Friday, November 11, 2005

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Madeleine L'Engle is best known for her book 'A Wrinkle in Time', which won her Newbery Award. First published in 1962, Bantam Doubleday Dell published an special edition of Madeline's Time Quartlet in 1998 on the occassion of the 35th anniversary of the book. This special addition has A Wrinkle in Time; A Wind in The Door; A Swiftly Tilting Planet; and Many Waters.

L'Engle's best-known works are divided between "chronos" and "kairos"; the former is the framework in which the stories of the Austin family take place, and is presented in a primarily realistic framework, though occasionally with elements that might be regarded as science fiction. The latter is the framework in which the stories of the Murry and O'Keefe families take place, and is presented sometimes in a realistic framework and sometimes in a more fantastic or magical framework. Generally speaking, the more realistic kairos material is found in the O'Keefe stories, which deal with the second generation characters.

The Murry-O'Keefe and Austin families should not be regarded as living in separate worlds, because several characters cross over between them, and historical events are also shared.

A theme often implied and occasionally explicit in L'Engle's works is that what humans call "religion", "science" and "magic" are simply different aspects of a single seamless reality: a similar theme may be discerned in the fiction works of C. S. Lewis or Laurell K. Hamilton. However, it doesn't seem as though L'Engle is trying to solidify or canonize a set philosophy or belief system. The questions that she raises engage the thoughtful reader.

Orrin C. Judd, an amazon user reviewed this special edition. He writes:

...The phenomenal success of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books (see Orrin's review)--the first two are currently 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 no one 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.


I highly recommend this book as the perfect gift for children on Thanksgiving day. There are some other recommendations available here.

1 Comments:

Blogger Christopher said...

One of the best novels ever written.

3:19 PM  

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