Authors: Madeleine L’Engle
OTHER NOVELS IN THE TIME QUINTET
An Acceptable Time
A Swiftly Tilting Planet
A Wind in the Door
An Imprint of Holtzbrinck Publishers
A WRINKLE IN TIME.
Copyright © 1962 by Crosswicks, Ltd.
Copyright © 2007 by Anna Quindlen.
All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America. No part
of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever
without written permission except in the case of brief quotations
embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information,
address Square Fish, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
A wrinkle in time.
Summary: Meg Murry and her friends become involved with unearthly
strangers and a search for Meg’s father, who has disappeared while engaged
in secret work for the government.
[1. Science fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.L5385 Wr 1962
Originally published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Book design by Jennifer Browne
First Square Fish
Mass Market Edition: May 2007
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
For Charles Wadsworth Camp
Wallace Collin Franklin
BY ANNA QUINDLEN
The most memorable books from our childhoods are those that make us feel less alone, convince us that our own foibles and quirks are both as individual as a finger-print and as universal as an open hand. That’s why I still have the copy of
A Wrinkle in Time
that was given to me when I was twelve years old. It long ago lost its dust jacket, the fabric binding
is loose and water-stained, and the soft and loopy signature on its inside cover bears little resemblance to the way I sign my name today. The girl who first owned it has grown up and changed, but the book she loved, though battered, is still magical.
Its heroine is someone who feels very much alone indeed. Meg Murry has braces, glasses, and flyaway hair. She can’t seem to get anything right
in school, where everyone thinks she is strange and stupid. And she runs up against some real nastiness at a young age in the form of all those snide looks and comments about her father, a scientist who seems to have mysteriously vanished—or, town gossip has it, run off with another woman.
But Meg doesn’t know real evil until she sets out on a journey to find her father and bring him home, along
with her little brother, Charles Wallace, and a boy named Calvin. As they transcend time, space, and the limitations of their own minds, they get help from individuals of great goodness: Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Which, Mrs Who, the Happy Medium, and Aunt Beast. But the climax of their journey is a showdown with IT, the cold and calculating disembodied intelligence that has cast a black shadow over the
universe in its quest to make everyone behave and believe the same.
If that sounds like science fiction, it’s because that’s one way to describe the story. Or perhaps you could call it the fiction of science. The action of the book, the search for Meg and Charles Wallace’s missing father, relies on something called a tesseract, which is a way to travel through time and space using a fifth dimension.
Although there’s even a little illustration to make it easier to visualize, I still am not certain I do. Of course, Meg, who is so bright she can do square roots in her head, doesn’t entirely understand it either. “For just a moment I got it!” she says. “I can’t possibly explain it now, but for a second I saw it!”
The truth is, I’m not a fan of science fiction, and my math and physics gene has
always been weak. But there’s plenty in the book for those of us predisposed toward the humanities as well. Mrs Who, who remedies her language deficit by using the words of others to explain herself, quotes Dante, Euripides, and Cervantes, to name just a few. When Meg is trying to keep IT from invading her brain, she realizes the multiplication tables are too rote to do the trick and instead shouts
out the opening of the
Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” IT retorts that that’s the point: “Everybody exactly alike.” Meg replies triumphantly, “No!
are not the same thing at all!”
Madeline L’Engle published
in 1962, after it was rejected by dozens of publishers. And her description of the tyranny of
conformity clearly reflects that time. The identical houses outside which identical children bounce balls and jump rope in mindless unison evoke the fear so many Americans had of Communist regimes that enshrined the interests of state-mandated order over the rights of the individual. “Why do you think we have wars at home?” Charles Wallace asks his sister, channeling the mind of IT. “Why do you think
people get confused and unhappy? Because they all live their own separate individual lives.” He tells Meg what she already knows from her own everyday battles: “Differences create problems.”
But while L’Engle’s story may have originally been inspired by the gray sameness of those Communist countries, it still feels completely contemporary today, except maybe for Meg’s desire for a typewriter
to get around her dreadful penmanship. The Murry home is fractured by Mr. Murry’s mysterious absence and Meg’s “mother sleeping alone in the great double bed” Calvin may look like a golden boy, but his family barely notices he’s alive. Even more timeless is the sense Meg has of herself as someone who doesn’t fit in, who does “everything wrong.” Conformity knows no time or place; it is the struggle
all of us
face, to be ourselves despite the overwhelming pressure to be like everyone else. Perhaps one of the most compelling and moving descriptions of that internal battle comes near the end of the book, when Mrs Whatsit tells the children that life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: “You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you
say is completely up to you.”
On its surface this is a book about three children who fight an evil force threatening their planet. But it is really about a more primal battle all human beings face, to respect, defend, and love themselves. When Meg pulls the ultimate weapon from her emotional arsenal to fight, for her little brother and for good, it is a great moment, not just for her, but for
every reader who has ever felt overlooked, confused, alone. It has been more than four decades since I first read
A Wrinkle in Time
. If I could tesser, perhaps in some different time and place I would find a Meg Murry just my age, a grown woman with an astonishing brain, a good heart, and a unique perspective on how our differences are what makes life worth living. Oh, how I would like to meet
It was a dark and stormy night.
In her attic bedroom Margaret Murry, wrapped in an old patchwork quilt, sat on the foot of her bed and watched the trees tossing in the frenzied lashing of the wind. Behind the trees clouds scudded frantically across the sky. Every few moments the moon ripped through them, creating wraithlike shadows that raced along the ground.