A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
L’Engle, M. (1962). A Wrinkle in Time. Harrisonburg, VA: LSC Communications.
Science Fiction, appropriate for ages 10+
A Wrinkle in Time is the story of Meg Murry, a high-school-aged girl who is transported on an adventure through time and space with her younger brother Charles Wallace and her friend Calvin O’Keefe to rescue her father, a gifted scientist, from the evil forces that hold him prisoner on another planet. At the beginning of the book, Meg is a homely, awkward, but loving girl, troubled by personal insecurities and her concern for her father, who has been missing for over a year. The plot begins with the arrival of Mrs. Whatsit at the Murry house on a dark and stormy evening. Although she looks like an eccentric tramp, she is actually a celestial creature with the ability to read Meg’s thoughts. She startles Meg’s mother by reassuring her of the existence of a tesseract–a sort of “wrinkle” in space and time. It is through this wrinkle that Meg and her companions will travel through the fifth dimension in search of Mr. Murry.
On the afternoon following Mrs. Whatsit’s visit, Meg and Charles Wallace walk over to Mrs. Whatsit’s cabin. On the way, they meet Calvin O’Keefe, a popular boy in Meg’s school whom Charles considers a kindred spirit. The three children learn from Mrs. Whatsit and her friends Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which that the universe is threatened by a great evil called the Dark Thing and taking the form of a giant cloud, engulfing the stars around it. Several planets have already succumbed to this evil force, including Camazotz, the planet on which Mr. Murry is imprisoned.
The three Mrs. W’s transport the children to Camazotz and instruct them to remain always in each other’s company while on their quest for Mr. Murry. On Camazotz, all objects and places appear exactly alike because the whole planet must conform to the terrifying rhythmic pulsation of IT, a giant disembodied brain. Charles Wallace tries to fight IT with his exceptional intelligence but is overpowered by the evil and becomes a robot-like creature mouthing the words with which IT infuses him. Under the control of IT, Charles leads Meg and Calvin to Mr. Murry and together they confront IT. However, they, too, are unable to withstand IT’s power; they escape only at the last minute, when Mr. Murry appears and seizes Meg and Calvin, “tessering” away with them (traveling via another tesseract) to a gray planet called Ixchel inhabited by tall, furry beasts who care for the travelers. Charles Wallace remains possessed by IT, a prisoner of Camazotz.
On Planet Ixchel the three Mrs. W’s appear once again, and Meg realizes that she must travel alone back to Camazotz to rescue her brother. Mrs. Which tells her that she has one thing that IT does not have, and this will be her weapon against the evil. However, Meg must discover this weapon for herself. When standing in the presence of IT, Meg realizes what this is: her ability to love. Thus, by concentrating on her love for Charles Wallace, she is able to restore him to his true identity. Meg releases Charles from IT’s clutches and tessers with him through time and space, landing in her twin brothers’ vegetable garden on Earth, where her father and Calvin stand waiting. The family joyously reunites, and the Mrs. W’s visit the happy scene en route to further travels.
Key Ideas and Details
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.
Craft and Structure
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.5 Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.
Lesson Objective: Use the plot resolution to explain a theme in a science fiction novel.
Discussion Questions: What was the main conflict and how was it resolved? What lessons did you learn based on the conflict resolution? Did the message of the book impact your life, thoughts, or beliefs in any way? Why would an author want to include a theme in a book? How do themes impact a reader?
Teacher modeling: I will explain that science fiction stories always convey a theme, or a message the author wants to tell the reader. There can be multiple themes in one book, with one main theme or message usually stronger and more prominent than the others.
I will explain that one way to figure out the theme of a book is to look at how plot conflicts were resolved. I will review the plot conflicts we recently learned about in Lesson 4. I will evaluate the conflict of Meg vs. Self. I recall that as Meg rescues her brother and reunites with her family, the conflict within herself is resolved. Meg begins to have faith in herself and is happy and proud that she rescued her brother and, in turn, saved her family.
I will think about what kind of message the author might want me, the reader, to understand about this plot conflict. I will think aloud: “What can I learn about life from the way this conflict was resolved? What do I think the author is trying to tell the reader? From what I’ve learned about this Character vs. Self plot conflict, I can say that it’s okay to be different, because Meg was different from other people and characters in the book. I can also say that you should believe in yourself, because when Meg began to believe in herself, she succeeded. Therefore, I can conclude that the author wants to convey the theme: ‘It’s okay to be different and to believe in yourself,’ or ‘When you believe in yourself, you can succeed.'” I will write this theme on chart paper as one theme of A Wrinkle in Time.
Think Check: Ask: “How can I explain a theme in a science fiction novel?” Students should answer that one way to understand a theme is by recalling the details of how a plot conflict is resolved and thinking about the message the author is trying to convey about the resolution.
Guided Practice: We will think about another theme in the book. We will recall how the plot conflict between Meg and her father was resolved. We can recall that Meg’s anger and disappointment with her father is resolved when she finally realizes he has human faults, and that he cannot save her from everything. This conflict is resolved when Meg realizes that she must do things for herself instead of waiting for her father to make things right. Using the information we know about how this plot conflict was resolved, we will think about the kind of message the author might want readers to learn from this plot conflict. Note: Possible themes for this resolution might include: “Take charge of your own destiny;” “Don’t depend solely on others for your own happiness;” or “No one is perfect.” We will write the themes about this plot resolution on chart paper.
Independent Practice: You will examine the major theme in the book based on how the plot conflict between Meg and IT was resolved. You will identify the main theme of the book based on this plot conflict, and you will prepare to share the main theme with the class.