Study Guide

Lives of the Twins

by Rosamond Smith

Lives of the Twins Essay - Critical Essays

Lives of the Twins

Molly Marks is finally and, she thinks, permanently in love. Jonathan McEwan fulfills all of her emotional and sexual needs--at least, Molly believes so at first. The discovery of the existence of Jonathan’s twin brother, James, a relationship Jonathan has kept hidden from Molly, both frightens and fascinates her. Obsessively driven to discover something about the missing twin, Molly reads about how twins are conceived, the phenomenon of twin births, and the psychology of the strange attachment between twins. Her research drives her to find and contact James, who is also a psychologist, and make an appointment under an assumed name to see him.

James is very different from Jonathan. Whereas Jonathan is retiring, almost diffident, James is assertive, almost aggressive. Jonathan had to be coaxed to approach Molly sexually, but James comes on to her almost at once. Jonathan is deliberate and steady; James is flamboyant and quirky. Soon Molly begins an affair with James, and she finds him dangerously exciting. The excitement of the affair begins to turn nasty, however, as James becomes more and more possessive. He finds out that Molly is living with his brother and forces her to confess her deception. Meanwhile, her relationship with Jonathan deteriorates under the weight of her guilt. Finally driven to distraction and frightened by James, she confesses to Jonathan, they separate, and Molly, besieged now by James, contemplates murder. The novel concludes with Molly, gun in hand, confronting both brothers ad being unable to decide which of the identical twins she wants to kill.

This is a taut fiction somewhat on the order of a psychological novel by Georges Simenon. Molly is the product of a fluid society which is increasingly anonymous and emotionally dangerous. Her search for stability and commitment proves threatening to her well-being, because she is thrust into a world waiting to prey on those who are willing to risk openness and vulnerability. Like many other works of contemporary fiction, LIVES OF THE TWINS speaks to the growing danger inherent in modern relationships.