78 pages 2 hours read

Madeleine L'Engle

A Wrinkle In Time

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 1962

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Summary and Study Guide


A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle is a science fiction novel for young readers, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1962. The book follows Margaret “Meg” Murry, her brilliant younger brother Charles Murry, and Calvin O’Keefe on a journey across the universe to rescue Meg’s father from the clutches of a malignant presence. The novel won several children’s book awards, including the Newbery Medal (1963), the Sequoyah Book Award, and the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award. It was also runner-up for the Hans Christian Anderson Award. The book inspired two movie adaptations from Disney (2003 and 2018), three stage plays (1990, 2010, and 2014), and an opera (1992). L’Engle was born in New York in 1918 and began writing at an early age. She received her degree in English from Smith College but struggled to get her work published for many years following. On a cross-country camping trip with her husband (Hugh Franklin) and her family, she observed the Earth’s own alien landscapes, which prompted the idea for A Wrinkle in Time. This guide follows the 1973 reprinting from Dell Books.

Plot Summary

The novel is told from the perspective of young Meg. Meg’s father disappeared without notice several years ago, and Meg wants nothing more than for him to return. He is the only person who understands her, and without him, Meg sinks farther into self-loathing. Unable to sleep during a bad storm, Meg joins her mother and youngest brother, Charles Wallace, for a midnight snack. The family is visited by the strange Mrs. Whatsit, who tells a shocked Mrs. Murry that tesseracts are real. When pressed, Meg’s mother won’t explain what a tesseract is to her children.

The next day, Meg and Charles Wallace encounter Calvin O’Keefe, a boy Meg knows from school. Calvin followed a compulsion to take a walk, which led him to cross Meg and Charles Wallace’s path. After dinner at the Murry house, Mrs. Whatsit and her two companions (Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which) retrieve the children, saying it’s time to rescue Meg’s father. The group travels to different planets, where Meg and the others learn about the evil darkness spreading across the universe. Mr. Murry’s government work with the tesseract (a way of traversing long distances without time passing) shot him into the darkness, and he is imprisoned on the planet Camazotz.

Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace tesser to Camazotz, where the Mrs. Ws cannot help them. There, they learn about IT, the being that controls everyone on the planet. To find his father, Charles Wallace gives himself over to IT and becomes a shadow of himself. He leads Meg and Calvin to Mr. Murry. Meg rescues her father, sure now that all their troubles are over.

Contrary to Meg’s wishes, Mr. Murry does not make everything better. Charles Wallace brings Mr. Murry, Meg, and Calvin to IT, which is an oversized brain. IT attacks them with the pulsing rhythm of Camazotz, and Meg starts to slip away. Out of options, Mr. Murry tessers himself, Meg, and Calvin off Camazotz, unable to take Charles Wallace along. The tesser injures Meg, and the inhabitants of this new planet, Ixchel, nurse Meg back to health.

Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which arrive on Ixchel. They help Meg tesser back to Camazotz to save Charles Wallace, leaving her with the cryptic message to use the thing she has that IT does not have. Meg puzzles over this until Charles Wallace accuses Mrs. Whatsit of hating Meg. Knowing Mrs. Whatsit loves her, Meg realizes IT does not possess love. By loving Charles Wallace, she frees him from IT. Meg, Charles Wallace, Calvin, and Mr. Murry return to Earth.