A Wrinkle as Time
Madeleine L'Engle
Contributed by Ariane Heyne
Chapter 2
Summary

Next morning, Meg wakes up to wonder whether the irrational events of the previous night were merely a dream, but her mother assures her that "you don't have to understand things for them to be. At school, her social studies teacher sends her to the principal's office for being rude. Principal Mr. Jenkins tells Meg that he is sure she could do better in school if only she would apply herself. He asks Meg about her home life, and Meg feels that he is prying when he asks about Mr. Murry. She becomes defensive and angry when Mr. Jenkins says that the Murrys should accept that Mr. Murry has left them for good. After school, Meg, Charles, and their pet dog Fortinbras visit Mrs. Whatsit and her two friends, who have moved into the local haunted house. As they approach the house, Fortinbras begins barking, alerting Meg and Charles to the presence of Calvin O'Keefe, a popular athlete at their high school. Calvin says that he wants to escape his family. He is the third of eleven children. But upon further questioning by Charles, Calvin admits that the house itself also seemed to exert a strong and inexplicable force on him that afternoon. Satisfied by his response, Charles invites Calvin home for dinner. Before going back, Charles leads Meg and Calvin into the haunted house. Inside the house, a plump little woman in large spectacles is sewing Mrs. Buncombe's stolen sheets. A black pot boils on the hearth beside her. Charles addresses this woman as Mrs. Who, and asks her if she knows Calvin. Mrs. Who, who speaks largely in foreign quotations, which she then translates into English, cryptically says that Calvin is probably a "good choice". She tells the children enigmatically that the time draws near, but first they must go home and get plenty of food and rest. As they leave the haunted house, Meg begs Charles for an explanation of the woman's strange comments and quotations, but Charles says he still doesn't fully understand what is going on. Meg must content herself with this lack of explanation as she, Charles, and Calvin head back to their house for dinner.

Analysis

Meg's tough day at school is a realisation of all the fears she had expressed the night before, first while lying sleepless in bed, and then, while complaining to her mother in the kitchen. She is sent to the principal's office because she hates the rote memorisation her teacher demands of her. Critics have compared Meg's frustration with the useless information she learns in school to L'Engle's personal frustration with the narrowness of certain Christian doctrines. Just as L'Engle understands her novels as part of a constant quest to find a meaningful theology in empty doctrine and repressive dogma, Meg wants to find meaning and purpose in a seemingly pointless pedagogical exercise. The two episodes in this chapter, Meg's day at school and her excursion with Charles, are linked thematically to Meg's inability to understand them. At school, she cannot see the point of rote memorisation and tedious book learning. After school, she is unable to understand the tacit assumptions and shared sense of purpose that governs the interactions between Charles, Calvin, and Mrs. Who. Mrs. Murry's words of wisdom are, thus, doubly relevant in light of Meg's circumstances: "You don't need to understand things for them to be". Although Charles and Calvin seem to understand more than Meg, they, too, have a feeling that they do not understand the things completely. On their way back home, Charles tells Meg that by concentrating very hard on Meg and Mrs. Murry, he can understand their thoughts. He, however, says that he does not really understand how this works because the process seems very passive.

Charles does not feel the need to make any effort to "read" his loved ones' minds. He feels that they themselves are freely telling him their thoughts. As Charles tells Meg, "I can't quite explain. You tell me, that's all." Calvin, too, cannot explain the mysterious feeling of compulsion that sometimes overcomes him and demands his obedience. He says, "I can't explain where it comes from or how I get it... but I obey it." Calvin does not know why he felt to come to the haunted house that afternoon, knowing only that he had no choice in the matter. Thus, all the major characters in the chapter share the sense that they are a part of something that they do not fully understand, but which nonetheless governs their behavior and interactions with one another. In the second chapter, we see the power of love in Meg that will make possible her ultimate triumph over evil. While walking through the pine forest to the haunted house, Charles holds her hand and Meg realizes that even if she can know nothing else for certain, she knows her brother loves her. It is this strong sense of love that helps her rescue her brother from the clutches of IT at the end of the novel.

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