Twilight opens with a preface in which a female, unnamed narrator is facing off against a smiling hunter who is preparing to kill her. While she finds the prospect of death terrifying—and this kind of death very surprising—she does not regret the events that have led her to this noble death, dying in the place of someone she loves.
As the first chapter opens, Bella’s mother drives her to the airport in Phoenix on a perfect, beautiful day, to fly to Forks, a small town in the Olympic Peninsula of northwest Washington State. The town gets more rain than any other town in the United States. Bella had been born there, but her mother had left with her when she was only a baby, and Bella had only returned for a month every summer to visit her father until she was fourteen, when she insisted he start meeting her somewhere sunnier instead.
Now seventeen, Bella hates Forks and loves Phoenix, yet she has decided to move to Forks with her father. Her mother tells her, not for the first time, that she does not have to go, but Bella, almost convincingly, replies that she wants to. She gets on the plane, and five hours later she lands in Port Angeles where her father, Charlie, is there to meet her.
While they drive to Forks, Charlie tells Bella that he found a good car for her: a very old pickup truck, which Charlie’s friend Billy Black is willing to sell them cheaply. Billy is now in a wheelchair and no longer can drive. When Charlie tells her that he bought it for her as a gift, she accepts it, and to her surprise she loves it on sight.
At home, Charlie leaves her to unpack her things. She is not very happy, being worried about her first day at her new school the next day. Besides, Forks High School is tiny, and everyone there knows each other very well, so she will automatically be the new girl, the outsider. She has never had an easy time fitting in, and she worries that the small size of the school will make it worse.
On her first day of school, Bella’s first class is English. She selects a seat in the back, but everyone still stares at her. After class, an awkward-looking boy sitting next to her, Eric, leans over and offers to lead her to her next class, which he does. The rest of the day goes by rather easily, with only one teacher, Mr. Varner, putting Bella on the spot by requiring her to introduce herself to the class.
At lunch Bella notices a group of five students sitting in the farthest corner of the cafeteria from Bella. They are not talking or eating or even looking at each other, and they are the only students not gawking at Bella. They look nothing alike, yet they are all inhumanly beautiful, along with being extremely pale, with very dark eyes and dark shadows under their eyes. Stunned by their beauty, she asks Jessica, who invited Bella to eat lunch with her, who they are. Jessica explains that they are two sets of siblings, all of whom live with Dr. Cullen and his wife. Emmett and Rosalie, and Jasper and Alice, are dating. She also explains that the three Cullens—Edward, Alice and Emmett—are not biologically related because they all were adopted by Dr. Cullen, who himself is only in his twenties or thirties. The Hales, Rosalie and Jasper, are twins and are Dr. Cullen’s foster children. All of them recently moved to Forks two years ago.
While hearing about them, Bella continues to stare at them, and she finds Edward staring back at her. He has a strange look that she cannot quite understand. Jessica, clearly bitter, tells Bella that she shouldn’t bother with Edward because he never dates anyone at Forks High.
Bella’s next class is Biology II, where the only open seat is next to Edward Cullen. As Bella passes him, she glances at him and notices that he is staring at her with open hostility for no apparent reason. When she sits next to him, out of the corner of her eye she notices him shift his weight so that he is leaning away from her as much as he can. After class, Edward races out, and another student, Mike, introduces himself to Bella.
They both have gym class next, so Mike leads Bella there, and she decides that he is the friendliest student she has met all day. He asks her why Edward reacted so strangely toward Bella because he has never seen Edward act like that.
After gym class, Bella returns to the front office to sign out, and she sees Edward there. She waits as far back as she can, but she cannot help but overhear him arguing with the receptionist, asking to be transferred to another biology class. He reacts strongly and hostilely again when he notices that Bella is there, and he gives up arguing with the receptionist.
The preface to Twilight sets up one of the major themes of the novel: sacrifice. This preface gives the reader a glimpse of what will come much later. Meyer thus sets a frame of sacrifice through which readers can see Bella’s and Edward’s love story. In particular, the preface makes it seem that Bella will have to sacrifice her life for love or for someone else who should live, and although she is scared, she is proud to be making this noble sacrifice.
In the first chapter, we get a good sense of Bella’s personality. Bella is not without social skills, but she feels like an outsider. She feels disconnected from most people. Even her mother, who is her best friend, feels somehow on a different plane. She and her father are alike in their reticence and appreciation of privacy, yet even with him Bella does not feel fully connected—although their dispositions are similar, their interests are not.
Upon starting at Forks High School, Bella quickly finds herself getting more attention from boys and having more friends than she had in Phoenix, but this does not make her feel any less an outsider. People stare at her, maybe not just because she is new. Anyway, the boys who seem to like her do not interest her, and she is almost always bored by or indifferent to the conversations of the girls. The only people she really feels drawn to are the Cullens, who are also outsiders.
This does not seem to be a disadvantage to Bella in the school, as the other students don’t quite notice her disconnect from them, but at least in their opinions of the Cullens, they don’t seem to show much tolerance for difference. Even without knowing the truth about the Cullens, the students like Jessica and Mike judge them harshly, for their aloofness, their living situation, their differences. This makes Bella’s later acceptance of them, even knowing what they are, even more profound.
Bella also is very independent and responsible, often having been the one to take care of her mother. She is willing to sacrifice her happiness for others. Although at this point we do not know why, she does not really want to be in Forks, even though her father is there, but for some reason she made the choice.
Edward is the only one of the five Cullens who does not seem to be in a dating relationship. This is a signal from the author that Edward is a potential love interest for Bella. Edward’s standoffish and even hostile reaction to her, however, sets up a conflict for no apparent cause. This is a classic case of ironic foreshadowing—an alert first-time reader knows that Edward’s attitude signals some kind of relationship to form between them, but the reader has no idea why it is starting off so rocky or if the relationship will even work out. What is Edward avoiding? Why is he trying to make their relationship impossible from the beginning? Perhaps he foresees a bad end if they start a relationship.
Meyer uses foreshadowing and irony when Bella jokes that nobody at her new school is going to bite her--which is what vampires do. She is smart, witty, and precocious, finding her coursework rather easy, and she is already rather well-read for a 17-year-old.
Another example of irony is the fact that Bella's father is the police chief. He is the one who is supposed to be in charge of maintaining order in the town. Yet, he not only is unaware of the vampires, but he could not stop them if he tried.
Finally, the name of Forks might have many meanings. It might have to do with forks in the road, various paths that might be followed, in spite of a fate that might dictate a specific path. It also might suggest a forked tongue in the sense of deception, which is how the vampires keep themselves unidentified in the town. Forks also invokes the forks used for eating, which is a significant theme in the novel in that vampires don't use tools like forks for the things that they eat.