Discussion: Twins in Literature

fred-and-george-weasley-in-harry-potter-and-the-deathly-hallows

What do you think of when someone mentions twins in fiction? Is it something creepy and sinister? Is it twins impersonating one another? Is it the twins from The Shining by Stephen King, or is it Fred and George Weasley from Harry Potter?

Well, as twins ourselves, these two books fall into two different categories that we dislike in books that feature twins (books that feature twins tend to fall into these obvious stereotypes). Namely, twin’s being featured as something creepy or supernatural in order to scare the reader, or one twin dies for shock value (do not get me started on how many books feature one twin dying). 

  1. Twins in horror.

A post by Epic Reads titled ‘8 Creepy Twins in Film and Fiction‘ starts with the question ‘have fictional twins ever creeped you out?’. It goes on to state:

‘What must it be like to grow up with someone that looks exactly like you? Another person with the same eyes, the same nose and mouth and body type – perhaps even the same facial expressions and gestures?  Would you think you’d caught sight of yourself in the mirror each time you glanced at your twin? And what other parallels might exist besides physical ones? Do twins have any strange psychological connections that can’t be explained? Do they ever have the same thought simultaneously? When one gets hurt, does the other ever feel the pain?  Do they ever dream the same dreams or have the same nightmare? Like Lily and Iris in The Shadow Girl, do some twins communicate without speaking?

I’m not suggesting that being a twin is weird; I’ve known a few sets of twins, and they were as normal as anyone else. Nevertheless, creepy situations involving twins (as well as twins that are just plain creepy!) are common in novels, movies, fairy tales and television, no doubt because those questions I asked above conjure up all kinds of hair-raising, shiver-inducing scenarios.’

While the author of this piece states that she isn’t saying being a twin is weird, she really does strongly imply it. For any curious souls out there. We’re identical, which means we suffer from daily questions into our private lives. When we look at each other, we see two completely different individuals, and we even think we look completely different and we NEVER think we are glancing at our own reflection. No, we don’t share a psychological link, we don’t feel each other’s pain, we don’t dream the same or think the same, and we don’t move in sync. But a lot of people seem to think that twins are creepy because we simply shared a womb and grew up together, which has always baffled me. This isn’t to say we don’t have a unique and special bond – we do. We know each other so well that if we really wanted to, we could easily impersonate each other. I’d love to see that bond written about more that doesn’t border on horror or show it as something grotesque, bizarre, or weird.

    2. One twin tends to die.

This section features spoilers for numerous books featuring twins. It happens in books that feature twins more often that not. The most famous set of twins in YA is Fred and George Weasley and – shock horror – Fred dies. And in the movie, Oliver Phelps, the actor who played George, stated that he could only do five takes because it was emotionally draining. One of my favourite books that feature twins – One by Sarah Crossan – was so emotionally draining because again, one twin died, and it only affected me so much because that bond was actually written spectacularly well, so it was a little disappointing when one twin died.

In a lot of books that I’ve read that feature twins, they die. I’ll make a brief list which started or ended with one twin dying: Identical by Ellen Hopkins, Black Heart Blue by Louise Reid, The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver, There Will Come A Time by Carrie Arcos, My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher, Untwine by Edwidge Danticat, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, and more – there’s a whole LIST.

But what is this fascination with twins dying in literature? If anyone can tell me the answer, I’d really love to know.

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I’m aware that recently there are some exceptions to these stereotypes. Such as I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson – but I don’t think that special emotional bond was written very well. The Blazing Star by Imani Josey also featured twins, but that bond also didn’t resonate with me very much. Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong and Blood Red Road by Moira Young captured the bond between twins well. I am, however, looking very forward to The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli, and False Hearts by Laura Lam is also very high on my TBR list.

But, overall, as a twin myself, I’d love to read about that bond that doesn’t end in death or show twins as something weird or creepy.

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Do you like reading about twins in fiction? If so, why?

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