Renewed Reflections: Wrinkle In Time (1962)

When anyone asks what were the books I read as a child, my answers have automatically been Jane EyreA Wrinkle In Time, and The Phantom Tollbooth. These were pretty heady books for a young reader but the voracious drive to read was insatiable. The list of books that I have read is ridiculously long. Most books have been forgotten through time but few have stood in my memory. Sometimes they were memorable, they changed some core perspective of life, a discovery of new emotions or ideas. Or for a reason that only the past will know.

Disney will be releasing in March 2018 a live adaptation of A Wrinkle In Time. It took about five viewings of the trailer to stop squeeing in fangirl overload happiness to realize, “wait, I don’t remember the story being like this.” For the sake of research and not losing my mind, this became a great opportunity to re-read the book that I cherished so strongly upon my memories.

 

Storm Reid as Meg Murry in 'A Wrinkle in Time'.
Storm Reid as Meg Murry in ‘A Wrinkle in Time’. Image © Disney

 

A Wrinkle In Time is the first of five books in the series written by Madeleine L’Engle. Centered in this story is Meg Murry. She is a genius with a short temper ready to throw punches at any snide remarks about her missing father. Close to her is her brother, Charles Wallace Murry, who is also a genius but is too young to be in school. Then enters Calvin O’Keefe who is also a genius and just so happens to become involved. All three children quickly become acquainted with three beings: Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs. Which. These three beings know where Meg’s father is and lead them through a journey through time and space to rescue him.

The first reaction I had when I started reading was the pleasant surprise and pride know of realizing that one of my earliest readings was of the science fiction realm. There are fantasy bits sprinkled here but it is heavily set in the science fiction world. I am absolutely dumbfounded on how my younger self could have understood it when adult me is still questioning what the heck did I just read. As an adult who had read countless of complicated science fiction novels since then, this novel was not complex or intricate. For my younger self, that may have been enough with my own ideas of what “evil” is and filling in whatever details are necessary. Adult me, is frustrated at the lack of everything.

Calvin O'Keefe (Levi Miller), Charles Wallace Murry (Deric McCabe) and Meg Murry (Storm Reid) find themselves in a creepy suburb.
Calvin O’Keefe (Levi Miller), Charles Wallace Murry (Deric McCabe) and Meg Murry (Storm Reid) find themselves in a creepy suburb. Photo © Disney.

 

To rescue Meg’s father, they are shown by the three beings, a glimpse of an evil to prepare them of what’s to come. Then they are deposited upon Camazotz — the area where Meg’s father was kept. They are greeted by a uniform neighborhood, with uniform children bouncing ball at the same time. According to the foreword by Anna Quindlen, this uniformity was to display the fear that Americans had of Communism upon US soil. It is by far the eeriest scene in the book as we see the child who “bounced” his ball out of time is severely punished later on.

Meg, Charlie, and Calvin move on to the CENTRAL Intelligence Building which has the most ominous title and presence in this novel. This is where everything in this world is filed and organized and where the brains of the operation, IT is located. It is all a cold and sterile environment. With each step forward, the sense of unease intensifies. So it is a huge letdown that Meg’s father is so easily rescued. There is a slight struggle, Meg snaps on the special spectacles from one of the beings and then they walk out. The kids literally reach in and pluck him out. IT may have wanted it that way but if not, no struggle, no soldiers, no alarm system, no memory loss from being plucked through? What’s he even doing in that cell? He was inside a column doing…what? Was he conscious or unconscious before Meg got there? Are we sure this is the father and not a clone? Was he in stasis? Was he being tortured?

Dr. Alex Murry (Chris Pine) is held captive on another planet in 'A Wrinkle in Time'. Photo © Disney
Dr. Alex Murry (Chris Pine) is held captive on another planet in ‘A Wrinkle in Time’. Photo © Disney

Shoving all jokes referring to Pennywise aside, the villain of the whole book is with IT. We don’t know what being or matter IT is, other that that it can communicate telepathically and is the most feared system in Camazotz. It seems to take over minds pretty thoroughly. There is a creepy mental image of Charles Wallace being possessed by IT that is not sitting well mentally.

By far, the best part of the novel was the random planet that Meg’s father has tesseracted to blindly. .According to the novel, this tesseract ability is how space and time can be pinched to travel through. Apparently, this knowledge or ability that Meg’s father has in terms of the tesseract is what made him a prisoner. Although, the importance of Meg’s dad containing this knowledge seemed moot as IT gleefully attached itself to Charles. Compared to the great power this CENTRAL system has, the tesseract seems to pale in comparison. Since there are four more books, I can only assume these questions will be clarified later. No clarification is provided at all this first book.

Regardless of this seemingly important discovery, it did introduce us to Aunt Beast. Here is where the deep well of memories echoed back a recollection. I do remember reading about Aunt Beast and how even I was comforted by her presence. I still feel the same comfort in re-reading this as an adult. The aliens seem equine in nature covered in soft hair. Adult me is imagining a llama alien for no reason. For its abrupt appearance and randomness it, is the best creature of most alien description and I wanted more of Aunt Beast.

Overall, not a lot really happens. Kids are told where to go, they rescue father, they come back. I don’t remember how incredibly dramatic and loud Meg can be. She cries for almost everything. The final message of love was pretty sweet but still did not resolve any questions I had. Yet, I can still see how this would stick in my mind. This little book was able to weave concepts of physics and theory in an adventure story for young children.

Disregarding the obvious change in casting, nothing in the Disney trailer looks like anything from the book. So my earlier confusion was not too far off the mark. One immediately difference I picked up on was the scene with the uniform children bouncing balls. In the book the uniform children and mothers seemed more human but in the trailer, doesn’t the mother have the echoing sounds of a robot? It makes me wonder if they are going to eliminate the “communist” angle and more of a “robots are taking over the world” one.

The trailer definitely gave Meg a more sturdy backbone. Which I have no complaints about because, goodness, did this girl cry and throw a tantrum in the book.
“I want you to be a warrior” is a pretty clear indication that this will be a way more action-driven movie. Maybe Disney will fill in the holes the book left behind. Clearly what we will see on onscreen will not be like what we read in the novels. Disney took the adaption viewpoint very strongly.

It was an interesting trip back through time reading A Wrinkle In Time. I don’t recall much of the book except for how I felt after reading. Which is the same feeling as I have now: when can I meet Aunt Beast?

4 Comments

  1. Edo Bosnar

    I find your thoughts on the book interesting, and it kind of makes me want to re-read it (I haven’t read it since elementary school, when I absolutely loved it and then tore through the next few books, Wind in the Door, Swiftly Tilting Planet, etc. as well). The thing is, I don’t remember there being any major unresolved matters at the end of the book.
    Your conception of Aunt Beast brought a smile to my face – I’m betting every reader had their own way of envisioning her. I honestly don’t remember L’Engle’s actual description, I just remember that I pictured her as something like a cross between a bear and a gorilla, but yes, with very soft fur.

    The trailer has me really interested in the movie, by the way, although it seems to indicate that Mr. Murry will have a bigger role in the story – again, in my distant memories of the book, he very much had a supporting role (heck, I think Meg’s mom – who was also a microbiologist if I recall correctly – was a far more fleshed out character in Wrinkle and in the sequel).

  2. I was intrigued by the trailer and wanted to read the books before I saw the movie, plus my wife said they were awesome and loved them as a child as most seem to.

    Reading it as an adult, the one thing that grates about the book is how much you are repeatedly bonked on the head with its concepts. I mean, it’s crazy stuff (for the time) and for a kid’s book, but MAN is there a lot of explaining. In book two I found that even worse. I struggled to get through book two, where seemingly nothing happens but one long scene of Meg trying to understand what the heck is going on inside Charles Wallace’s cells/The Universe. Book three is proving much more interesting, but maybe it’s because by now the rules of its universe have been explained (endlessly!) so you can in to more story instead.

    I can see the appeal. I can see how it was ahead of its time. But it’s definitely for kids around 12, not blerky old adults like me! Still, I’m glad to be filling a cultural hole in my knowledge. My wife was squee-ing over the trailer (a rarity) and I’d honestly never heard of it. I don’t know if it’s because it’s not a big deal in Oz like it is in North America? (In school, Australian books are definitely pushed at kids over foreign material.)

  3. Le Messor

    I only read the book once, when I was 12. (In America, not Australia… this just keeps coming back to Canaan’s post!)
    I wouldn’t mind reading it again.
    The things I most remember are the bouncing-balls scene and the explanation for a tessaract (‘the shortest distance between two points isn’t a straight line, but a wrinkle’, says the book. ‘Yes,’ says 12-year-old me, ‘but the shortest distance is still a straight line; otherwise you might as well walk all the way around the wrinkle’.)
    Honestly, I don’t even remember Aunt Beast at all. :/

    The aliens seem equine in nature covered in soft hair.

    Is that where Power Pack gets it from, I wonder?

    Disregarding the obvious change in casting,

    I remember somebody – maybe Madeline L’Engle herself – saying the characters weren’t described enough for that to even be a change.

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