A Wrinkle in Time
|Illustrator||Ellen Raskin (1960s editions)|
|Genre||Young Adult, Science fantasy|
|January 1, 1962|
|LC Class||PZ7.L5385 Wr 1962|
|Followed by||A Wind in the Door|
A Wrinkle in Time is a young adult novel written by American author Madeleine L'Engle. First published in 1962, the book has won the Newbery Medal, the Sequoyah Book Award, the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, and was runner-up for the Hans Christian Andersen Award.[a] The main characters—Meg Murry, Charles Wallace Murry, and Calvin O'Keefe—embark on a journey through space and time, from universe to universe, as they endeavor to save the Murrys' father and the world. The novel offers a glimpse into the war between light and darkness, and good and evil, as the young characters mature into adolescents on their journey. The novel wrestles with questions of spirituality and purpose, as the characters are often thrown into conflicts of love, divinity, and goodness. It is the first book in L'Engle's Time Quintet, which follows the Murrys and Calvin O'Keefe.
L'Engle modeled the Murry family on her own. Scholar Bernice E. Cullinan noted that L'Engle created characters who "share common joy with a mixed fantasy and science fiction setting." The novel's scientific and religious undertones are therefore highly reflective of the life of L'Engle.
Raised in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, author Madeleine L'Engle began writing at a young age. After graduating from boarding school in Switzerland, she attended Smith College, where she earned a degree in English. In addition to writing, L'Engle also gained experience as an actor and playwright. At age forty, she nearly abandoned her career as a novelist, but continued to write after her publication of Meet the Austins.
L'Engle wrote A Wrinkle in Time between 1959 and 1960. In her memoir, A Circle of Quiet (1972), L'Engle explains that the book was conceived "during a time of transition."  After years of living in rural Goshen, Connecticut where they ran a general store, L'Engle's family, the Franklins, moved back to New York City, first taking a ten-week camping trip across the country. L'Engle writes that "we drove through a world of deserts and buttes and leafless mountains, wholly new and alien to me. And suddenly into my mind came the names, Mrs Whatsit. Mrs Who. Mrs Which." This was in the spring of 1959. When asked for more information in an interview with Horn Book magazine in 1983, L'Engle responded "I cannot possibly tell you how I came to write it. It was simply a book I had to write. I had no choice. It was only after it was written that I realized what some of it meant." L'Engle has also described the novel as her "psalm of praise to life, [her] stand for life against death."
A Wrinkle in Time is the first novel in the Time Quintet, a series of five young adult novels written by Madeleine L'Engle. Later books include A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time. The series follows the adventures of Meg Murry, her youngest brother Charles Wallace Murry, their friend Calvin O'Keefe, and her twin siblings Sandy and Dennys Murry. Throughout the series, the friends band together to travel through space and time as they attempt to save the world from the grasps of evil.
Upon completion in 1960, the novel was rejected by at least 26 publishers, because it was, in L'Engle's words, "too different," and "because it deals overtly with the problem of evil, and it was really difficult for children, and was it a children's or an adults' book, anyhow?"
In "A Special Message from Madeleine L'Engle" on the Random House website, L'Engle offers another possible reason for the rejections: "A Wrinkle in Time had a female protagonist in a science fiction book," which at the time was uncommon. After trying "forty-odd" publishers (L'Engle later said "twenty-six rejections"), L'Engle's agent returned the manuscript to her. Then at Christmas, L'Engle threw a tea party for her mother. One of the guests happened to know John C. Farrar of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and he insisted that L'Engle should meet with him. Although the publisher did not, at the time, publish a line of children's books, Farrar met L'Engle, liked the novel, and ultimately published it under the Ariel imprint.
In 1963, the book won the Newbery Medal, an annual award given by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American children's literature. The book has been continuously in print since its first publication. The hardback edition is still published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. The original blue dust jacket by Ellen Raskin was replaced with new art by Leo and Diane Dillon, with the publication of A Swiftly Tilting Planet in 1978. The book has also been published in a 25th anniversary collectors' edition (limited to 500 signed and numbered copies), at least two book club editions (one hardback, one Scholastic Book Services paperback), as a trade paperback under the Dell Yearling imprint, and as a mass market paperback under the Dell Laurel-Leaf imprint. The cover art on the paperback editions has changed several times since its first publication.
The book was reissued by Square Fish in trade and mass market paperback formats in May 2007, along with the rest of the Time Quintet. This new edition includes a previously unpublished interview with L'Engle as well as a transcription of her Newbery Medal acceptance speech.
One night, thirteen-year-old Meg Murry meets an eccentric new neighbor, Mrs. Whatsit, who refers to something called a tesseract. She later finds out it is a scientific concept her father was working on before his mysterious disappearance. The following day, Meg, her child genius brother Charles, and fellow schoolmate Calvin visit Mrs. Whatsit's home, where the equally strange Mrs. Who and the unseen voice of Mrs. Which promise to help Meg find and rescue her father.
Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which turn out to be supernatural beings who transport Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O'Keefe through the universe by means of a tesseract, a fifth-dimensional phenomenon explained as folding the fabric of space and time; this form of travel is called tessering. Their first stop is the planet Uriel, a Utopian world filled with Centaur-like beings who live in a state of light and love. The Mrs. Ws reveal to the children that the universe is under attack from an evil being who appears as a large dark cloud called The Black Thing, which is essentially the personification of evil. The children are taken to visit the Happy Medium, a woman with a crystal ball through which they see that Earth is partially covered by the darkness, although great religious figures, philosophers, scientists, and artists have been fighting against it. Mrs. Whatsit is revealed to be a former star who exploded in an act of self-sacrifice to fight the darkness.
The children travel to the dark planet of Camazotz, which has succumbed to the Black Thing and where Meg's father is trapped because he would not succumb to the group mind that causes inhabitants to behave in a mechanical way. In order to find their father, Charles Wallace deliberately allows himself to be hypnotized. He takes Meg and Calvin to the place where Meg's father, Alexander, is being held prisoner. Charles Wallace then takes them to IT, the evil disembodied brain with powerful abilities that controls the planet. Using special powers from Mrs. Who's glasses, Alexander tessers Calvin, Meg, and himself to the planet Ixchel before IT can control them all. Charles Wallace is left behind, still under the influence of IT and Meg is paralyzed from injuries sustained during the trip. An inhabitant of the planet with featureless faces, tentacles and four arms proves to be both wise and gentle and cures Meg's paralysis.
The trio of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which arrive and charge Meg with rescuing Charles Wallace from IT. Arriving at the building where IT resides, they find Charles Wallace under IT's influence. Inspired by hints from the Mrs. Ws, Meg focuses all her love at Charles Wallace and is able to free him from IT's control. They all then tesser back to Earth and the Mrs. Ws leave.
Margaret "Meg" Murry
Charles Wallace Murry
Charles Wallace is the youngest Murry child, at five years old. Charles Wallace speaks only to his family, but can empathically or telepathically read certain people's thoughts and feelings.
Calvin is the third oldest of Paddy and Branwen O'Keefe's eleven children: a tall, thin, red-haired 14-year-old high school junior.
Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which
Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which are immortal beings who can travel across large stretches of time and space by dematerializing and rematerializing. They are capable of shapeshifting, but spend most of their time on Earth as elderly women.
Mrs. Whatsit is the youngest of the Mrs. Ws (despite being 2,379,152,497 years, 8 months, and 3 days old), and interacts with the children.
Mrs. Which is the leader of the three women and the wisest.
ᎥᎿ (also called "IT" in some editions) is the bodiless, telepathic brain that dominates the planet of Camazotz and is the main antagonist of the story. ᎥᎿ is described as a giant-sized human brain. While ᎥᎿ usually speaks through one of its pawns, ᎥᎿ can speak directly to people via telepathy.
The Black Thing
The Black Thing, a formless, shadowy being, is the source of all evil in the universe.
Alex Murry, the father of the Murry children, is a physicist who is researching the mysteries of the space/time continuum. At the start of the novel, he has been missing for some time.
Dr. Katherine "Kate" Murry
Katherine Murry, the mother of the Murry children, is a microbiologist. She is considered beautiful by the Murry children and others, having "flaming red hair", creamy skin, and violet eyes with long dark lashes.
Sandy and Dennys Murry
Sandy and his twin brother Dennys are the middle children in the Murry family, older than Charles Wallace but younger than Meg. They are 10 years old at the time of this book. The twins are depicted as inseparable from one another. They are the only "normal" and accepted children in the Murry family.
Mrs. Buncombe is the wife of the constable in Meg's hometown.
Mr. Jenkins is Meg's high-school principal who implies that her family is in denial about Mr. Murry's true whereabouts.
Supporting alien characters
Aunt Beast (a name created by Meg) is a character who nurses and befriends Meg on the planet Ixchel. The character is a four-armed eyeless gray creature with telepathic abilities and numerous long, waving tentacles instead of fingers. The character's actual name, if any, is not given.
The novel is highly spiritualized, with notable influences of divine intervention and prominent undertones of religious messages. According to scholar James Beasley Simpson, the overwhelming love and desire for light within the novel is directly representative of a Christian love for God and Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the children encounter spiritual intervention, signaling God's presence in the ordinary, as well as the extendibility of God's power and love. Madeleine L'Engle's fantasy works are in part highly expressive of her Christian viewpoint in a manner somewhat similar to that of Christian fantasy writer C. S. Lewis. She was herself the official writer-in-residence at New York City's Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine, which is known for its prominent position in the liberal wing of the Episcopal Church. L'Engle's liberal Christianity has been the target of criticism from more conservative Christians, especially with respect to certain elements of A Wrinkle in Time.
L'Engle utilizes numerous religious references and allusions in the naming of locations within the novel. The name Camazotz refers to a Mayan bat god, one of L'Engle's many mythological allusions in her nomenclature. The name Ixchel refers to a Mayan jaguar goddess of medicine. Uriel is a planet with extremely tall mountains, an allusion to the Archangel Uriel. It is inhabited by creatures that resemble winged centaurs. It is "the third planet of the Star Malak (meaning 'angel' in Hebrew) in the spiral nebula Messier 101", which would place it at roughly 21 million light-years from Earth. The site of Mrs Whatsit's temporary transformation into one of these winged creatures, it is the place where "the guardian angels show the questers a vision of the universe that is obscured on earth."  The three women are described as ancient star-beings who act as guardian angels.
The theme of picturing the fight of good against evil as a battle of light and darkness is a recurring one. Its manner is reminiscent of the prologue to the Gospel of John, which is quoted within the book. When the Mrs Ws reveal their secret roles in the cosmic fight against darkness, they ask the children to name some figures on Earth, a partially dark planet, who fight the darkness. They name Jesus and, later in the discussion, Buddha is named as well.
Nevertheless, religious journalist Sarah Pulliam Bailey doubts whether the novel contains religious undertones. Bailey explains that many readers believe the novel promotes witchcraft, as opposed to alluding to Christian spirituality. Bailey states that conservative Christians take offense, due to the novel's potential relativistic qualities, suggesting the various interpretations of religious allusions signals anti-Christian sentiments. However, in her personal journal referencing A Wrinkle in Time, L'Engle confirms the religious content within the novel: "If I've ever written a book that says what I feel about God and the universe, this is it."
Further, the themes of conformity and the status quo are present. IT is a powerful dominant group that manipulates the planet of Camazotz into conformity. Even Charles Wallace falls prey and is hence persuaded to conform. It is thanks to Meg that she and her family are able to break from conformity. According to the author's granddaughter Charlotte Jones Voiklis, the story was not a simple allegory of communism; in a three-page passage that was cut before publication, the process of domination and conformity is said to be an outcome of dictatorship under totalitarian regimes and by an excessive desire of security under democratic countries.
Scholar Jean Fulton writes:
"L'Engle's fiction for young readers is considered important partly because she was among the first to focus directly on the deep, delicate issues that young people must face, such as death, social conformity, and truth. L'Engle's work always is uplifting because she is able to look at the surface values of life from a perspective of wholeness, both joy and pain, transcending each to uncover the absolute nature of human experience that they share."
Conformity within Camazotz
Camazotz is a planet of extreme, enforced conformity, ruled by a disembodied brain called IT. Camazotz is similar to Earth, with familiar trees such as birches, pines, and maples, an ordinary hill on which the children arrive, and a town with smokestacks, which "might have been one of any number of familiar towns". The horror of the place arises from its ordinary appearance, endlessly duplicated. The houses are "all exactly alike, small square boxes painted gray", which, according to author Donald Hettinga, signals a comparison to "the burgeoning American suburbia", such as the post-war housing developments of Levittown, Pennsylvania. The people who live in the houses are similarly described as "mother figures" who "all gave the appearance of being the same". Scholar William Blackburn draws a comparison to "an early sixties American image of life in a Communist state", a characterization Blackburn later dismissed.
A Wrinkle in Time has also received praise for empowering young female readers. Critics have celebrated L'Engle's depiction of Meg Murry, a young, precocious heroine whose curiosity and intellect help save the world from evil. The New York Times has described this portrayal as "a departure from the typical 'girls' book' protagonist - as wonderful as many of those varied characters are". In doing so, L'Engle has been credited for paving the way for other bright heroines, including Hermione Granger of the Harry Potter book series, as well as Katniss Everdeen of the Hunger Games trilogy. Regarding her choice to include a female protagonist, L'Engle has stated in her acceptance speech upon receiving the Margaret Edwards Award "I'm a female. Why would I give all the best ideas to a male?"
At the time of the book's publication, Kirkus Reviews said: "Readers who relish symbolic reference may find this trip through time and space an exhilarating experience; the rest will be forced to ponder the double entendres." According to The Horn Book Magazine: "Here is a confusion of science, philosophy, satire, religion, literary allusions, and quotations that will no doubt have many critics. I found it fascinating... It makes unusual demands on the imagination and consequently gives great rewards." In a retrospective essay about the Newbery Medal-winning books from 1956 to 1965, librarian Carolyn Horovitz wrote: "There is no question but that the book is good entertainment and that the writer carries the story along with a great deal of verve; there is some question about the depth of its quality." In a 2011 essay for Tor.com, American author and critic Mari Ness called A Wrinkle in Time "a book that refuses to talk down to its readers, believing them able to grasp the difficult concepts of mathematics, love and the battle between good and evil. And that's quite something."
A 2004 study found that A Wrinkle in Time was a common read-aloud book for sixth-graders in schools in San Diego County, California. Based on a 2007 online poll, the National Education Association listed the book as one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children." It was one of the "Top 100 Chapter Books" of all time in a 2012 poll by School Library Journal.
A Wrinkle in Time is on the American Library Association list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000 at number 23. The novel has been accused of being both anti-religious and anti-Christian for its inclusion of witches and crystal balls and for containing "New Age" spiritualist themes that do not reflect traditional Christian teachings. According to USA Today, the novel was challenged in a school district in the state of Alabama due to the "book's listing the name of Jesus Christ together with the names of great artists, philosophers, scientists and religious leaders when referring to those who defend Earth against evil." The novel was also challenged in 1984 by an elementary school in Polk City, Florida when parents claimed that the novel promoted witchcraft.
Regarding this controversy, author Madeleine L'Engle told The New York Times: "It seems people are willing to damn the book without reading it. Nonsense about witchcraft and fantasy. First I felt horror, then anger, and finally I said, ‘Aw, the hell with it.’ It's great publicity, really."
In 2003, a television adaptation of the novel was made by a collaboration of Canadian production companies, to be distributed in the United States by Disney. The movie was directed by John Kent Harrison, with a teleplay by Susan Shilliday. It stars Katie Stuart as Meg Murry, Alfre Woodard as Mrs. Whatsit, Alison Elliott as Mrs. Who, and Kate Nelligan as Mrs. Which. In an interview with MSNBC/Newsweek, when L'Engle was asked if the film "met her expectations", she said, "I have glimpsed it... I expected it to be bad, and it is."
A theatrical feature film adaptation of the novel, by Walt Disney Pictures, was released in 2018. The film was directed by Ava DuVernay and written by Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell. It stars Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Storm Reid, Michael Peña, and Zach Galifianakis.
John Glore adapted the novel as a play that premiered in 2010. It was written for six actors playing 12 parts. One actor plays Mrs Whatsit, the Man with Red Eyes, and Camazotz Man. Dr. Kate Murry, Mrs Who, Camazotz Woman, and Aunt Beast also share one performer. The stage adaptation premiered in Costa Mesa, California, with productions in Bethesda, Maryland; Cincinnati; Philadelphia; Orlando; Portland, Oregon; and other cities.
In 1992, OperaDelaware (known for frequently adapting children's books) staged an opera based on A Wrinkle in Time written by Libby Larsen with a libretto by Walter Green. The review in Philly.com stated: "The composer does not place arias and set pieces, but conversational ensembles with spoken dialogue that made the young daughter's climactic but concise song about familial love all the more imposing."
Concerning A Wrinkle in Time
- Scholastic BookFiles: A Reading Guide to A Wrinkle in Time ISBN 0-439-46364-5
- Chase, Carole F. Suncatcher: A Study of Madeleine L'Engle and Her Writing, p. 170. Innisfree Press, 1998, ISBN 1-880913-31-3
- The biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award for children's writing was inaugurated in 1956, recognizing a single book published during the preceding two years. Since the first three renditions—that is, from 1962—it has recognized a living author for a lasting contribution, considering his or her complete works. Nevertheless, a "Runner-Up List" with single book titles was published from 1960 to 1964. [Pages 15–16. This source does not identify those runners-up or report their number.]
Glistrup, Eva (2002). "Half a Century of the Hans Christian Andersen Awards". The Hans Christian Andersen Awards, 1956–2002. International Board on Books for Young People. Gyldendal. 2002. Pages 14–21. Hosted by Austrian Literature Online (literature.at). Retrieved 2013-07-22.
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- Chase, Carole F. (1998). Suncatcher: A Study of Madeleine L'Engle And Her Writing. Philadelphia: Innisfree Press, Inc. p. 170. ISBN 1-880913-31-3.
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- L'Engle, Madeleine (January 1971). A Circle of Quiet. ISBN 0-374-12374-8.
- L'Engle, Madeleine (1972). A Circle of Quiet. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. pp. 5–6, 21, 66, 217–218. ISBN 0-374-12374-8.
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- Hettinga, Donald (1998), "A Wrinkle in Faith: The unique spiritual pilgrimage of Madeleine L'Engle", Books & Culture: A Christian Review, Christianity today
- Stott, Jon (Fall 1977). "Midsummer Night's Dreams: Fantasy and Self-Realization in Children's Fiction". The Lion and the Unicorn. 1 (2): 25–39. doi:10.1353/uni.0.0401. S2CID 145776252.; cited in Hettinga, pp. 27, 30.
- Hettinga, p. 26
- Fulton, Jean C (2002). "A Wrinkle in Time". In Kelleghan, Fiona (ed.). Classics of Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature. 2. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press. pp. 597–98. Archived from the original on January 3, 2014. Retrieved December 26, 2012.
...the importance of both individual initiative and family interaction is a thematic thread. L'Engle made both the Murry adults highly talented, both intellectually and scientifically. This was atypical of fiction published in the 1950s, when the book was written. Female characters rarely were featured as intellectuals or scientists. L'Engle has been praised for this departure as well as for her creation of strong female characters. Critics even suggested that in making Meg the protagonist in A Wrinkle in Time, L'Engle opened the door for the many female protagonists who have appeared in more recent fantasy and science fiction.
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Madeleine L'Engle's view of the universe was changed by the work of such well-known physicists as Albert Einstein and Max Planck. She expressed her new perspective in A Wrinkle in Time...
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- Madeleine L'Engle (madeleinelengle.com)
- A Wrinkle in Time reviewed at The Open Critic
- A Wrinkle in Time title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- A Wrinkle in Time (TV) (mini) at IMDb
- Official book site for the May 2007 release.
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