Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time”, ever since it was published in 1962, has been capturing the imagination of readers young and old alike, and now, it had been turned into a movie by director Ava DuVernay. Regardless of whether you have seen the movie already or not, let us take a moment to take a look back at a young adult science fiction novel that is still being talked about today.
“A Wrinkle in Time” is a young adult science fiction novel that was published in 1962. Since then, there has been much debate over it, and it has also been widely used as a book to be read and discussed in school.
As for me, this highly imaginative novel was one that I loved ever since I picked it up when I was in grade school, and is still a favorite of mine until today.
The book tells the story of Margaret “Meg” Murry, a misunderstood and highly intelligent teenage girl who ends up embarking on a journey through space and time to rescue her scientist father who went missing several years ago after working on a secret project for the government. Meg is accompanied by her empathic and telepathic baby brother, Charles Wallace Murry; and a teenage boy named Calvin O’Keefe, who goes to Meg’s school, and considers himself as a little bit different from most people although he is popular at school. However, they are not alone, as they are helped by three immortal beings who are affectionately called Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which; especially after they discover that their rescue mission isn’t just a simple rescue mission, but is part of a greater battle against the forces of evil in this universe.
“A Wrinkle in Time” is the first in the “Time Quartet”, which features the Murry family and Calvin O’Keefe. The second and third books, “A Wind in the Door” and “A Swiftly Tilting Planet”, heavily involve Charles Wallace and Meg. Calvin is also in these stories, but isn’t as present and active as he was in “A Wrinkle in Time”. The last book, “Many Waters”, only mentions Charles Wallace and Meg, as it features the twins Sandy and Dennys. If you are interested in learning more about the Murrys and their descendants, you can check out “An Acceptable Time” and the rest of the Polly O’Keefe novels which include “The Arm of the Starfish”, “Dragons in the Waters” and “A House Like a Lotus”.
The Time Quartet, in L’Engle’s fictional universe, exists in what she calls the “kairos” universe or framework, where time travel can exist. It’s counterpart is called “chronos”, where time is more real-time, and is where the Austin family books take place in. Interestingly enough, there are some books in which the Austins, the Murrys and the O’Keefes do meet.
When I was younger, L’Engle’s characters and words in “A Wrinkle in Time” made a huge impression on me, as there is just something wonderfully different with how she formulates each sentence. I loved the space and time travel element to it, and most of all, I loved how much I could relate to the characters, who really aren’t the typical characters you would see in novels.
I could relate a lot to Meg, as I always felt like an outsider to my peers, and I also related to her being frustrated and angry all the time. However, L’Engle, through Meg, showed me that I have a power of my own as well, and that even my faults can be used towards something good.
I also liked the fact that Meg was able to find others who were like her. Charles Wallace is definitely very different from others, being able to talk like an adult at the age of five, and as he is empathic and telepathic. Calvin, although popular at school, is also different from most people, and especially from those in his family.
For the first time, I was able to see that being an outsider can be a good thing, and that there are probably other “outsiders” whom I could also be friends with.
I also found Meg’s and Calvin’s budding relationship utterly romantic and I loved that it was seamlessly woven through the story although it wasn’t the main focus.
L’Engle’s characters, from Meg to the Mrs. W’s, were such well thought of and well fleshed out characters that made it seem as if they were actually real. Her use of words also left a big mark on me, as she had the ability to create atmosphere and build tension in all the right ways.
The presence of the Black Thing chilled me to the bone; Camazotz, the Prime Coordinator and IT terrified me to no end; the Mrs. W’s were majestic and comforting; and her description of Charles Wallace making hot cocoa and sandwiches for Meg, his mother, and Mrs. Whatsit, have stuck with me until today.
Aside from her descriptions, her usage of words when it came to the dialogue really left a huge impression on me as well, and until now, I savor each and every word she put in her book as if savoring a rich, ten course meal.
When I first read the book, I loved it for its word usage, its characters, and its imaginative use of science fiction. However, reading it again in class as a sixth grader, and now as an adult, I was able to pick up on the deeper themes that I didn’t realize was there before.
L’Engle talks about the battle of good and evil in her book, and the sacrifices and hardships it entails, even though it means sacrificing yourself just to seemingly win the battle for just a few seconds. She also talks about deeper topics such as the dangers of conformity; why the individual is important and should be celebrated; the probable dangers that might befall modern society with the rise of technology;and of course, the power of love, as cheesy as it does sound.
Looking back at it now, it is amazing how her themes and how this story does transcend and is still very much relevant until today. I also know that this book has also been a little bit controversial due to the overly Christian themes, and the fact that Jesus was lined up as a source of light alongside other philosophers, scientists and artists. Interestingly enough, I never really thought of it as controversial as the fight between good and evil and the fight for the truth is something that is present in all religions and beliefs; and I had no problem in accepting that those He was lined up with were also lights helping to battle the darkness as all art and science, I believe, does show us the truth about things.
In the end, “A Wrinkle In Time” is a great young adult novel because of its universal and timeless themes, its innovative and imaginative way of utilizing science fiction, and because of its strong protagonists who do break the stereotypical mold, and is definitely a story worth telling in many different formats. So, aside from enjoying the movie version of this book, try to pick this book up, as it is a book that can definitely be enjoyed by many, regardless of whether you are an avid reader or a fan of science fiction or not.
Have you read Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time”? Have you read her other works? What did you think of the book, the other books in the Time Quartet and her other works? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Image Source: The Official Madeleine L’Engle Website