Monday, September 15, 2014

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
232 pages

Madeleine L' Engle's Newberry Medal award-winning children's classic opens with the main character Meg Murry being afraid of a late night thunderstorm in her attic bedroom. She goes downstairs to relieve her anxiety and finds her five-year old prodigy brother Charles Wallace expecting her. He has prepared milk for her and her mother, Mrs. Murry, who comes in shortly afterwards. While they are eating sandwiches their dog Fortinbras growls alerting Mrs. Murry that someone is outside. She lets in a strange old lady named Mrs Whatsit, who Charles Wallace had met earlier. Meg makes Mrs Whatsit a tuna fish sandwich though she is suspicious of her. Mrs Whatsit informs Mrs. Murry that there is such thing as a tesseract.

At school the next day Meg gets upset and snaps at the principal when he asks her questions about her father. She tells Principal Jenkins that her father is coming home and that she'll believe he's not when her mother tells her so. When Meg goes home Charles Wallace takes her to Mrs Whatsit's house. There they see high school student Calvin O'Keefe and Charles Wallace is suspicious of him. After Calvin explains that he is a "biological sport" who felt compelled to be here, Charles Wallace decides it is okay to have him meet Mrs Whatsit. When they go inside the home they meet Mrs Who. She greets them and says it's almost time to get their father, but not yet. Meg and Charles Wallace invite Calvin to eat dinner with them. In the Murry home Calvin feels like he truly belongs for the first time in his life. Meg tells Calvin about her father and the details surrounding his disappearance while working on a top secret project for the government. Charles Wallace interjects and announces it is time for them to go. Mrs Whatsit and Mrs Who suddenly appear and they hear the voice of Mrs Which. Meg feels like she is being yanked away and then she doesn't feel her physical being at all. For a short time she can see nothing and when she feels her body again she hears Calvin and Charles Wallace asking Mrs Which where she is. Meg materializes on a new planet named Uriel, that is "the third planet of the star Malak in the spiral nebula Messier 101."

Mrs Whatsit explains to the children that they can tesser to different planets in the universe. Then she transforms into a white centaur-like creature and flies the children to the top of the mountains in Uriel to show them a dark shadow called The Black Thing that all the universe is fighting against. Mrs Whatsit reveals to Meg and Charles Wallace that their father is beyond the shadow and is fighting it. She flies them back to Mrs Who and Mrs Which and they describe the way they travel  through the fifth dimension called a tesseract. Next the children are tessered to a planet where they meet a being who can see the future named the Happy Medium. She shows the children their homes on Earth. When Meg sees her mother writing a letter to her father and looking unhappy, she becomes angry and demands to go to her father immediately. Mrs Which tessers them to another planet named Camazotz and they appear on a hill covered with trees that is overlooking a town similar to a town on Earth. The three old ladies tell the children that they must continue on their own to find Mr. Murry. Mrs Whatsit tells them they will need help, "but all I am allowed to give you is a little talisman. Calvin, your great gift is your ability to communicate, to communicate with all kinds of people. So for you, I will strengthen this gift. Meg, I give you your faults... Charles Wallace, to you I can give only the resilience of your childhood." Mrs Who gives Meg her spectacles saying "Save them for the final moment of peril" and Mrs Which commands them to go into town together and not to separate. Mrs. Whatsit warns Charles that he is in the most danger in Camazotz because of what he is.

Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin walk down into the town and reach rows of houses with children playing in front of each house. They notice something is strange and Charles Wallace points out that all the children are bouncing a ball in the same rhythm at the same exact time. The next moment in each house a woman comes out and calls their children inside and all the kids go inside at the same exact time except one kid who drops his ball. Charles Wallace picks up that ball and knocks on the door of the child's house. The mother opens the door and tells Charles Wallace that her child did not drop the ball and that there hasn't been an "Aberration" in three years. She slams the door in his face after saying he has no papers to come in. Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin continue on and reach a city area with buildings. They see a newspaper boy who is throwing the papers in a robotic fashion. They ask him where they can find out information and the newspaper boy tells them to go to CENTRAL Central Intelligence. The children go to this large building and decide that although it is dangerous they must go inside to find Mr. Murry. A worker inside the CENTRAL Central Intelligence building is astonished by their lack of information and inappropriate questions. He reports them to IT, a mysterious boss-like figure residents of Camazotz seem to fear. The children then walk into a room where there are a lot of machines and reach the end where they see a revolting man with red eyes sitting on a chair on a platform. The man does not open his mouth to speak to them, instead he talks to the children inside their minds.

Charles Wallace is furious with the red eyed man because he is unable to read the man telepathically like he can with most beings. The red eyed man challenges Charles Wallace to look into his eyes and be drawn in to find out who he is. Meg protests and tries to prevent Charles Wallace from being hypnotized, but Charles Wallace insists and succumbs to the power of IT that the red eyed man is possessed by. Charles Wallace then transforms into a brain washed citizen of Camazotz and tells Meg and Calvin that they would be happier and at peace if they submitted to IT as well. Charles Wallace takes them to Mr. Murry's location in another part of the building. They are led to a cell where Mr. Murry is trapped inside of a transparent column. Meg argues with Charles Wallace and then rescues her father by putting on Mrs Who's spectacles. She runs through the column her father is in and wakes him out of his stupor. He rejoices that his daughter there, but remarks that he is trapped. Meg places Mrs Who's spectacles on her father and he leaves the column with her. Charles Wallace orders Meg, Calvin, and Mr. Murry to follow him to IT. Charles Wallace refuses to acknowledge Mr. Murry as his father as they go to a "strange, domelike building." The group meets IT, which turns out to be a large, disembodied brain. IT tries to control their breathing, feelings, and thinking. As IT tries to take Meg and Calvin in, they fight against him. Mr. Murry then tessers them away when Meg is about to be consumed. Meg is paralyzed and feels frozen when she regains consciousness.

She hears her father telling Calvin that he was about to give in to IT when they came to rescue him. He talks about how he came to Camazotz. Meg starts speaking and is angry at her dad for leaving Charles Wallace behind. Suddenly three tall, eyeless creatures with four arms and tentacles for fingers approach. Calvin, Mr. Murry and Meg are frightened, but the creatures speak to them and say they will help Meg recover from being tessered through the Black Thing. One of the creatures picks Meg up and takes her away to heal her. Meg and the creature form a bond overnight and Meg affectionately calls her Aunt Beast. In the morning Aunt Beast takes Meg to a breakfast table where her father and Calvin are discussing how they can get Charles Wallace back. Meg displays anger towards her father as she tries to explain to the creatures who Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which are. As she tries to describe them, the three old ladies appear to speak with Meg, Calvin, and Mr. Murry. They inform Meg that she alone must return to Camazotz to save Charles Wallace. Calvin and Mr. Murry protest, but Meg accepts the task, knowing she is the only one with a strong enough bond to rescue her little brother from IT.

Mrs Whatsit gives Meg her love, Mrs Who quotes a Bible passage and Mrs Which tessers Meg to Camazotz and tells Meg that she has something that IT doesn't have and that is her only weapon. Meg wonders what she has that IT does not have as she walks straight to the building where IT has Charles Wallace under a spell. IT tries to manipulate Meg through Charles Wallace by lying, but when Charles Wallace says that Mrs Whatsit hates you, Meg realizes that she has love and IT does not. She tells Charles Wallace that she loves him repeatedly until Charles Wallace breaks free from IT and runs to Meg and hugs her tightly. They instantly tesser back to Earth where they appear in their twin brothers' vegetable garden still hugging. Mr. Murry and Calvin are there too. The twins and Mrs. Murry are outside walking towards them and run to Mr. Murry when they see him. The family shares a joyful group hug as Calvin smiles at the reunion. Meg looks at Calvin and pulls him into the hug too. Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which appear and tell Meg they don't have time to say goodbye properly because they have something to do.