A few weeks ago I decided to bring you a look at two controversial characters from Blyton’s writing, The Harries, looking into their mysterious identical-ness and how they act around the Five.
Today I’m going to look at a pair of Blyton’s twins who are most likely the exact opposite to the Harries. The Batten twins, Ruth and Connie, from Upper Fourth at Malory Towers.
Fiona summed up my next set of twins to analyse with this thought provoking piece:
The Philpots are a boy and girl who realistically shouldn’t be all that alike, but they are alike in speech and mannerisms and even speak at the same time. They’re happiest as just the two of them. Whereas Ruth and Connie go against what you expect of twins – they’re unalike in physical shape and looks as well as temperament and attitude. To the point that Ruth almost hates Connie for a time.
The reason I’m quoting Fiona is that I think it sums up the diversity between Blyton’s twins. Now I haven’t read absolutely everything she had ever written but the twins I am aware of are all very different. Either in their genetic make up, or their attitudes and personalities.
With that said I think we now need to take a look at the Batten twins, Ruth and Connie and I’ll let you make up your own minds whether they are the opposite to the much loved Harries.
Ruth and Connie are two new girls at the start of the term in Upper Fourth at Malory Towers. Darrell thinks it is a shame that they are not alike as that the girls could have had some fun with them if they were. I always liked the idea of twins being so identical that they could confuse the teachers or their peers. There is something completely magical about twins, they always fascinate me, and I think that could possibly be true of Blyton as well as she uses them so often in her work.
The description of the twins leaves us in no doubt that they are completely different.
“Connie was bigger, fatter, sturdier and bolder-looking than Ruth, who was a good deal smaller, and rather shy-looking. Connie smiled broadly and nodded to everyone. Ruth hardly raised her head to look around, and as soon as she could she stood a little way behind her sister.” (Upper Fourth at Malory Towers)
From this description I think its safe to say that we’re expecting Connie to be the nice twin, and Ruth the one who’s perhaps a bit sly and manipulative, but that’s not how things turn out. Ruth’s shyness and timidity come from Connie being overbearing and overprotective of her older twin. This may stem from Connie’s fears at being left behind by Ruth if she steps out of her shadow, an issue that becomes apparent towards the end of the book.
At first the girls don’t really feature in the story, but their role to play in the upper fourth soon makes itself known. The girls get very tired of Connie not letting her twin speak or do anything for herself and try to buck Ruth up a bit, but her twin doesn’t let her shine. From this point on, the friendly Connie we thought we might get fades away and we clearly see the manipulative, domineering Connie who doesn’t let her own sister do anything for herself.
Connie becomes almost an older sister to Ruth, who is naturally the older one, and babies her, making all the decisions for her. Connie dictates what they do, who they should talk to and almost tries to take her life away from her it seems. Ruth finally declares to Darrell that all this is because Connie loves her too much and is trying to protect her. Darrell thinks it’s more than that, something that could be very sinister and dangerous in later life (a point added to by Miss Williams when Darrell goes to talk to her about it).
We then see a series of unfortunate and nasty ‘tricks’ played on Connie and they turn out to be by her sister. Mostly due to feeling stifled by Connie, but also because she demanded Ruth fail her School Certificate so they could both stay in the upper fourth. Luckily things work themselves out and the twins will finally be in separate forms.
The Batten twins are probably Blyton’s most different twins, in the fact that the dynamic between them is so different and varied from any other of the twinny characters I’ve read. The fact that these twins are more like proper sisters than the Harries, for example who you would expect not to be similar at all. The rivalry between Ruth and Connie is far more noticeable and pronounced in the book, and things turn quite sour rather quickly.
I suppose now, I can see what Fiona meant by Ruth and Connie being the opposite to the Harries. The Harries are a brother and sister who want to be a like, share the same clothes and mannerisms, but the Batten twins are the same sex and are poles apart but without meaning to. I think it’s a nice dynamic that worked well with the twin theme that each set of twins is slightly different. When I come to write my next piece most likely about the Lawdler Twins from Five On a Secret Trail, I think again you’ll be able to see quite how different these twins are from either Ruth and Connie and the Harries.
So what do you think about the twins in Blyton’s books, do you agree that they’re all different? And will you look differently on Connie and Ruth next time you read Upper Fourth? I know I will!