When I found out Disney was adapting A Wrinkle in Time, I knew that I would read it to my daughter before the movie came out. We recently watched the trailer but hadn’t finished the book yet. Once the trailer finished, my daughter turned to me and said, “That’s nothing like the book!” I started laughing and responded, “Get used to that feeling, kiddo”. Later we talked about the challenge of adapting a written work to a visual medium and we both speculated on how Aunt Beast will be depicted. She is also intensely curious how the 2D world will be shown. I then brought up how, in the effort to make a concise movie, characters and entire bits can be removed for time or simplicity reasons, so Meg, Charles Wallce, and Calvin may not stop on that planet in the movie. In all seriousness though, I have a hard time reconciling the trailer with the book. For example, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which were never that glamorous at any point in the book and I can’t help wondering how the themes will come across.
It has been a good twenty plus years since I last read A Wrinkle in Time and this read through reminded me why it resonated so much in middle and high school. With a mouth full of braces, glasses, and mouse brown hair L’Engle could have been describing me as well as Meg. Beyond the looks, Meg is described as an oddball, awkward, with a need to understand, and doesn’t get on with classmates her own age, again, that could have been me. I empathized with Meg from the very opening of the book.
Over the years only the barest minimum of the story stuck with me, three children whisked away by magical beings to far away planets on a dangerous mission to rescue Mr. Murray. All very exciting to be sure and that was the same as I remembered, but this time certain messages leaped out at me. Early on Meg and her mother are talking about the events that have just occurred, the visit from Mrs. Whatsit and Calvin meeting the Murrays. Mrs. Murray firmly believes there is an explanation for it all and Meg wonders if everything has an explanation.
Yes. I believe they do. But I think that with our human limitations we’re not always able to understand the explanation. But you see, Meg, just because we don’t understand doesn’t mean that explanation doesn’t exist.
As a species, I feel we have so much to learn. For all we have accomplished and come to understand, we have barely dropped below the tip of the proverbial iceberg of understanding our world and universe. Even though we don’t know all the answers, the important thing is to believe that the answers are out there and we must keep questioning to find them. This message is reinforced by a new introduction written by L’Engle in 1997 (incidentally the year I graduated from high school and therefore never saw this introduction until now).
Some of these questions don’t have finite answers, but the questions themselves are important. Don’t stop asking, and don’t let anybody tell you the questions aren’t worth it. They are.
Later in the book, Mrs. Whatsit offers help to Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace as they prepare to go to Camzotz. Calvin is to remember his communication skills. Charles Wallace to rely on his resilience of childhood. Mrs. Whatsit gives Meg her faults. At the time this is distressing to her as she is always trying to correct her faults. However, without our faults we wouldn’t be the person we are. While at times they can hold us back, they can also be an unexpected source of strength, as they are for Meg.
While confronting IT on Camazotz, Meg begins reciting the Declaration of Independence and the infamous opening “that all men are created equal”. IT declares that IT has achieved complete equality, everybody exactly alike.
For a moment her brain reeled with confusion. Then came a moment of blazing truth. “No!” she cried triumphantly. “Like and equal are not the same thing at all!
Having the same qualities or characteristics is the definition of ‘like’. To be ‘equal’ is to be the same in quantity, size, degree or value. To be uniform in application or effect; without discrimination on any grounds. As humans we are all ‘like’ one another. However, despite how we frame ourselves as a society, we are not ‘equal’. Never has this message rang more true for me, as the past several years have opened my eyes how truly unequal we are within our society. Ultimately the solution to conflict in the book is Love. Only when we learn to love one another as a human species can we hope to bring ourselves closer equality, where there is “no discrimination on any grounds”.
These are just one layer to this amazing story. There is a whole subset of theological ideas that can be unpacked as well. At times it has been criticized for being too religious and also not religious enough. It has been accused of being too difficult for children to understand. As a result, A Wrinkle in Time is one of the most banned books of all time but also, incredibly, has never been out of print since it was first published in 1962. If you haven’t yet, I strongly encourage you to put A Wrinkle in Time at the top of your To Be Read list.