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  • Intertextual Twins and Their Relations: Linda Hogan’s Mean Spirit and Solar Storms
  • Catherine Rainwater (bio)

Almost universally across cultures and time, human beings have viewed the birth of twins with awe. In ancient myths as well as in contemporary science, twins remain something of a mystery and pose an array of fascinating metaphysical, psychological, and ontological questions. Accounts of the mirrored lives of identical twins, especially those raised separately, never cease to intrigue the reading and television-viewing public. Individuals who have lost a twin through such separation or death afford persuasive, if so far mostly anecdotal, evidence of powerful psychic bonds conjoining living beings and challenging traditional western conceptions of an isolated human consciousness. 1

Like some other nonwestern cultures, Native Americans emphasize collective existence and psychic connection, including the spiritual dimensions of twinship. The Navajo creation story, for example, develops around numerous sets of twins (Locke, Morris), and among the Lakota, twins are “wakan” (sacred), sharing a special relationship even in the womb (Hassrick 312). 2 Major figures in the foundational iconography of many tribes, sacred twins and comparable “balanced pairs” [End Page 93] express a larger unity behind perceived dual forces in nature and experience. 3 Their struggles chronicle the evolution of human presence, power, and responsibility on the earth.

Whether twin pairs are male or female, within most tribal societies one twin usually complements the other’s character traits, talents, or powers. One may be aggressive, for instance, while the other is mild and yielding. Twins sometimes switch roles, or, if one is absent, the other assumes all or part of his sibling’s identity (Scarberry-García 33). The Stricken Twins of southwestern tribal cosmogony are perhaps the ones most often referenced within contemporary Native American literature. Their Navajo manifestations, Monster Slayer and Born for Water, appear in N. Scott Momaday’s House Made of Dawn, and their Pueblo counterparts in Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony and Paula Gunn Allen’s The Woman Who Owned the Shadows. About the pantribal lore of sacred twins, Allen says, “it is probable that the system [of the twins], wherever it ‘originated’ among human groups, actually emerged in the realm of the Great Mystery, and it is only in that land that the source of the system and its variant forms might be ascertained. [. . .] One thing is reasonably certain: where the sacred twins occur, there lies magic” (Grandmothers 29). 4

A Balanced Pair of Narratives

Linda Hogan’s novels are replete with direct references to twins and to other paired phenomena representing the same cosmological principles. These references not only cue the reader to an important structural pattern common to both of her narratives, but also implicitly point to a productive way of understanding the intertextual relationship between Mean Spirit and Solar Storms on the one hand, and between these two novels and several of their literary “kin” on the other.

In Mean Spirit, Sara and Molene Blanket are “stricken” female twins—one paralyzed and the other killed by polio. A male-female pair, Moses Graycloud and Ruth Graycloud Tate, “have that link between them that is common to twins. [. . .] If Ruth fell down, Moses would feel the same pain, the same scraped knee. If Moses lost one of his beloved horses, Ruth would stop by his place and say, ‘What’s wrong? I feel sad’” (73). Paired characters in Solar Storms include the twin cubs [End Page 94] born to Agnes’s bear (45); “war” and “starvation,” some cannibals’ twin offspring killed by Angela’s animal ally, Wolverine (186); and two feral children raised by wolves (65). Furthermore, a twin-like relationship between younger Angela and her older, regenerated self in the second half of the novel is implied through many references to her appearance in mirrors, where she ponders the relationship of the face she sees there to the woman she dreams of becoming. The ten-chapter segments on either side of chapter eleven (the story of Angela’s canoe-trip to the land of the Fat-Eaters) also bear a twin-like, complementary relationship to one another. The first ten relate Angela’s flight from the world and her angry preoccupation with her scarred face...

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pp. 93-113
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