“Oh, to vex me, contraries meet in one:/Inconstancy unnaturally hath begot…” So Donne opens Holy Sonnet 19, and it seems at first a description of the metaphysical conceit: “vexing” “contraries” “unnaturally” brought into “one”. Instead he discusses his constant inconstancy in religious devotion, which is not so contradictory as the language may appear. But I think we can use the metaphysical conceit to propose a temporary solution to our problem of the internally inconsistent work: in writing a text with divergent viewpoints (as Bakhtin insists we must, if we are prose-writers), we are committing an act of ‘yoking by violence together’ those languages. Just as the reader of a metaphysical conceit can work through the logic of the comparison, so a reader, with the ability to examine every view, work through the connections and comparisons and thus resolve the inherent contradictions. This does not mean that the languages will necessarily sit comfortably with each other in the text; it means that the reader can perhaps propose a solution, having seen from each person’s point of view. (This, of course, requires that the reader try to understand and then resolve them.)
A similar analogy that I have been slowly getting to all this time: conjoined twins. These are twins who are physically attached at birth, and sometimes share major organs. I shall here dispel two opposite misconceptions: 1) the twins do not have the same mind or always know what the other is thinking, nor 2) do they always argue. They sometimes agree and sometimes disagree.
Brittany and Abigail Hensel are dicephalic twins currently living in Minnesota; dicephalic means that they share their entire torso, appearing to be ‘two-headed’ (‘two-headed’ is inaccurate; because any person has only one head by definition, there is no entity which could have two heads… ‘one-bodied twins’ might be more accurate). Because of their physical state, they are forced to come to resolutions on decisions about which they do not necessarily agree. According to an interview, they argue a lot, though other sources claim that they do so only rarely now that they’re older. Despite their many differences of opinion, they have learned to resolve conflicts most people cannot imagine facing.
I thus suggest we look to the Hensel girls not simply as an example of resolution but as a symbol of ‘contraries met in one,’ of heterglossic voices in a single text. They are lessons in living together in spite of disagreements—even ones never resolved. I think that the Hensel twins, and cooperative conjoined twins in general, are emblematic of the necessity and possibility of different voices finding resolution in a single body.