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Meg's father's activities and experiences in chapters 5-8 of A Wrinkle in Time

Summary:

In chapters 5-8 of A Wrinkle in Time, Meg's father, Mr. Murry, is revealed to be a scientist who experimented with tesseracts, leading to his capture on the dark planet of Camazotz. He experiences imprisonment and the oppressive control of IT, a malevolent entity, until Meg and her companions arrive to rescue him.

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What is Meg's father doing in chapter five of A Wrinkle in Time?

In chapter five of Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, the three children (Charles Wallace Murry, Meg Murry, and Calvin O'Keefe) are being taken to see something by their new friends, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Who. The three rather odd ladies (supernatural creatures in disguise)+ are able to transport the children through something they call a tesseract. The shortest distance between two points is not a straight line but a tesseract. Imagine holding a piece of string, each end in one of your hands. Instead of trying to traverse the line, you can close the gap between your fingers and the distance has been dramatically and instantaneously shortened.

The women show the children something in the distance, a kind of dark and smoky haze which is drifting across the atmosphere. It crosses a planet as they watch:

The outlines of this planet were not clean and clear. It seemed to be covered with a smoky haze.

It is the Dark Thing, and Meg asks:

"That dark Thing we saw.... Is that what my father is fighting?"

"YES," Mrs. Which said. "Hhee iss beehindd thee ddarrkness, sso thatt eevenn wee cannott seee hhimm."

Mrs. Whatsist adds:

"Your father needs help, he needs courage, and for his children he may be able to do what he cannot do for himself."  

The reality is that the Dark Thing is a form of evil which has been around for centuries, and many great figures in history spent their lives trying to battle it. People like Jesus, Euclid, Shakespeare, Madame Curie, Michelangelo, and Buddha have fought back the darkness, and now Meg's father has joined the fight. Doctor Murry has been away from home fighting the Dark Thing, and now he needs help. He is struggling and needs help; his children will have to help save him and earth from the invading darkness. 

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What happens to Meg's father in chapters 5-8 of A Wrinkle in Time?

Meg’s father was captured by It on the planet Camazotz.

Meg’s father has disappeared and no one knows where he is.  Meg’s father is a famous scientist who worked for the government, but he inexplicably disappeared.  No one will tell Meg where her father is, and there are rumors that he simply ran off with another woman.  Meg and her mother know better.  They know his work as a scientist got him into trouble.

It is not until Meg meets Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which that she understands what is going on.  They talk to her about the Black Thing, the evil that threatens Earth and other planets in the system.  She asks Mrs. Which if this is what her father has been fighting when the Tesser, or travel through space and time, on different planets.

"Hhee iss beehindd thee ddarrkness, sso thatt eevenn wee cannott seee hhimm." (Ch. 5)

Meg and the committee of Charles Wallace, Calvin, and the three women/witches/aliens go on a mission to rescue Meg’s father and save the universe.  When Meg asks where her father is, Mrs. Whatsit replies like this.

"On a planet that has given in. So you must prepare to be very strong." (Ch. 5)

Camazotz has a militarized sameness.  Everyone is afraid of not fitting in.  They have to bounce balls in exactly the same way, and do exactly what they are supposed to, or they will risk re-education.  It is on this planet that Meg’s father has been trapped.  The children are forced to go to the planet alone, because the women cannot go there.  They enter the CENTRAL Central Intelligence and see a man with glowing red eyes who can read their minds and talk to them without speaking.  He seems to speak to Charles Wallace, putting a spell on him.  Calvin and Meg escape through willpower and intelligence, but barely.

Meg finds her father and uses her knowledge of Shakespeare’s The Tempest and special glasses given to her by Mrs. Who to get him out of an unusual glass prison. 

In this section, we see how Meg’s faith in her father and her strength helps her get out of sticky situations.  Yet she has always lacked confidence.  She wants to find her father, because he has always been the one person who understood her.  She loves her brother, but he is a complete mystery to her and completely out of her league.  Yet what makes Charles special, also makes him vulnerable to It's manipulation, just as what makes Meg special makes her strong.  She is the only one who can save her father—and her brother. 

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