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A Wrinkle in Time (1962)
Newbery Award Winners (1963)
The phenomenal success of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books, the first two are both in the Top 10 of most Bestseller Lists, lead me to reread this Children's Classic, which was one of the big favorites of our generation. I must have read it around fifth grade--I imagine most every kid in America reads it at some point--and noone will be surprised to hear, it turns out I wasn't as smart as I thought I was when I was ten. Madeleine L'Engle managed to hoodwink me, but good. I thought this was just a great Science Fiction/Fantasy story, but now I discover that the whole book is a religious allegory.
Meg Murry and her brothers, Charles Wallace and the twins, live with their mother. Their Father has been missing for years, supposedly working on a top secret government project. Meg and Charles Wallace are strange children, noone seems to know quite whether they are idiots or geniuses. In short order they meet Calvin, a tall gangly boy, who also feels like a misfit and three women who have moved into an abandoned house in the neighborhood. The old women, Mrs. Whatsit , Mrs. Which & Mrs. Who, inform the children that Mr. Murry is in dire straits and needs their help. They travel through time and space via wrinkles, called tesseracts, to the planet Camazotz, where Mr. Murry has gone to battle the forces of darkness that are closing sections of the universe in shadow. There they battle the evil being known as IT, a disembodied brain who offers people complete security if they will only give up their freedom and their individuality, as have the inhabitants of Camazotz.
Most of the allegorical stuff is easy enough to see, the children can fight evil by finding The Father. Meg despairs that evil is allowed to exist at all and blames her father, and so on. But I really liked the fact that L'Engle portrays Camazotz (or Hell) as a place where there is complete conformity and security, but no personal freedom. Personally, I believe that Camazotz closely resembles both a Socialist or Communist State and the Garden of Eden. Just as the great struggle of Ms L "Engle's time was the fight for freedom against the security of Socialism/Communism, Man chose to leave the security of a pastoral existence in the Garden and accept the vicissitudes of life without because we prefer freedom.
The book also contains one of the most beautiful descriptions of human life that I've ever heard. Mrs. Whatsit compares life to a sonnet:
It is a very strict form of poetry is it not?
There are fourteen lines, I believe, all in iambic
pentameter. That's a very strict rhythm or meter,
And each line has to end with a rigid rhyme pattern.
And if the poet does not do it exactly this way,
Calvin: You mean you're comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict form, but freedom within it?
Yes. You're given the form, but you have to
write the sonnet yourself. What you say is
This book conveys a worthwhile religiopolitical lesson about the human condition and is great fun besides. I look forward to reading it with my kids.
See also:Madeleine L'Engle (2 books reviewed)
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Newbery Award Winners
The Image Top 100 Books of the Century
A Sky Full of Children (Madeleine L'Engle, Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas.)
Book-related and General Links:
-A New Wrinkle: A Conversation with Madeleine L'Engle (Amazon.com)
-Teacher's Guide (from Literary Explorer)
-bonastra: Madeleine L'Engle Resource Page
-Madeleine L'Engle Fan Homepage
-The Tessaract: A Madeleine L'Engle Bibliography in 5 Dimensions
-"Flying Dreams": Linda's Madeleine L'Engle Page
-ONLINE STUDYGUIDE : A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (Ilana Kurshan , Spark Notes)
-ESSAY : A Wrinkle in Faith : The unique spiritual pilgrimage of Madeleine L'Engle (Donald Hettinga, Books & Culture)