The Heavenly Twins

Topics: Sarah Grand, New Woman, Woman Pages: 5 (1755 words) Published: March 22, 2009
For the Victorian reader, the 1890’s was a time of change. Women not only asked questions openly about “the woman question,” but explored and answered them, from a woman’s perspective, through writing (Clark, 94). Until this time female characters were portrayed from a male-approved, narrow, and stereotypical perspective which consisted of prescribed thoughts and behaviors. The Heavenly Twins (1893) by Sarah Grand, one of “the most successful novels of the purity school, possessed shock value for [its] attacks on convention rather than for any reassessment of the female character” (Cunningham, 181). While Grand’s novel may not be viewed by modern readers as radical for the time, it was certainly shocking during the fin de siecle for its feminist and anti-Catholic views. Uniquely, in order to highlight the intensity with which the establishment of marriage (as enforced by the Roman Catholic Church) suppresses women Grand evokes musical elements, as found in settings, moods, and narrative language, all of which revolve around Angelica, who serves as an outlet for Grand’s views. Specifically, the musical elements that Grand uses to stress her outlook are: Angelica’s association with heavenly melody, the “Israel” (Grand, 71) lullaby, the timing and effect of the clock chimes and cathedral bell, her relationship with “the Tenor,” her dreams, and the aura of sound when she describes her freedom in Mother Nature. Biblical angels are organized into categories called choirs, which emphasizes Angelica’s association with heavenly melody; although she does not initially behave in a manner one would associate with being ‘angelic.’ She reads irrelevant novels at church, bullies her brother, and ignores authority figures when she disguises herself as her twin brother Diavolo. Diavolo in this sense is her counter-part, and while his name alludes to devilishness and mischief, Angelica is portrayed as the cleverer, “taller, stronger, and wickeder of the two”. As a child, musical elements appear softly in the background, and increase in force and intensity as Angelica grows up, mirroring the fervor in which she rejects male authority and female suppression in marriage. In an introduction to her character, Diavolo notes that “Angelica can make a song in a moment” (30), foreshadowing her later talents for music. When Angelica disguises herself as Diavolo at Evadne’s wedding, she plays out a whimsical fancy; as an adult, when she masks herself as “the Boy” she is reacting out of the “boredom”associated with the strict set of acceptable male-approved female-types, as she learns that woman are merely raised as obedient daughters in order to become obedient wives. As Grand develops Angelica’s character she evokes our sense of sound, and does so initially via the “Israel” (71) lullaby. This lullaby - “He, watching over Israel, slumbers not, nor sleeps” (71, 76, 147, 293, 371, 376, 430, 503, 534) - comes from the clock tower chimes. It is found in every volume except the second and sixth, and is seen most often in the volumes that include narrative about Angelica. For example, this melody is most frequently found in volume four, appropriately titled “The Tenor and the Boy. - An Interlude.” (353). The words in the lullaby allude to both Judaism and Christianity, as their gods were “[watchers] over Israel” (71), though, given the context of the novel, we can assume the lullaby alludes to Christianity. The timing of the bell and the chimes is often eerie, and seems to suggest that a force exists within the text, which later, appears to call Angelica to Christianity. When she states that “I don’t believe a word of [the Bible], but it makes me feel… I could not pray” (414), she immediately “heard a chime... It sounded insistent. It seemed to assert itself in a new way. It was as if it spoke to [her] alone” (414). Here, the chimes are heard during times of hardship and uncertainty. When Angelica-“The Boy” and “The Tenor” are alone...

Cited: Clark, Norma. Feminism and the Popular Novel of the 1890’s: A Brief Consideration of a Forgotten Feminist Novelist. Feminist Review, No. 20. (Summer, 1985), pp. 91-104.
Cunningham, A. R. The “New Woman Fiction” of the 1890’s. Victorian Studies, Vol. 17, No. 2. (Dec., 1973), pp. 177-186
Grand, Sarah. The Heavenly Twins. Ed. Carol A. Senf. The University of Michigan Press: Ann Arbor Paperbacks, 1992.
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