Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Twins of Housewrights (Annotation G3-1/Goddard)

Art Corriveau’s construction of Housewrights lends itself to the conflicts, which pervades every character during their coming of age from 1908 and 1928. Lily, the central character, is ten years old in 1908 and the only daughter of a Vermont father. Art Corriveau spends the opening chapter on Lily, emphasizing her as the youngest child and only daughter of the rural family. Lily, as well as the reader, meets the Pritchard family, the father of which is contracted to build a new home for Lily Willard’s family. The Pritchard twins Oren and Ian, boys Lily’s age are the first set of twins the reader meets. Textually, the relationship of the twins is clear enough; they are identical and seem to share everything. However, Lily’s relationship as youths in 1908 as well as their return, Oren in 1918, and Ian in 1919 is one of love, romance, marriage, and envy. Lily’s envious feelings are clear in their youth and much more evident in 1928 after the birth of Faith, the daughter of her and Oren. With these four characters, Oren, Ian, Lily and Faith, three sets of twins emerge.
Corriveau’s choice to linger on the exposition in the opening chapter is apt. Lily develops a loving relationship with both twins, playing with them, teaching them to read, and the building of their tree house. Initially being unable to tell the two apart prompts her to make them identity bracelets. Lily’s relationship to them is of friendship and childhood. She becomes more comfortable with them than the other children or her own brothers. Once she is forbidden to play with the boys after the swimming hole incident, Lily attempts to make other friends. “At Sunday school, Lily befriended Hallie Burke, the prissiest girl in class. She feigned interest in paper dolls and pinafores until Hallie invited her over to play,” (Corriveau 21). For Lily the befriending of Hallie is, in part, to placate her mother, but also for her need for friendship. Lily as well as the reader knows Hallie is a poor substitute for the twins.
Later, in 1918, Oren returns alone. He makes his intentions clear and ultimately marries Lily. Once Ian returns from the war, they develop life as one might expect. The seeming peaceful relationship the three had as youths is filled with complication as adults. “It was while Lily was taking him that she felt—for the very first time, perhaps for the last—as though she were Oren’s twin, not Ian,” (Corriveau 121). As children, Lily was on the outside of the two twins, who had a communication of their own. As a married couple shortly after their reunion with Ian, Lily makes shifts the “twin” relationship away from Ian.
Due to issues of townspeople and social stigmas, Ian eventually marries Hallie, and the two couples grow apart. Lily and Oren are the first to have a child, Faith. Assuming this idea of twins, Oren and Ian being actual twins, and Lily feeling (if not fleetingly) a twin to Oren, the third set of twins in the book emerges in the Faith character.
As Faith grows up, she takes on a bit of her mother’s childhood personality. Faith’s relationship with her father is similar to the relationship Lily had with her father. After her curiosity about a dilapidated tree house, Oren tells his daughter about the past. Father and daughter take on the task of rebuilding the tree house. The father—daughter scene in the tree house is reminiscent of the 8-year-old Lily and the twins. The subsequent fall of Oren, removes the third person in their family. When only Lily and Faith remain, the next set of twins develops. Lily gives Faith the soapstone she found long ago. As the child inquires about it, Lily says, “It’s you and me,” (Corriveau 191).

Corriveau, Art. Housewrights. London: Penguin Group, 2002.

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