An identical look, does not always mean identical mindsets

By Annabel Barker: Literature Columnist

Twins have long been a source of fascination in literature. How can two babies who have grown together in the womb and been born (generally) within minutes of each other, grow up to look the same, but behave so differently?

For instance, in the story of the founding of Rome, Romulus and Remus look identical and share an ambition to start their own city, but quarrel over the location on which to build the city, which results in the death of one brother and a city named after the other. In numerous novels and plays, there are examples in which twins are portrayed as physically identical, but beneath their indistinguishable surfaces, one twin is the yin to the other’s yang.

Parvati & Padma Patil, Harry Potter

The Patil sisters are not the only twins in JK Rowling’s bestselling series – indeed, the primary twins are Fred and George Weasley, who share the same personalities, interests and talents. But information about the Patil twins is provided to make their differences apparent. For instance, they are sorted into separate houses at Hogwarts School, where family members are usually sorted into the same house. Parvati is in Gryffindor, where dwell the brave at heart. Padma, on the other hand, is in Ravenclaw, where those with a ready mind will always find their kind. In addition, Padma is made a Prefect where Parvati is not. From this background information, we can deduce that Parvati is the more outgoing twin, while Padma is the more studious.

Tippi & Grace, One

Sarah Crossan’s award-winning novel features a pair of twins named after Hitchcock’s favourite actresses, Tippi Hedren and Grace Kelly, who are joined at the hip – literally. These conjoined twins have their own heads, pairs of arms, hearts, kidneys and lungs, but their lower bodies merge. Neither twin complains about being conjoined, never considering it a tragedy or a hinderance to her life. Nor can they imagine the idea of living separately. Personality wise, Tippi is edgier, spikier and more petulant than the somewhat milder-mannered Grace. Also, when the twins fall ill and the time comes for a risky separation procedure in order for either sister to survive, Tippi is firmly against it, whereas Grace wants them to be separated so her sister can live, although in the event, it is Grace who survives.

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Morveren & Jenna Trevail, Stormswept

In the standalone novel of Helen Dunmore’s The Ingo Chronicles, twins Morveren and Jenna are identical down to their long dark hair. The result is that everybody mixes them up, even though they wear hairbands in their favourite colour (green for Morveren, blue for Jenna) and their personalities could not be more different. Morveren is wild, optimistic and hot-headed, whereas Jenna is calm, sensible and level-headed. Aside from their temperaments, Morveren is later revealed to possess Mer heritage, meaning she can breathe underwater and communicate with Mer people while Jenna cannot.

Ruby & Garnet Barker, Double Act

Jacqueline Wilson’s prize-winning book features a pair of twins who are each named after a red gemstone. Their temperaments, on the other hand, make chalk and cheese look alike. Ruby is bold, confident and is intent on becoming an actress, whereas Garnet is shy, bookish and is equally determined not to act. Because she was born first, Ruby considers herself to be inevitably superior to Garnet, so it is she who makes most of the decisions on what they wear, how they behave and who they associate with at school. The twins’ relationship is further tested when Garnet wins a scholarship to a prestigious boarding school where Ruby wishes them to attend. The moral of Ruby and Garnet’s story is the importance of development as an individual.

Summer & Skye Tanberry, The Chocolate Box Girls

The sisters of Cathy Cassidy’s series include twins: Summer and Skye, whose interests and tastes in fashion differ like day and night. Summer wears a lot of pink and dreams of being a ballerina. Skye loves history and wears jumble-sale dresses and floppy hats. Deeper than pastimes and senses of style, Summer and Skye each have their own reaction to their parents’ divorce: Summer unconsciously strives to prove herself as a worthy daughter to their father, while Skye has somewhat accepted their father as useless and unreliable. While both twins are welcoming to their new stepfather and stepsister, Skye is quicker to warm up to the idea than Summer as a result of their different levels of ability to accept change.

Twins can be considered a literary device to add a level of interest to a story and tapping into our fascination with them, as well as giving the writer a framework to show off their skills in developing characterisation in building up a picture of different personalities. However, it is true that splitting from the same egg may guarantee twins sharing the same genes, but not always identical personality traits.