Nothing is Hopeless: A Review of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’

“All darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of one single candle.”  – St.  Francis of Assisi

“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.” – Mrs. Whatsit from A Wrinkle in Time

 

Reading level    

Grades 3-8

AR 4.7

Interest level     

Grades 5-9

Review and Comments

A Wrinkle in Time is an absolutely captivating and complex adventure.   The peculiar and diverse characters and their incredible experiences will prompt quite a range of emotions for the reader:  empathy, anger, sadness, wonder, confusion, fear, and finally joy.

The story centers on a young girl named Meg Murry.  Her background story is difficult and at times even harsh.  The emptiness and yearning for her mysteriously missing father is compounded by conflicts at school and her self-esteem.  It has been a very long year wondering where her father is and if he will ever return.  Her mother, also a scientist like her husband, is trying to hold the family together while researching her husband’s disappearance and continuing the tesseract research they started. Meg has three brothers, but her relationship with her younger brother, Charles, is very special.  He is a unique boy with exceptional gifts that are revealed as the story progresses. Charles and Meg become friends with a lonely boy named Calvin O’Keefe. Calvin finally feels he belongs somewhere after he meets them and becomes their constant and faithful companion. Charles also introduces Meg to three curious characters named Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Who. These three know it is time to help “a very good man who needs help.”  And so the partnership to save Meg’s father begins.

The children travel in the fifth dimension, a tesseract.  It means “they travel through space without having to go the long way around.”  So, they tesser, or wrinkle to each location in their quest.  At each stop the children gather more information about what they will face, and they also learn something about themselves.  The first stop is on the third planet of the star of Malak in the spiral nebula Messier 101.  It is here the children really grasp that their quest is much more than finding Father.  It is about fighting the ominous darkness that is holding Father prisoner. They are also given a message of hope and encouraged not to despair. The next short tesser brings them to the Happy Medium.  She explains the dark shadow they have recently witnessed is the “Power of Darkness” which has been constantly fought against.  They are getting closer to Meg’s dad when they arrive at Camazotz.  Here, each child is given a gift, a talisman that will aid them as they proceed on their own without their guides.  They are also given a stern warning that they must never separate.

The closer Meg, Charles, and Calvin get to source of the darkness, the more Charles feels a menacing presence invading his consciousness.  They are confronted by a man who is really just a puppet under the control of the real power – IT or ”as it is sometimes called, the Happiest Sadist.” Charles decides to discover where his dad is by mentally connecting with the man’s source of power but in doing so his very essence disappears.  He in turn tries to convince Meg and Calving to “give in and submit” to IT. Then they are finally taken to Meg’s father, and Meg helps free him at last.  Meg cannot resist the power of IT and is weakening, so Father grabs her and tessers to a planet called Ixchel. After a healing recovery period, Meg understands that she alone must be the one to save her brother and face IT once again. She also learns she possesses something IT does not have, but she must discover what that is by herself.

Meg once again stands before IT and poor tormented Charles.  Her thoughts begin to drift to her family and the people she has met on her journey, and she gradually realizes that she has received much love from them all. Love is what IT does not have.  She conveys loving thoughts to Charles over and over until he finally emerges from his imposed stupor.  Amazingly, Father, Meg, Charles, and Calvin are suddenly safe at home, and there is a wonderful family reunion.  Meg feels the love and joy of her family and her three guides so strongly “she can almost touch it.”

This book offers much in terms of vocabulary, expressive description, and extraordinary characters. The three guides, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, offer lessons and support throughout the story.  Mrs. Who uses thought provoking quotes in different languages, with each one being translated in the context of the story.

There is an interesting interview with Madeleine L’Engle at the end of the book.  Her Newberry Medal acceptance speech for A Wrinkle in Time is also included.

Possible Concerns

The following quotes are from the first few chapters:

  • “…….one of the boys had said something about her “dumb baby brother.”
  • “Even Charles Wallace, the “dumb baby brother,…”
  • “I know. We’re morons.” Meg was bitter. [a response when her brothers say Mother, Meg, and Charles don’t have much sense]
  • “I wish you wouldn’t be such a dope, Meg.” [Sandy’s response to Meg]
  • “Lead on, moron.” Calvin cried gaily.
  • “Are there any more morons like Meg and Charles around?”
  • It is said he left her mother “for another dame.” Calvin says he knows it isn’t true because “how could anyone after one look at your mother could believe any man would leave her for another woman …” [Calvin repeats the rumor circulating about Meg’s father.]
  • Calvin says, “Look, dope.”
  • “An old ass knows more than a young colt.” [Mrs. Who]
  • “But before she could reach him his fist shot out and punched her hard in the stomach.” [The evil Charles prevented his sister from tackling him.]
  • Then later in the story -“She had been stripped of her clothes, and something warm and pungent was gently being rubbed into her body.” [Meg wakes up in an enclosed chamber while on the planet of Ixchel.]
  • In chapter 5, a group of people who fought against the Powers of Darkness are listed: Jesus, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Bach, Pasteur, Madame Curie, Einstein, Schweitzer, Gandhi, Buddha, Beethoven, Rembrandt, St. Francis, Euclid, and Copernicus. There is no doubt the people included have made amazing contributions to the world. In my opinion, including Jesus as “one of this group” of people reduces Him to just another inspirational leader or historical figure and ignores that fact that He is God, and He is the light.

Further Discussion

Awards for A Wrinkle in Time:

  • 1963: John Newbery Medal
  • 1964: Runner-up, Hans Christian Anderson Award
  • 1965 Sequoyah Award
  • 1965: Lewis Carroll Shelf Award

 

Art:

There are wonderful, detailed passages that describe the unique characters in the story.  Illustrate one of the characters as described in the text. Examples:

  • Chapter 1: Meg, Mrs. Whatsit, Mother, and Charles
  • Chapter 2: Calvin O’Keefe
  • Chapter 4: the hooded person
  • Chapter 10: the three creatures on the brown planet

 

Vocabulary:

Make a dictionary of new words used in the book and use the dictionary as reference while reading.

exclusive impressive prodigious appropriately
oddball straightforward repulsive peremptory
liverwurst passionately pathetic assimilate
intentions cunning vigorously gamboled
liniment piteous gyp wryly
unceremoniously moron inexcusably Bunsen burner
belligerent antagoinistic apt somber
inadvertantly distrust compulsion judiciously
obligation compel precondition infinite
coarse probingly dilapidated periodic
unhinged raucous scuttled sullen
stifled recesses legible decipher
velocity essence looming gnarled
morass tangible corporeal elliptic
inexorable ineffable nebula ephemeral
apprehension metamorphose monolith dispersed
corona Protoplasm repellent tormented
systole diastole Miasma ruthlessly
atrophied trepidation relinquish opaque
sonnet loathing unadulterated baseness

 

Research one of the following people and discover his or her contribution to the world.

Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Bach, Pasteur, Madame Curie, Einstein, Schweitzer, Gandhi, Buddha, Beethoven, Rembrandt, St. Francis, Euclid, or Copernicus

 

Writing:

Choose a quote from the story and write a paragraph about what it means.

  • “People are more than just the way they look.” [Mother]
  • “Though we travel together, we travel alone.” (Mrs. Whatsit)
  • “Nothing deters the good man from doing what is right.” (Mrs. Whatsit)
  • “Like and equal are not the same thing at all!” [Meg]
  • “But you see, Meg, just because we don’t understand doesn’t mean that the explanation doesn’t exist” [Mother]

Should you see the movie?

Discerning parents may want to take a moment to read  “To stake one’s life for the truth:  ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ in a Narcissistic Age” from The Catholic World Report before seeing the movie.  This may help you make your own judgments about the movie.

Catholic  Resources

The characters in this story are fighting against the darkness.  The following Bible verses refer to God’s light.

  1. John 8:12 – Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
  2. Matthew 4:16 – “…the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.”
  3. John 1:5 – …the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
  4. Psalm 27:1 – The LORDis my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?
  5. John 12:36-37 – “….While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of the light.”
  6. James 1:17 – Make no mistake about this, my dear brothers:all that is good, all that is perfect, is given us from above; it comes down from the Father of all light; with him there is no such thing as alteration, no shadow caused by change.
  7. 1 Peter 2:9 – But you are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
  8. 2 Ephesians 5:8-14 – For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

Jesus is the light of the World.

CCC 2466 In Jesus Christ, the whole of God’s truth has been made manifest. “Full of grace and truth,” he came as the “light of the world,” he is the Truth. “Whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” The disciple of Jesus continues in his word so as to know “the truth [that] will make you free” and that sanctifies. To follow Jesus is to live in “the Spirit of truth,” whom the Father sends in his name and who leads “into all the truth.” To his disciples Jesus teaches the unconditional love of truth: “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes or No

Mediums

CCC 2116 All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to “unveil” the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.

Read more about St. Francis of Assissi here.

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