On Rereading A Wrinkle in Time: A Fifty-Year View

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle

I gave myself the best holiday present ever: rereading A Wrinkle in Time by our new Christmas tree. Rereading Madeleine L’Engle’s masterpiece was like visiting my oldest and dearest friend. 

A Wrinkle in Time is the book that ignited my reading obsession more than fifty years ago, and for that, I’m forever grateful.

I first experienced A Wrinkle in Time as it was read aloud by my fourth-grade teacher, Ms. Lloyd, at Overland Avenue elementary school. The book had received the Newbery Medal a few years earlier and captured the attention of thousands of elementary school librarians and teachers.

Ms. Lloyd must have been one of those teachers who welcomed the innovation of the outcast characters traveling in space — her rendition of A Wrinkle in Time was delightful and enthusiastic: after I listened to my teacher, I knew I had to reread the book on my own.


A Wrinkle in Time as constant companion

I wasn’t satisfied after Ms. Lloyd had finished reading A Wrinkle in Time nor did I want to return the book to the library. I needed A Wrinkle in Time to be my own to satisfy my own reading needs.

For $3.25 I bought my first book, the beautiful first edition of A Wrinkle in Time. The book had lime green tinted pages at the top, with the golden Newbery Medal seal on the blue cover that depicted Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace trapped in their own bright green concentric circles.

My first book became my first accessory. A Wrinkle in Time was always alongside my fifth- and sixth-grade homework papers. My dirty thumbprints were imprinted on the clean white back cover from playing basketball: this book accompanied me everywhere for the next few years.

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A wrinkle in time by madeleine l'engle

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
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Compelling characters and the art of tessering

I was never a science fiction or fantasy enthusiast; I simply believed that everything in A Wrinkle in Time had the potential of being possible and real.

What compelled me about the story then, as it does now, is the thrilling adventure of being hurtled through space to find Meg and Charles Wallace’s missing father, hidden on the planet Camazotz.

Will the children and their dear friend Calvin O’Keefe find Mr. Murry before it’s too late to return to earth? Or, will they be consumed by the CENTRAL Central Intelligence Unit and their minds absorbed by the evil IT?

Such a thing as intergalactic travel was possible: all one had to do was master the art of “tessering” and become acquainted with Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. Simply because most of us had not had this opportunity didn’t rule out that such a journey could be achieved.

The character of the always-impatient, slightly angry Meg Murry juxtaposed against the steadying calmness of her friend Calvin O’Keefe that had me turning the page. Everyone always loved the preternaturally brilliant and charming youngest Murry, Charles Wallace.


The prescient metaphors of Camazotz

What captured my attention in this latest reading was the planet Camazotz and its residents who were quite happy to substitute freedom for security: L’Engle created a prescient environment of blind submission to an evil authority.

The danger of Camazotz is with us today; not long ago, there was an American president who told us not to believe anything unless he says it; anything else; according to him, is fake news. And there were plenty of people who agreed with forfeiting one’s freedom in exchange for the illusion of comfort.

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Madeleine L'Engle

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The challenges of parenting are universal

My recent reading of Wrinkle offered another personal revelation: how parents unknowingly (and almost certainly) disappoint their children. Meg was angry that upon the rescue of their father, he couldn’t immediately solve their current crisis: rescuing Charles Wallace from the evil IT and safely returning to earth.

After a few bouts of meanness and insolence towards her father, Meg recognized that her unrealistic expectations — to make everything correct again and to do so immediately — weren’t possible. She apologized.

Meg confessed to him, “I wanted you to do it all for me. I wanted everything to be all easy and simple … So I tried to pretend that it was all your fault … because I was scared, and I didn’t want to do anything myself.” 

“But I wanted to do it for you,” Mr. Murry said. “That’s what every parent wants.”

Little did I know, over fifty years ago, that A Wrinkle in Time would bring me solace and insight into parenthood. Madeleine L’Engle’s brilliance never ceases to amaze me.

The last four pages of the book were particularly affecting. I had tears falling freely down my face — the same yet not the same tears spilled over fifty years ago — when Meg attempts to rescue Charles Wallace from the evil IT.

“Charles, I love you. Come back to me, Charles Wallace, come away from IT, come back, come home. Charles Wallace, you are my darling and my dear and the light of my life and the treasure of my heart.”

And thus, Charles Wallace is freed from IT, and he, Meg, Calvin, and their beloved father find themselves back on earth. The best part of a safe and happy childhood is the unconditional, pure love given to a child by their parent. Such love has the possibility to change everything that may plague you.

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Wrinkle in time film

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Relating to Meg Murry, a complex heroine

From my first reading decades ago to my most recent rereading, I have seen myself as Meg. I have stayed angry at the social and economic injustices that permeate our world, perceiving my anger as a necessary element to challenge and overcome such injustice.

Meg Murry is an incredible character. However, I also admire the skills of Calvin O’Keefe as a great communicator and an incredibly calm person. I also aspire to the great intelligence of Charles Wallace, but remember the warnings of Mrs. Whatsit.

Charles’ magnificent mind may be accompanied by arrogance and pride, something we need to check ourselves of when we’re convinced our intelligence is infallible.

There was a great deal of anticipation for the 2018 film adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time. But despite its stellar cast and director, the movie failed to capture the essence of the book. I heard that there is another film, this time a musical, being developed, to which I respond, why bother? Read the book. The book is always better.

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Contributed by Nancy Snyder. Nancy Snyder retired from the City and County of San Francisco and as a union officer for SEIU Local 1021/790. She writes about books and women writers to understand the world and her place in it.

2 Responses to “On Rereading A Wrinkle in Time: A Fifty-Year View”

    • Thank you, Claire. I agree! I’m now reading A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, which is much lovelier than any of the charming films adapted from it.

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