Themes and Characters

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

In A Swiftly Tilting Planet L'Engle explores what appear to be cyclic events in human history. The story of Madoc and Gwydyr, for example, parallels the biblical story of Cain and Abel. Trouble arises between the two brothers when one grows jealous of the other, and they part company over Madoc's love, Zyll. These three character "types" repeat themselves through all of the history that Charles Wallace, Gaudior, and Meg investigate. They are next encountered in Salem, Massachusetts, as the townspeople attempt to execute the half-Indian woman, Zylle, for witchcraft. In this "incarnation" the original triangle is joined by a sanctimonious minister, Duthbert Mortmain, who, although he says that he represents God's will on Earth, actually perverts the gospel of love to meet his own selfish ends. Zylle is saved by a powerful magical incantation given to Ritchie Llawcae by the American Indian, Zilla, the same "rune" murmured by Mrs. O'Keefe in an earlier part of the book. Instead of staying on in the New World, Ritchie returns with Zilla and their child, Brandon, to his ancestral home in Wales. Charles Wallace meets this same archetypal group of characters again in the persons of a young Mrs. O'Keefe (also called Branwen Zillah or Beezie) and her brother, Chuck.

To L'Engle, the importance of these cyclic events is that they represent the repeated clashes between the powers of good and evil that seem to be occurring on an escalating scale over time....

(The entire section is 573 words.)