A Wrinkle as Time
Madeleine L'Engle
Contributed by Ariane Heyne
Chapter 1
Summary

Meg Murry tosses and turns in her attic bedroom on a dark and stormy night.

She can't sleep because she is thinking about all that seems wrong in her life. She doesn't fit in at school, her high school teachers have threatened to drop her down a grade due to her poor academic performance. Worst of all, her father has been missing for many years and no one has heard from him. Meg hears her family's big black dog Fortinbras barking downstairs. She worries that a stranger may be skulking around the house. The teenage girl suspects the tramp who, according to local rumors, recently stole twelve bedsheets from the constable's wife, Mrs. Buncombe. Meg dismisses her fears as silly and calms her nerves by making herself some cocoa in the kitchen. She is surprised to see her five-year-old brother Charles Wallace waiting for her at the kitchen table. Meg notes that Charles seems capable of reading her mind. Mrs. Murry soon joins her children, and tells Meg that she has received a call from Mrs. Henderson, the mother of the boy whom Meg had beaten up at school that day. Meg tells her mother that she hates being an "oddball" at school. She wishes she were more ordinary like her twin younger brothers, Sandy and Dennys. Mrs. Murry tells Meg that she needs to practice moderation, and learn the importance of finding a "happy medium". Charles says he has spoken about Meg's problems with his friend Mrs. Whatsit, though he does not tell who this woman is. As Charles is making sandwiches for his mother and sister, Fortinbras begins to bark loudly again. Mrs. Murry goes outside to find the reason behind commotion. She comes back with Charles's mysterious friend Mrs. Whatsit, who looks like an eccentric tramp in wet clothes. Mrs. Whatsit explains that she loves nights in such wild weather, but tonight she has been blown off in the storm. Charles asks her why she stole bed sheets from Mrs. Buncombe's house, confirming Meg's doubt that Mrs. Whatsit is the neighborhood tramp. Mrs. Whatsit removes her boots and dries her feet and then suddenly says "there is such a thing as a tesseract". She then hurriedly goes out of the door. Mrs. Murry, standing still at the threshold, is stunned by Mrs. Whatsit's parting words.

Analysis

The opening chapter introduces Meg Murry as an ordinary adolescent facing same problems as most of the teenagers today. She desperately wants to fit in and feel more comfortable in her identity. Meg thinks of herself as an outcast at school because she doesn't get along with the other students, who accuse her of acting immature. Part of her alienation is due to the notoriety of her unusual family. Her teachers expect her to do better in studies since both her parents are brilliant scientists. Boys at school make fun of her "dumb baby brother" Charles, who did not begin to speak until the age of four. Finally, all the townspeople talk about her missing father, implying that the Murry family should accept that he has abandoned them. On top of it all, Meg is deeply insecure about her personal appearance. Compared to her beautiful mother, she thinks of herself as "repulsive-looking" and wonders whether her social alienation is due to her physical unattractiveness. Thus, Meg stands out for the very same reasons that make her so representative of most adolescents: awkward and insecure, she lacks confidence in her own abilities. In contrast to Meg, younger brother Charles is very extraordinary -- indeed, almost supernatural. He comes across as highly precocious for a five-year-old -- preparing liverwurst and cream cheese sandwiches, conversing freely with old ladies, and teaching himself new vocabulary. Charles also has an exceptional ability to read the minds of his mother and sister. Mrs. Whatsit too exhibits extrasensory powers. She can see the Russian caviar behind a closed cabinet door, and can somehow sense Meg's distrust of her. These exceptional abilities of the characters introduce the emerging story as one of science fiction and fantasy. The opening chapter not only establishes the tone of the narrative, it foreshadows several important events that will take place over the course of the novel. The description of the moon in the opening sentence alludes to the celestial battle between the shadowy thing and the stars, witnessed by Meg and her fellow travelers in Chapter Four: "Every few moments the moon ripped through the clouds, creating wraithlike shadows that raced across the ground." Mrs. Murry's remark that Meg needs to learn to find a "happy medium" precedes Meg's encounter with a creature by this name in Chapter Six. Finally, Mrs. Murry tells her daughter that she just needs "to plow through some more time" before things will get easier for her. Meg will literally follow her advice when she travels through a wrinkle in time.

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