Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1229
Breaking Dawn is the fourth and last book in the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. The novel is broken into three separate narratives. Breaking Dawn opens with Bella Swan anticipating her marriage to Edward Cullen. Edward and Bella are getting married as part of a deal struck between the two—Edward wants Bella to experience some normal parts of life before he turns her into a vampire. The wedding goes smoothly, with a brief appearance by the werewolf Jacob Black, who still loves Bella and disapproves of her choice to marry Edward and become a vampire. For the honeymoon, Edward surprises Bella by taking her to a small island off the coast of Brazil owned by the Cullen family. Bella and Edward consummate their marriage, and enjoy their time as newlyweds.
Two weeks into the honeymoon, it is discovered that Bella is pregnant. This is surprising because the assumption by all was that vampires could not impregnate humans, as they are unable to bear children themselves. The pregnancy is disturbing because the baby appears to be gestating at an unnaturally rapid rate. When they decide to leave and travel home to ask Carlisle for help, Bella is already showing.
As Bella travels home, Part 2 begins and is narrated by Jacob Black. He has had word that Bella has returned and contracted a strange virus while on her honeymoon. He goes to the Cullen household to visit her and finds a disturbing situation. Bella’s health worsens as the baby continues to grow at an unnatural rate. Some of the Cullens think they should get rid of the pregnancy and save Bella, but Bella refuses. Rosalie agrees and protects Bella and the pregnancy. They figure out that drinking blood nourishes the baby and revives Bella. Jacob, although uncomfortable in the Cullen household, feels a strange pull towards Bella and refuses to leave. Meanwhile, the werewolf pack has learned of the baby and decides Bella and her unborn baby must be killed for the good of everyone. Jacob refuses to comply with the alpha male and breaks away, creating his own pack. Leah and Seth Clearwater join Jacob’s pack, and the three protect the Cullen household.
Bella goes into labor. It is violent and unnatural. Bella breaks several bones between the super-strength of the fetus and the violent contractions. Finally, Bella’s spine is broken, and Edward delivers the baby, and then immediately injects vampire venom into Bella’s heart to save her. The baby is a girl, named Renesmee after Edward’s mother, Esme, and Bella’s mother, Renee. Jacob believes that Bella is dead, and plans to kill the child, but when he looks at Renesmee, he imprints and becomes soul mates with her instead.
Part 3 of the novel opens with Bella narrating her change from human to vampire. The transformation takes two days. When Bella first awakens, the Cullens are nervous because newborn vampires are traditionally bloodthirsty and difficult to control. Bella instead appears calm and happy, with her thirst for blood in check. Edward takes Bella hunting in the woods, where she is elated with her new vampire senses and the view of the world they offer. They come across hikers while in the woods. Their blood smells delicious, and Bella loses control and runs to attack them. However, Bella is able to pull herself back and take control. Edward is extremely impressed—self-control is something that is hard for all vampires, and should be nearly impossible for a newborn. Carlisle hypothesizes that perhaps because Bella had so much time to prepare for her change, she is more advanced than other newborn vampires.
Bella finally is able to see her child, who, although chronologically is only a few days old, looks to be months old. Bella learns that Renesmee can place her hand on someone and communicate by projecting pictures and feelings into their minds. Bella also learns that Jacob has imprinted on Renesmee, and that is why he felt the strange pull to stay when she was pregnant—it was due to Renesmee, not Bella. Bella is not particularly happy about the imprinting, but eventually accepts it. Jacob reveals that "things" have been resolved with the werewolf pack, and Jacob is the new alpha male.
The Cullen household settles down. Renesmee drinks blood, so one day, Jacob and Bella take her hunting. While out, the vampire Irina sees them in the woods and assumes that Renesmee is a child they have turned into a vampire, which is strictly forbidden by vampire law. She runs away before they can explain, and the Cullens quickly figure out the Volturi will come for them. They decide to fight, gathering vampires from around the world to bear witness to the child’s growth, thus proving she is not a forbidden immortal child.
In the midst of the gathering of all the vampires, Alice and Jasper disappear without a word to anyone. Through a series of clues, Bella finds that Alice has left her an address. When she goes to the address, she finds a lawyer who has worked with the Cullens before creating fake documents. Bella obtains passports and other documents for Renesmee and Jacob, in case things with the Volturi do not go well and they must escape.
While preparing for the Volturi’s arrival, Bella and Renesmee win many of the vampires over and they agree to bear witness that Renesmee is not an immortal child. Bella also realizes that the fact no one can read her mind is because she has a shield in place, which she may be able to learn to project to protect others. Bella begins to work hard at projecting her shield, like a mental force field, larger and larger, to protect her family and the other vampires from the Volturi.
The Volturi arrive. They charge the Cullens with creating an immortal child. The vampires bear witness that Renesmee was not changed, and is not an immortal child. The Volturi realize that Irina has given them false information, and she is killed on the spot as punishment. Although the conflict has been resolved, the Volturi still want to fight, for they wish to take the gifted vampires (such as Bella and Edward) and make them their own. Also, although they are in agreement that Renesmee is not an immortal child, the Volturi are unsure what Renesmee’s effect on the world will be when she grows up. They decide to vote whether or not she should be allowed to live. One Volturi, Caius, votes that she should be killed. Another Volturi, Marcus, disagrees and votes for her to live. It comes down to the vote of the third Volturi, Aro. Just as he is about to speak, Alice and Jasper appear at the meeting. With them is a half-vampire, half-human they found in South America, similar to Renesmee, who is able to prove that half-breeds are not a danger to society. Aro has no choice but to vote for Renesmee to live, and the Volturi flee, embarrassed.
The novel ends with Edward, Bella, and Renesmee returning to their cottage in the woods. Bella puts Renesmee to bed. Alone, Bella projects her shield out, and for the first time, Edward is able to access and see into Bella’s mind. Edward is finally able to see all the love Bella has for him.