying from Spanish influenza. His parents were already dead, so Carlisle decided to “save” him by turning him into a vampire—out of loneliness. Carlisle only chooses people who are already dying and therefore have no other choice.
He explains that he was the first to join Carlisle’s family. Soon afterward, Carlisle found Esme, who had fallen off a cliff, then Rosalie. Edward later realized that Carlisle had chosen Rosalie in the hope that she would be to him what Esme was to Carlisle. They remained brother and sister, however, and Rosalie later came upon Emmett, who was being attacked by a bear, and brought him back to Carlisle to be saved.
Edward explains that Emmett and Rosalie sometimes live separately as a married couple, but the younger they all pretend to be when they come to a new place, the longer they can stay there. Since Forks seemed perfect, they all enrolled in high school.
He adds that Alice and Jasper are examples of something very rare—they developed consciences on their own without outside guidance. Jasper had belonged to a more violent family, but he had become depressed and wandered off, and Alice found him. Alice remembers nothing about her human life, and she woke up alone.
Bella asks how many other vampires there are. Edward says they are few, and most do not settle in to live with humans like they do, because they still hunt humans. Instead, they live nomadically. His group does not run into other vampires often, but they tend to run across each other in the north, which they all prefer because of what happens to them in the sunlight.
Back at Bella’s house, Edward comes in while Bella eats dinner. He reveals that he has watched her almost every night, listening to her as she talks in her sleep. When Charlie comes home, Edward disappears instantly. Bella rushes up to her room after dinner, and Edward is lying on her bed waiting for her. She gets ready for bed and then sits with him. As he touches her, she asks why it seems so much easier for him to be closer to her now, and he says he realized this afternoon that he is strong enough to keep control over himself. He also thinks being with her all day has desensitized him to her smell, so it will probably be harder again for him to resist in the morning.
They lie in bed together, and Bella asks more questions about Edward. She asks how he can read minds and Alice can see the future, and he explains that Carlisle has a theory that they each bring their strongest characteristic from their human lives, enhanced in their vampire lives.
Bella then, embarrassed, asks about whether vampires have sex—they do—and the possibility of that for her and Edward—at some point. He says he thinks sex would not be possible, not just because he would be too tempted if he were that close to her, but also because he is so much stronger than she is. At every moment he has to be fully aware of himself in order to not hurt her, even just by accident. If he were to lose control even for a second he might kill her.
Bella is more tired than she realizes and falls asleep in Edward’s arms. When she wakes up the next morning, Edward is still there. Charlie has already left, so he carries her downstairs and she has some cereal. Edward asks Bella if she’d like to meet his family, and although she is nervous about what they will think of her, she agrees. He also mentions that she should probably tell Charlie that he is now her boyfriend. Edward kisses her again, and this time, she faints.
They drive to the Cullens’ house, which is beautiful. Inside, Carlisle and Esme are waiting for them. Jasper and Alice come downstairs, but Rosalie and Emmett are nowhere to be seen. Bella notices a beautiful grand piano, and Esme says that Edward is the one who plays. They all encourage him to play, and he plays songs he wrote, which are breathtaking.
The others leave to give them some privacy. Edward tells Bella that Carlisle and Esme like her, and when she asks about Rosalie, he explains that she is the one who struggles the most with what they are, so she is jealous of Bella for being human. Edward adds that he is going to be more protective of her over the next few weeks because Alice has said that some of their kind will be coming to visit them. Edward shows her the rest of the house, and she asks how old Carlisle is. He is 362.
Edward takes Bella into the library, where Carlisle is reading, to show her relics from Carlisle’s history. Carlisle leaves to go to the hospital. Edward says that once Carlisle realized what he had become, he tried to kill himself, but he did not succeed. He refused to take nourishment, but eventually he grew so hungry he attacked a herd of deer and found his strength restored. At that point Carlisle realized he did not have to be a monster who killed people to survive.
He found other vampires in Italy who were highly civilized, but they persisted in feeding on humans, so eventually he left for the New World, hoping to find others like himself. He did not find anyone, but because vampires had become relegated to legend, he found he could interact with humans. He began practicing medicine. During the influenza epidemic, he found Edward, dying and orphaned, and decided to try to change him. About ten years after Carlisle changed him, Edward had a rebellious stage where he left him—not sold on abstinence from feeding on humans. Because he could read minds, he hunted only evil people, but the practice still took a toll on him, so eventually he went back to Carlisle and Esme.
In this section, self-control and free agency remain closely related. Abstaining from killing humans, Edward knows he has self-control, but he also has to constantly remember to choose to be self-controlled when he is around Bella. Once he realizes that he can safely choose to have enough control over himself that he can promise Bella he will not hurt her, it becomes easier for him to be around her. It becomes so easy, in fact, that she can fall asleep with her head on his chest. Bella similarly found that making the choice to be with Edward was the difficult part, but once she had made her choice, it became easier to act in accordance with her choices.
Edward’s self-control is not absolute, however. He thinks that they could never have sex because he has to be in full control of his body at all times, given his strength. To the extent that sex involves acting fully as oneself, Edward might lose focus for a moment and accidentally. To maintain such a high degree of rational self-awareness and self-control while having sex seems impossible to him. The danger of the physical overpowering the rational is clear to him.
Carlisle, for his part, is the true epitome of self-control. Carlisle’s self-control is so powerful that he is able to do what is almost impossible—avoid ever killing a human. He starves himself for as long as he can, and when he finally loses control, he kills deer. This event teaches him how he can survive as a vampire without being evil towards humans, and he embraces a life of this abstinence.
Actually, Carlisle seems to be doing better than mere self-control; he seems to have little or no desire to hunt and kill humans in the first place. He is naturally virtuous in this way. Not only does he avoid being evil, but he has trained himself to withstand the greatest irrational temptations and become a very skilled surgeon. He thus saves countless lives instead of taking any.
Carlisle’s decision to abstain from feeding on humans leads to a great loneliness, however, for he is never fully able to feel comfortable with other vampires who do drink human blood. Carlisle thus has slowly and carefully built a family and developed Edward into someone who similarly finds it wrong to kill humans. Carlisle’s situation also highlights the importance of companionship, particularly in the form of sharing the values of those around you. For young readers of this book, the theme is poignant not only because of the common desire for romance and the common ideal of having a strong partner (again the Superman complex), but also because young people are often at a period of intense study and evaluation of their values and morals.
It begins to become clearer in this section how Rosalie is a kind of doppelganger or double regarding Bella. Her greatest human characteristic, which apparently is made more powerful in her vampire form, is her stubbornness. This is a different, negative kind of self-control, a refusal to grow and change despite the circumstances. Bella, too, is very stubborn, which becomes more clear in the later chapters, but she is growing and changing. Fortunately, her stubbornness in refusing to separate herself from Edward, even for her own safety, does not hurt her because of Edward’s self-control. In addition, while Bella envies Rosalie’s stunning looks and the fact that she was originally chosen for Edward, Rosalie envies Bella’s humanity.
It is interesting, however, to recall the ways in which Bella has vampire-like qualities. Similarly, Edward not only retains human qualities as the other vampires do, but he is actually recovering some of his lost human attributes. His gentlemanly chivalry, for example, is "resurfacing" now that he has someone to be romantic with. He even says that Bella is "resurrecting" his humanity. In this way, she also is a kind of savior for him. Edward also went through an anti-superhero phase, when he made a point of simultaneously indulging his desire for human blood and indulging his sense of justice to kill only people who were evil.
Finally, it is important to note Alice's vision of other vampires visiting. If this vision comes to pass, there is likely to be trouble, since most vampires do hunt humans. This is a key element of foreshadowing at this point in the novel.