I think I was in the sixth grade when I was originally assigned Madeleine L’Engle’s novel, A Wrinkle in Time, and all I could remember was that it was about travel, a kid named Charles Wallace, and spectacles; but reading the novel this time around, I can appreciate the value its message has for young children and people of all ages. Reading a children’s novel now created an interesting experience, and I was always aware and always thinking about its intended audience. The novel essentially places the reader in conversation with what it is to be human: and deals with friendship, understanding, the imagination, the world, independence and individuality, freedom, creativity, loyalty, fear, pain, and most importantly, love. I think that it is important to read novels that address such questions at an early age.
By setting up the planet of Camazotz, the ugliness of earth, at first, seems less tragic. On Camazotz, there is no individuality or difference (134), but the Black Thing surrounding earth is surmountable because human beings, as fallible as they are, have the capacity to love. Like Vonnegut’s Trafalmadorians, L’Engle’s fictitious planet of Camazotz reflects something about our own world by saying something about another and its relationship to earth and human beings.
Once Meg, Cal, and Mr. Murry land on Ixchel, we see how other, human elements may belong to others and a sense of connectedness with the universe is established. Aunt Beast’s love and care of Meg is similar to that of a mother’s relationship to her child. But the insight gained from the interaction between Aunt Beast and Meg is most profound when Meg tries to explain ‘seeing.’ “It must be a very limiting thing, this seeing...Good helps us, the stars help us, perhaps what you would call light helps us, love helps us. O, my child, I cannot explain! This is something you just have to know or not know…How strange it is that they can’t tell us what they themselves seem to know” (174,178, 183). The lines of communication drawn between Beasts and human beings create an inability to convey or explain meaning. It is not language which fails here, but a differing in the way different cultures see the world and find means for expression.
Whenever I am visiting another country or another culture, I often find myself in some kind of a cultural misunderstanding when I talk with people who are not American. Even if language does not get in the way, the way different cultures think and the way they see and live are unique and foreign. Concepts, like words, do not always translate. Sometimes, no matter what you do, you cannot explain a particular cultural phenomenon to someone who is an outsider to the culture, but this does not mean you shouldn’t try. “They [human beings] are very young. And on their earth, as they call it, they never communicate with other planets. They revolve about all alone in space…Oh…Aren’t they lonely?” (183). The observation of human beings by the Beasts aptly points out the potential to close oneself off from others and the consequences of doing so.
It is unfortunate that this often occurs within and without cultures all over the world. Different countries and peoples set themselves in opposition and apart from others and live as though there were no other ways of living. But by exposing this fallacy, the reader becomes aware of how trivial and meaningless it is to live in such a way. This becomes particularly hypersensitive to the reader when L’Engle expresses the common bond of human love. Love permeates all borders. It is Meg’s love for her baby brother which provides her with the strength and courage to endure IT and save him. And love is something which ought to bring all human beings together because even though we recognize our capacity for love, we do not exercise it enough in the world.