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Classics Review: A Wrinkle In Time

G D Penman By G D Penman Published on March 13, 2016
This article was updated on April 19, 2017

While this book is considered to be a children’s classic and has a few simplistic elements it is ridiculous to behave as though adults would not benefit from reading it. As the author herself was fond of saying during the long period of trying to find a publisher, the book is not too difficult for children, children are open to any ideas, the book is too difficult for adults.

The story follows two children as they try to retrieve their missing father but ends up spanning the galaxy and delving into the conflict between good and evil on the universal scale. Something made possible by the Tesseract, a multi-dimensional means of bridging great distances and times similar to the modern concept of a wormhole. The interplay and melding of spirituality, science and acceptance of the unknown are the backbone of the story. Setting aside the fascinating scientific ideas found in this book that have gone on to inspire generations in the pursuit of space-time warping technology the philosophy contained in A Wrinkle in Time is the most fascinating part.

The book is in part a Christian allegory, there are clear references to a conflict between the forces of light and darkness throughout the story and even specific mentions of faith and Jesus. But at the very same time Pasteur and Buddha are mentioned as his equals. The author puts forward her own, very open and liberal interpretation of Christianity throughout the story and nowhere is that made more clear than in the children’s conflict with It. It is a disembodied brain capable of telepathic domination of every mind that it encounters. The villain is the ultimate embodiment of a totalitarian government, where every person in society is simply a tool used to further their leader’s desires and the only pleasure that they are capable of is complete submission to that more powerful will and the removal of all responsibilities. 

The heroine, Meg, is able to fight against this creature thanks to her inherent faults. Her belligerence, her unwillingness to toe the line and her stubborn inability to back down even when it would be to her advantage. All of the traits that make her disliked by her teachers and peers back on earth are what allow her to combat It. Rebellion against authority is considered the most moral act in A Wrinkle in Time. This is obviously tempered by the love that she feels for her family and ultimately love is what allows her to win out, but can you imagine any other Christian allegory where ignoring your elders to do what you think is right is the moral choice. Even the semi-angelic, semi-scientific figures of the three old women who guide the children on their travels rail against the idea of fate using the metaphor of a sonnet to describe a human’s life. The form is the same each time, otherwise it wouldn’t be a sonnet, but the contents can be anything at all. Freedom is the natural state of being and oppression is evil. Quite the alien subject for a religious allegory, about on par with the Pevensie kids in Narnia giving Aslan the finger when he tells them what to do.

No wonder the book is too difficult for most adults to read. 

G.D. Penman writes about queer monsters for a living. He is the author of Call Your Steel, The Year of the Knife, Heart of Winter, Apocrypha and many other books. He is also a full-time freelance ... Show More