This chapter is the first of Part 2: Jill and Jack into the Black, and fittingly, it deals with the crossing of borders. This chapter marks the short space of time where the girls are free—free from their parents’ expectations, and free from the rules that govern the new world they are in.
They also make their first real choice. That’s not quite true, of course. They chose to go through the door. But that was framed as inevitable, the conclusion of the way they were brought up, with no other way out left to them. Here, they have a choice of where to go, and either by instinct or chance, they choose the Moors.
Something I’ve realised in rereading this is that I’ve got this the wrong way round. The whole time this book has been pushing the fact that Jack and Jill don’t love each other, they don’t even like each other. That’s the point. This explains what happens at the end. But the real reason this is being pushed onto us is that it is the start of Jack’s arc. It is the thing that changes about Jack. She starts by not really caring for Jill, she ends by saving Jill’s life. Jill, on the other hand, starts out wanting to be together. Her priorities will change. We’re not being given foreshadowing (or not just foreshadowing). We’re being given the “before” state.
We get more hints of who the twins truly are, beneath the roles they were given. We are told Jack is smart, and this was something she found on her own, rather than having it thrust upon her. She’s also the one to knock on the gate, showing she’s more forward than Jill when it comes to actions. While Jill speaks bravely, we are told that this bravery is a pretence, deep down, even if Jill isn’t aware of this. Already we are being led to favour one over the other.
Since this chapter has us between worlds, let’s take a look at both worlds. They will both have a hand in shaping these two girls, in different ways. So, compare and contrast:
“The Wolcotts lived in a house at the top of a hill in the middle of a fashionable neighborhood where every house looked alike…All of this conformity was designed not to strangle but to comfort, allowing the people who lived there to relax into a perfectly ordered world.”
“The Moors exist in eternal twilight, in the pause between the lightning strike and the resurrection. They are a place of endless scientific experimentation, of monstrous beauty, and of terrible consequences.”
Quite different, you might say. One is fashionable, the other is monstrous. While they both have fences, in one world they take the form of neighbourhood-approved styles of marking borders, while in the other the border is more definitely aimed at actually keeping others out. One is at the top of the hill, the other is found by tumbling down the hill.
And yet, it doesn’t matter if they went to the mountains, or the sea, or the Moors, there would be rules. Each area is ruled by lords or masters. This is not an unordered world. There is structure here, a hierarchy. There is the promise of safety—the wolves and the things from the sea do not attack. But just as with the Wolcotts, safety comes with conditions. If they had chosen differently, or not made a choice at all, would they have slept undisturbed? Not likely. Jack and Jill will not be free here. They won’t be together. This world will force them apart just as their own parents did. They will be expected to fit into new roles and stick to them.
The difference is, they will finally be able to choose such roles for themselves.