A Wrinkle as Time
Madeleine L'Engle
Contributed by Ariane Heyne
Chapter 4
Summary

Meg suddenly feels herself separated from Charles and Calvin and thrust into a silent darkness. She cries out to them but finds herself devoid of body and voice. Suddenly, she feels her heartbeat come back again and is able to see Charles and Calvin come back into material presence.

Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which inform the children that they have been transported to the planet Uriel. When Calvin seeks to know about their mode of travel, Mrs. Whatsit tells them that they do not travel at any one speed, but "tesser" or "wrinkle" through space. Meg wonders if this is the word that Mrs. Whatsit had mentioned earlier. Mrs. Whatsit informs the children that their father’s life is in danger and they are on their way to save him, but first they have stopped to know of the challenges that they are going to face. With Mrs. Who's permission, Mrs. Whatsit transforms herself into a beautiful creature with a horse's body and a human torso. Seeing this, Calvin is awestruck and falls to his knees in shameless devotion. Mrs. Whatsit chides him for his blind worship of her. The children climb on Mrs. Whatsit's back and fly across fertile fields and a big plateau of granite-like rock. They see beautiful creatures perform a dance in a garden below. Mrs. Whatsit translates their music into the words of the Biblical verses of Isaiah 42:10-12. Meg is overjoyed and instinctively reaches out for Calvin's hand. As they move upward through the rarefied atmosphere, Mrs. Whatsit gives them each clusters of flowers and instructs them to breathe through them when the air becomes too thin. As they cross through the clouds of Uriel, Mrs. Whatsit shows them a view of the universe which is not visible from Earth. The children see a great white disk that Mrs. Whatsit identifies as one of Uriel's moons. Later, they watch a sunset and moonset. Above the clouds, the children notice a black patch that seems to eclipse all the stars around it. Meg knows instinctively that the shadow is the most concentrated form of evil she has ever seen. It is not cast by any object but is the Thing itself. When the children come back to the flowery fields beneath, Meg approaches Mrs. Which and asks if the dark thing they witnessed is what her father is fighting.

Analysis

On the planet Uriel, the children encounter both the tremendous good and the tremendous evil battling out with one another. The vision of the good, involving beautiful creatures dancing compels Meg to lovingly hold Calvin's hand. She, however, has not realised that this love will be her ultimate weapon in fighting the evil. The entire chapter is full of religious allusions and connotations. Planet Uriel is named after one of the guardian angels of the Biblical tradition. Eventually, Calvin will compare Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which to guardian angels who travel with them and protect them in their cosmic quest. Mrs. Whatsit translates the music of Uriel's inhabitants into Biblical verses. The garden that the travelers fly over resembles Eden in its majesty and serenity and Meg experiences a kind of bliss there. Calvin falls to his knees to worship Mrs. Whatsit when she changes her external form. Implicit in her rebuke ("never to me") is the suggestion that there is another being more worthy of his devotion. The religious motifs reflect L'Engle's commitment in developing her own Christian theology in her writing. L'Engle's biography is a brilliant illustration of the author's use of classical music. L'Engle's mother was a talented pianist and she cultivated in her daughter a fondness for music. The author grew up hearing her mother and other musicians performing. Many of the characters in L'Engle's novels are passionate about music. In this chapter, Mrs. Whatsit speaks in "a rich voice with the warmth of a woodwind, the clarity of a trumpet, the mystery of an English horn". The Biblical verses she quotes are about "singing a new song unto the Lord." L'Engle blends her Christian orientation and her love of classical music beautifully in this chapter.

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