Monday, June 4, 2012

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

L’Engle, Madeleine.  A Wrinkle in Time.  1962.  New York: Laurel-Leaf, 1976.

Though I review all the nonfiction books I read, I write about only a little about fiction.  Sometimes a fiction book hits so many areas of interest to me that I want to write about it.  A Wrinkle in Time is one.  It’s a classic, award-winning novel.  It’s a children’s or young adult book, and one is never too old for a good kid’s book.  It’s science fiction.  It’s informed by author Madeleine L’Engle’s Christian faith.

Margaret (Meg) Murphy is an awkward girl who doesn’t fit in.  Her family is unusual, too.  Her father is missing, though Meg stubbornly clings to hope that he will come home.  Her mother is a scientists, caring but somewhat unconventional.  Two of her brothers, twins, are pretty normal, if a little rough, and the third, the youngest, is a genius and most people find him unpleasantly odd.

Meg, her genius baby brother Charles Wallace and Calvin O’Keefe (an older, popular boy who keeps his oddness better wrapped) are pulled into an adventure in space by three creatures, seeming witches, aliens and more.  On another planet, they rescue Meg’s father and almost succumb to the powerful mind that rules the planet.  It is the things Meg dislikes most about herself that allows her to prevail.

A Wrinkle in Time is an adventure.  It is also a parable.  Part of the message is Christian.  The universe is God’s creation for His glory, and good creatures acknowledge and worship Him.  Yet there is evil, and Earth is infected with it.  Love overcomes evil.

It is tempting to see a political message.  On the world Meg visits, Camazotz, a single being rules all, taking responsibility for every decision, instilling uniformity so that everybody has the same things.  It is not hard to see this as a parallel to a communist state, where the government controls and distributes all resources.  It sounds like the nanny state as well, where people are relieved of the responsibilities of caring for themselves and making their own decisions.

It is this last point that I think is important to L’Engle whether or not is has political implications.  We are made to be individuals, unique and special, and we cannot be separated from responsibility for ourselves and our decisions and still have real joy, even if we have everything we seem to need.  When the “aunts” give gifts to the adventurers to prepare them for their trial, they give Meg her faults.  As Christians, we believe that everyone is uniquely made by God.  Our faults, shortcomings, imperfections make us needy of God’s grace, and His grace abounds in us to His glory.

In addition, IT, the mind-lord of Camazotz, is a finite being with finite imagination, thus the uniformity of the planet IT rules.  God is infinite, and His creation has enormous variety, abundance, scope and beauty beyond your imagination.  We can love, serve, and worship one God, we can all be imitators of Christ, and still each be a unique individual.

Before closing, I’d like to mention another Christian sci-fi classic, The Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis.  There are some parallels between the works.  For instance, both L’Engle and Lewis, in Out of the Silent Planet, depict Earth as darkened and separated from communion with the larger universe because of the influence of human sin and the dominion of Satan.  IT, a big brain, reminds me of the Head from Lewis’ That Hideous Strength.

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