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

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Chapter 6
Summary

The Happy Medium with her crystal ball shows the children a battle between the Dark Thing and the stars. Mrs. Whatsit explains that they have just witnessed a star sacrificing its life to fight the Dark Thing. Charles correctly guesses that Mrs. Whatsit was once a star who gave up her celestial existence in this way. The children are deeply moved to know of her sacrifice, and Charles kisses her in gratitude.

The Happy Medium wishes to leave the children with a pleasant vision before they depart. So, despite Mrs. Which's protestations, Happy Medium provides them with a glimpse of their mothers. Calvin's mother is spanking one of her little ones with a wooden spoon, and Meg sees this and reaches out to Calvin compassionately. Mrs. Murry is busy writing her daily letter to her husband. On seeing this, Meg has tears in her eyes. After saying goodbye to Happy Medium, the children tesser to the planet of Camazotz where Mr. Murry is imprisoned. When they reach on a hill overlooking a town, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Who tell them that they will have to go ahead alone to the town. They hand each child a gift that will help them in their battle. Mrs. Whatsit's gifts are actually enhancements of traits the children already possess. She reinforces in Meg her own faults, boosts Calvin's innate ability to communicate with people of all different types, and strengthens in Charles the natural resilience of his childhood.

Mrs. Who hands Meg her thick funny spectacles, Calvin an excerpt from Shakespeare's ‘The Tempest’ and Charles a quotation from Goethe. Mrs. Which's gift to the children is the command that they go down into the town and stay strong together. Mrs. Whatsit tells Calvin to take care of Meg and cautions Charles that he will be the most susceptible to the danger on Camazotz. The three children leave their supernatural companions on the hill and descend into the town.

In Camazotz, every house is the exact same size, shape, and color. In front of each house, children bounce balls and skip rope. There is a synchronized rhythm that seems to govern the whole town. One boy drops his ball, the children knock on the door to return it to the mother and she is horrified by this aberration. The children then come across a newspaper delivery boy on a bicycle, who asks them what they are doing outdoors. He informs them that this is the most oriented city on the planet and is governed by IT in the CENTRAL Central Intelligence.

Later, Charles notes that the newspaper delivery boy seems to talk as though the words were not his own. Charles tries to listen to the thoughts of these people minutely but all he hears is a steady pulsing. All his efforts to figure out who they are bear no result. The children decide to enter the CENTRAL Central Intelligence building to confront the forces of Camazotz at their source. Charles says he will not recognise his father after so many years, but Meg tells him that this will not be a problem. Calvin has a premonition that entering the building means facing a terrible danger. However, the children realize that they have no choice.

Analysis

Once again it is stressed in the novel that Meg must accept that reality is not always as it seems. When she comes to know that Mrs. Whatsit was once a star that gave up its life battling the Dark Thing, she realizes that the entity she knows as Mrs. Whatsit is "only the tiniest facet of all the things Mrs. Whatsit could be". Meg does not realize it now, however, this is also a lesson she will have to apply to her father when he seems powerless to rescue them from Camazotz, to Charles when he is caught in the grip of IT, and finally to herself when she feels inadequate in the face of IT's tyrannical control. Meg, during the course of her travels with Charles and Calvin, learns that people are usually far more complex and capable than they initially appear. The planet Camazotz is a manifestation of the dangers of a world devoid of creativity and individuality. Everyone on Camazotz is exactly like everyone else unlike the creative geniuses like Einstein, Picasso, Bach, etc. mentioned in the previous chapter. The architectural uniformity and total synchronisation of the town do not allow for any individuality or freedom of expression. Camazotz, then, is the extreme realisation of Meg's desire for conformity. There are no oddballs on this planet. Meg must find a middle path or a happy medium that is neither the extreme conformity of Camazotz nor the alienation of her own high school, but somewhere between the two. The planet Camazotz is named after a malignant Mexican deity worshipped as an evil vampire. Critics suggest the planet represents Cold War totalitarianism, much like the mechanical, robot-like creatures of Orwell's 1984.

Others look at Camazotz as a comment on the burgeoning American suburban households in rows of identical structures. However, L'Engle never suggests her novel to be read historically. She intends her book to convey the timeless struggle between good and evil. Camazotz is a parody of Meg's desire to be like everyone else. The evil planet is also a parody of her hometown where both the communities are devoid of love. Faced with an uncomfortable situation like Mr. Murry's mysterious disappearance, the gossipy postmistress assumes the worst and starts spreading rumors that Mr. Murry has run off with another woman. Yet, she differs little from the mothers on Camazotz who think of the aberration -- dropped ball -- a cause for horror. In both worlds, love, emotions and warmth is totally missing and there is an overwhelming demand for conformity, order, and logic. As of now, Meg does not recognise these parallels but her ultimate understanding of these things will help her rescue her brother from the clutches of IT.

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