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A Wrinkle in Time Summary and Key Themes

“A Wrinkle in Time” is a young adult science fantasy novel penned by American author Madeleine L’Engle. 

Originally published in 1962, this novel tells the story of three main characters – Meg Murry, Charles Wallace Murry, and Calvin O’Keefe – who embark on an extraordinary journey spanning space and time. Their mission: to rescue the Murrys’ missing father and combat a menacing force known as The Black Thing, which threatens multiple worlds.

Full Summary

Meg Murry’s story unfolds in a whirlwind of emotions and cosmic adventures. Her life in her attic bedroom is clouded by self-doubt and frustration. Teachers label her as unintelligent, peers see her as immature, and she’s recently defended her younger brother Charles Wallace in a fight. The mysterious disappearance of her father only adds to her turmoil.

One stormy night, Meg discovers Charles Wallace in the kitchen, intuitively preparing cocoa for her. Joined by their mother, Mrs. Murry, the warm kitchen becomes a temporary solace for Meg’s troubled heart. 

Charles Wallace introduces the peculiar Mrs. Whatsit into their lives, a woman who strangely knows much about their family and hints at the existence of a “tesseract.”

The following day, despite reassurances from her mother, Meg struggles at school, culminating in a confrontation with the principal over her father’s absence. After school, a series of fateful encounters lead Meg, Charles Wallace, and the new acquaintance Calvin O’Keefe to Mrs. Whatsit and her equally enigmatic friends, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which.

Suddenly, they’re whisked away to a distant planet in search of Mr. Murry. Mrs. Whatsit, revealing her true form as a breathtaking winged centaur, guides them across alien landscapes, hinting at the cosmic battle against a dark entity known as the Black Thing. 

They learn that Mrs. Whatsit and her companions are former stars who sacrificed their celestial forms to combat this darkness.

Their quest takes them to the gray, foggy planet of Camazotz, where Mr. Murry is imprisoned.

The planet, under the influence of the Black Thing, operates under a disturbing uniformity. The children notice eerily synchronized behavior among its inhabitants and encounter various challenges, including a confrontation with a man whose hypnotic red eyes attempt to control their minds.

In a desperate attempt to find their father, Charles Wallace allows himself to be controlled by this man, transforming into an unrecognizable version of himself. 

Despite the dangers and their own fears, Meg and Calvin continue their journey, eventually finding Mr. Murry trapped in a bizarre columnar prison.

Their escape from Camazotz is not without sacrifice. Unable to free Charles Wallace from the clutches of the controlling entity known as IT, a giant pulsating brain, they are forced to leave without him. 

Meg awakens on a foreign planet, her emotions a mix of relief and despair. Here, they encounter benevolent, eyeless creatures who tend to Meg’s injuries.

As the reality of their situation sets in, Meg realizes that she alone has the power to rescue Charles Wallace. 

Armed with love and encouragement from Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, she confronts IT and, through the power of her love, frees Charles Wallace from its grip.

The story culminates in a joyous reunion back on Earth. The Murry family, now whole, embraces in a collective celebration of love and resilience, having traversed galaxies and faced unimaginable challenges together.

A Wrinkle in Time Summary

Key Themes

1. The Power of Love

Central to the narrative is the theme of love as a transformative and redemptive force. Meg’s journey is driven by her deep love for her family, especially her missing father and her brother Charles Wallace. 

This love is portrayed as a potent force that transcends the physical laws of the universe. In the climactic scene, it is Meg’s unconditional love for Charles Wallace that breaks the hold of the malevolent IT over him, illustrating that love is a power that can conquer even the darkest forms of evil and control. 

This theme is a reminder of the fundamental strength that lies in emotional connections and the power of love to overcome obstacles, both internal and external.

2. The Struggle Against Conformity

L’Engle explores the dangers of conformity through the unsettling uniformity of Camazotz, where individuality is suppressed under the guise of order and efficiency. 

The residents of Camazotz, controlled by IT, live in a state of forced sameness, highlighting the loss of personal identity and freedom. 

This stark depiction serves as a cautionary tale about the value of individuality and the importance of resisting societal pressures to conform. 

Through the characters’ resistance to the homogenizing force of IT, L’Engle champions the idea that embracing one’s uniqueness is essential to the human experience and a key to overcoming tyrannical forces.

3. The Complexity of Good and Evil

The book delves into the intricate nature of good and evil, portraying them not as simple, opposing forces, but as complex and often intertwined elements of existence. 

The presence of the Black Thing, representing a cosmic evil, is counterbalanced by the characters of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, who have sacrificed their existence as stars to fight this darkness.

The novel suggests that evil is an ever-present part of the universe, but it also emphasizes the power of good to resist and combat this darkness. 

This theme is embodied in the characters’ struggles and triumphs, illustrating that the fight against evil is arduous and nuanced, requiring courage, resilience, and, most importantly, the recognition of the light within oneself and others.

Final Thoughts

“A Wrinkle in Time” is much more than a science fiction adventure; it’s a profound exploration of love, individuality, and resilience. The novel brilliantly blends fantastical elements with relatable human struggles, particularly those of young adolescents. L’Engle’s imaginative storytelling not only creates a captivating universe of otherworldly experiences but also delves deeply into the emotional landscape of its characters.