The Plot (Magill's Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature)
Madeleine L’Engle’s view of the universe was changed by the work of such well-known physicists as Albert Einstein and Max Planck. She expressed her new perspective in A Wrinkle in Time, a heroic adventure in which evil authoritarianism is challenged by love and human individuality. The book is very different from L’Engle’s six previous novels; she hoped it would take her career in an exciting new direction. Therefore, she was especially disappointed that, after two years, none of the many publishers to whom she sent the book wanted to publish it. L’Engle loved the book but came to believe that it was too peculiar ever to be published. Even the publisher who eventually accepted it warned L’Engle not to be disappointed if it did not do well. In 1963, to everyone’s surprise, A Wrinkle in Time won the prestigious Newbery Medal.
The story opens in the Murrys’ kitchen, where Meg, her mother, and her little brother are eating sandwiches. Although bright, Meg is a misfit in high school, scholastically as well as socially. This day has been even more difficult than most: Meg got into a fistfight defending her “dumb baby brother.” Five-year-old Charles Wallace is unusual, but with his amazing telepathic powers, he is anything but dumb. Both Mr. and Mrs. Murry are Ph.D. scientists. Mrs. Murry experiments in her biology laboratory, located near the kitchen. Mr. Murry is “away”; he disappeared mysteriously a year earlier while working on a top-secret government physics project. Townspeople give Meg knowing looks when she insists that her father will come back someday—one...
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Form and Content (Masterplots II: Women's Literature Series)
A Wrinkle in Time is Madeleine L’Engle’s story of a brother and sister who seek their father, who is imprisoned on the planet Camazotz. A fantasy novel for children, the work accentuates the power of women by casting thirteen-year-old Meg Murry as the protagonist and savior.
The government of the United States has sent Meg’s father to Camazotz to rectify a moral evil blighting the minds and souls of the planet’s inhabitants. On Camazotz (a possible play on “comatose”), the people are placidly content because they have no conflicts. Every thought and action of their daily lives is controlled by It, a disembodied brain that functions as the communal mind; there is neither opportunity nor desire for individuality. In short, the human beings of Camazotz have become little more than robots. Pain, an inherent part of being human, is denied them; in its place is the warm bliss of mindless “happiness.” Because Dr. Murry is a threat to their “perfect” society, the administrators of Camazotz have taken him captive.
The Mrs. W’s—Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, supernatural beings who combat evil—commission Meg Murry and her brother Charles Wallace to accompany them to Camazotz, so that the children might rescue their father and see the spiritual decay that he has been fighting. After arriving on the planet, the children proceed to the CENTRAL Central Intelligence Building, where they find Dr. Murry imprisoned in...
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Context (Masterplots II: Women's Literature Series)
A winner of the Newbery Award for children’s literature, A Wrinkle in Time alters the pattern of many earlier juvenile novels by casting females as the leading and more effective characters. Yet the work upholds supposedly feminine characteristics, making it clear that these very characteristics enable Meg Murry to save her father and brother. When the children and Mrs. Whatsit arrive on Camazotz, Mrs. Whatsit tells Meg that her strongest assets are her “faults”: her impatience, anger, and stubbornness—traits sometimes negatively attributed to women. Although Meg does not at first understand, she soon sees that Mrs. Whatsit is correct. While Calvin advises her to proceed slowly and cautiously in rescuing her father, Meg’s impatience will not let her wait; it propels her—literally—through the marble column. Similarly, her anger at the overwhelming power of It makes her stubbornly determined that the brain will not consume the mind and soul of her brother. Finally, her love for Charles Wallace, based not on his intelligence but only on the child himself, saves the little boy.
Meg’s love for Charles Wallace undoubtedly derives from the love and nurture that she herself receives from other females. Mrs. Murry, for example, always has time to be a mother, her intellectual interests notwithstanding. On Uriel, Mrs. Whatsit, in the guise of a flying horse, shelters frightened Meg under her wing. Aunt Beast holds and feeds her following her passage through the Dark Thing, an embodiment of evil, until she is strong enough to return to Camazotz. Thus, it is the maternal succor of females that gives Meg the power she needs for the job that she must perform; in turn, Meg’s impetuosity and fierce, unconditional love save the male characters, who are helpless in the hands of their enemies. For all of his intelligence, Dr. Murry can neither effect his own escape nor save his son. Through her characters, then, L’Engle emphasizes the importance of maintaining “womanly” qualities.
Topics for Discussion
Ideas for Reports and Papers
For Further Reference
Bibliography (Censorship (Ready Reference series))
Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique. New York: W. W. Norton, 1963. Explains that the frustration felt by many women of the 1950’s derived from their lack of personal fulfillment. With her combination of science and motherhood, Mrs. Murry represents the “new” woman Friedan is urging others to become.
Harvey, Brett. The Fifties: A Women’s Oral History. New York: HarperCollins, 1993. Discusses the family of the 1950’s, supporting theories and general observations with concrete examples from case studies. It was a decade of great conformity, which may explain why people outside the Murry family often regarded the “strange” children with hostility.
Huck, Charlotte S., Susan...
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