Madeleine L'Engle a French author uses a creative mixture of science and fairy tale magic for building the story line in her book A Wrinkle in Time. From beginning to end Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin go through adventure after adventure bursting with animated fairy-tale characteristics. This book has a model preteen coming-of-age theme. The three are intertwined naturally, and work well within the science-fiction twist of this very unbelievable fantasy tale. The main character Meg Murry is the perfect innocent child turned into a hero.
The beginning of the story presents a 13 year old Meg as young, and constantly wallowing in self-pity. Meg enters the first chapter emotionally immature with a self-centered 'why must everything happen to me' attitude . Although her five year old younger brother Charles Wallace is 'rumored to be not quite bright' he is actually extremely advanced for his age and Meg's main caretaker. 'How did Charles Wallace always know about her? How could he always? probe (and understand) with frightening accuracy' ? The two are remarkably close, and whenever life becomes too much for Meg, Charles Wallace reaches out to comfort her.
All three, Meg, Charles Wallace, and their new found friend, 14 year old Calvin O'Keefe, fit the average misunderstood characteristics found in many fairy-tale and teen stories. While both Calvin and Charles Wallace are misunderstood by most, Charles Wallace at least has the support of a loving home, with preoccupied parents. Calvin, on the contrary, has no one to understand and appreciate him. 'The funny part of it' he says, 'is that I love them all and they don't give a hoot about me? I care, but nobody else does' .
All three children, each with his or her own special individual qualities, strive to get along in their world. The boys don't seem to care much what others think, only Meg, with her many imperfections, flounders from day to day. Mixed in with this is a sort of orphaned child theme. Although none of the kids are actual orphans, this thought first came to me through Mr. Murry's absence, and Meg's constant wish of 'if only father were here' , and then with Calvin's horribly neglectful family. He is, in words, emotionally abandoned by parents who are too overwhelmed with other things to notice anything else.
These details suggest a touch of realism: that in real life good is not always given and that life is not always fair. As in the fairy-tale theme, the children have a specific goal; to find and rescue their long lost and desperately missed father. With the help of Calvin, Meg and Charles Wallace set out to tackle the impossible. Good vs evil as their journey begins. The three have an unusual set of 'fairy god mother' type helpers in the wild and wacky characters of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Who. They devise a plan, give direction and guidance, and set the quest in motion.
The magical good of the three Mrs. W's is countered by the frightful and powerful evil of the 'Black Thing. ' The 'black thing' hangs motionless like a cloud over the universe, causing the Earth to be a terribly troubled planet. Meg can only describe Traveling through space by tessering, and having to pass through the Black Thing as more than a 'darkness, or absents of light? a horrifying void, a shadow that was so terrible? that there had never been before or ever would be again, anything that would chill her with a fear that was beyond shuttering, beyond crying or screaming, beyond the possibility of comfort' .
As in typical fairy-tale, the main characters are victimized by different levels of abuse. While she is desperately trying to deal with her fathers disappearance, Meg also has to cope with taunting school-mates, a sarcastic teacher, and a skeptical school principal. All of which, along with many members of the small community, believe her father left of his own free will, and openly voice their hurtful opinions. Although Calvin and Charles Wallace deal with their abuses in a healthier manner, none of the children are prepared for the cold abusive environment of Camazotz.
The children soon realize that there are 'no nice people in Camazotz' . In fact, Camazotz, which is under the influence of the Black Thing which has defeated the planet, seriously threatens their lives. As in many fairy-tales, special gifts are presented to the children. Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Who, accompany them on the hill overlooking Camazotz, assuring in a fairy-godmother manner that they 'will be near, and they will be watching' then one by one they Give a precious talisman for each child.
Calvin is given his 'ability to communicate' and a piece of Shakespeare's The Tempest, Charles Wallace is given 'the resilience of his childhood' and a caution to 'remember that you do not know everything. ' Meg, much to her dismay, is given her faults, and much to her surprise, Mrs. Who's wacky glasses. With only these gifts, and each other to lean on, the children now begin to test their limits as they are forced to rely on their own thoughts and decisions in search for Mr. Murry. Throughout the book Madeleine L'Engle uses personified objects to bring the story to life.
On the planet Uriel 'creatures like the one Mrs. Whatsit had become? were making music, music that came not only from their throats but from the movements of their great wings as well. ' Mixing fantasy with subtle Christianity 'the resonant voices rose and the words seem to be all around them? Meg could almost reach out and touch them ? Sing unto the Lord a new song? let them give glory to the Lord? Meg felt a pulse of joy as she had never known before. ' The trees and the flowers swayed as if dancing to the music. A short time later Mrs.
Whatsit admitted to once being a star who gave her life in battle against the Black thing. In the moment of truth while looking at Mrs. Whatsit, Meg realizes 'what she saw was only the game Mrs. Whatsit was playing? it was only the tiniest facet of all the things Mrs. Whatsit could be' . And even later, in a time of desperate need, Meg meets up with Aunt Beast an animal like intelligent alien who saves her life. The ultimate in personified objects is It. 'A disembodied brain, an oversized brain, just enough larger than normal to be completely revolting and terrifying? brain that pulsed and quivered, that seized and commanded' , in all its horror, It controls Camazotz. Comparable to The Wizard of Oz, L'Engle creates this story as the children go through one adventure after another. Throughout the different episodes L'Engle uses many techniques to highlight different moods. Magic is justified and explained through science, as they tesser from planet to planet. In moments of discouragement Mrs. Who recites bits of masterpieces from Shakespeare, emphasizing the good in the world. In the end Meg becomes the hero as she finally develops some maturity, passing from little girl to young woman.
From the beginning of the book she continually relies on others to make everything okay for her, and feels that if only her father returned everything would be all right. Meg is shocked and surprised, when the children finally do find Mr. Murry, she realizes that he is as helpless as the rest of them, and unable to rescue the group. As she goes through these awakening experiences, as she accepts her new friendship with Calvin, Meg continues to change and grow up? until in the end she understands that she, and not her father, is the only one who can save Charles Wallace from the terrifying grips of It.
Courageously, Meg trades roles with Charles Wallace, and becomes the caretaker to her caretaker, while she challenges It in an attempt to save her brother. In the grand finale, love defeats the incredibly evil force. Love the one thing Meg possesses that It doesn't? 'I love you Charles Wallace' she cries, 'My baby brother who always takes care of me. Come back to me? come away from It, come back, come home. I love you' . The message is written all through the text. Love is stronger than Hate, and love is stronger than It.
Once again winning is everything and the story finds a way of making everything work out. Charles Wallace is free, the Murry children have their father back, and Mrs. Murry has her husband back. Calvin has new friends and family with the Murrys. Meg, who has undergone her right of passage, finds friendship and self-confidence, is sure to return to daily life with a different and more positive attitude. After the dark fight against It, Meg returns with the absence of anger and resentment. The group returns at the exact moment they had departed on the quest, ready to take up where they left off.