One could even argue that this conflict is the base of the entire relationship between Mary and Amos Jones, whose “… two accents would never make one voice… ” (p. 21). Therefore, the statement that “… the border of Radnor and Hereford was said to run right through the staircase… ” of the Vision, foreshadows this division and the conflict that will result from it further on in the novel. The last paragraph of the chapter can almost be read as the entire theme of the novel. Chatwin here refers to time as a “healing circle”, that wipes away “… the pain and the anger, the shame and the sterility… ” of life and breaks “…into the future with the promise of new things. ”
Referring to time as a circle can be seen to foreshadow the structure of the novel, which in itself is one large circle of time, following two lives from cradle to grave. Pain, anger, shame and sterility all affect the twins during their lifetime, through their conflicts with each other, and their interactions with other characters such as Mary and Rosie Fifield, to name only a few. Yet this is healed and wiped away by the joy they get from seeing the Vision pass on to Kevin, and with it, their legacy. B enjamin and Lewis Jones are described in detail only after the setting and time are set.
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Understanding the Twin’s characters is paramount to the meaning of the novel. It is their lives that On the Black Hill is centred around. Although identical twins in their youth, by the time we meet them, “… age and accidents had weathered them differently. ” “… Tall and stringy, with shoulders set square and a steady long-limbed stride… “, Lewis is described as slightly puzzled in company, with glasses and “… a wonderful way with sheepdogs… “. Benjamin, however, is “… shorter, pinker and shaper-tongued. ” He is a fierce haggler, and does “… all the cooking, the darning and the ironing. ”
He also had control over the money. This fact would suggest that he is the dominant of the two, and the more “feminine”. This fact is indeed very important to the meaning of the novel, as the relationship between the twins is a major theme. At this point, Chatwin throws in a further incognito statement: “On Saturday nights they took turns to have a hip-bath in front of the fire; and they lived for the memory of their mother. ” Mary Jones plays a crucial part in the novel, as her actions shape the lives of the Twins. This brief reference to her foreshadows her immense importance: it is her machinations that keep Lewis from marrying, her influence over Benjamin that keeps the twins bonded to the Vision and herself for their entire lives. Mary’s plot succeeded.
They live in her memory, keeping everything in the house just like it was when she was still alive. They live in the past, where the time stopped the day of her death. “… Apart from a holiday at the seaside in 1910, neither had of the twins had ever strayed further that Hereford. ” They live isolated from the real world in a crowd of old photographs, “… never tiring of finding likenesses between people born 100 years apart.
This is important to the meaning of the novel because it makes the reader wonder what lead to such remoteness from the real world. It foreshadows events in the novel which are the cause of this complete lack of interest in the modern day, such as the `White Feathering’ by Rosie (p. 127), and the Rhulen Fair. T he Rhulen Fair (p. 156 – 160) is a pivotal point in the lives of the twins and thus is very important to the meaning of On the Black Hill. It explores several major themes of the novel: the conflict between Ben and Lewis, and Mary’s influence on their lives. It also emphasizes how far the twin’s lives are removed from reality. Mary’s role in shaping the lives of the twins is crucial.