A Wrinkle as Time
Madeleine L'Engle
Contributed by Ariane Heyne
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Chapter 7
Summary

Calvin wants to enter the CENTRAL Central Intelligence Building alone and then report back to Meg and Charles, but the Murry children insist that Mrs. Which had instructed them to stay together. Just as they are thinking of a way to enter the building, a door opens to a great entrance hall of dull, greenish marble and icy cold walls. Inside there are a number of similar-looking men wearing nondescript business suits. The children ask one of the suited men how things work in CENTRAL. The man instructs them to present their papers to a series of slot machines. He seems unable to understand that they are strangers to the planet and do not know anything about the mechanical system governing all transactions and interactions. The man tells them that he runs a "number-one spelling machine" on the "second-grade level." He warns them that he will have to report to the authorities about the children in order to avoid the risk of "reprocessing." Before leaving, he advises them, "just relax and don't fight it and it will all be much easier for you." The marble wall in front of the children suddenly melts, and the children find themselves in a room with machines and their robot-like attendants.  In one corner of the room, they approach a platform on which a man with red eyes is sitting. A glowing light above his head pulsates with the same rhythm as his red eyes. The children immediately sense that the cold blackness emanating from this man is the same as that exuded by the Dark Thing. Charles instructs Meg and Calvin to close their eyes lest the man will hypnotize them. He asks the children to recite the multiplication tables rhythmically with him, but Charles and Calvin resist by shouting out nursery rhymes and the Gettysburg Address, respectively.

The man communicates with the children's brains without opening his mouth or moving his lips. He asks the children why they want to see their father. He is unable to comprehend the fact that he is their father is reason enough. Suddenly, Charles jumps ahead and kicks the man. He thinks that the man is somehow not in full possession of himself. The man realizes that Charles is the only one endowed with a neuropsychological system complex enough to read him properly. Charles must look into the man's eyes to decode his identity. The Man with the Red Eyes serves the children an elaborate turkey dinner, but to Charles the food tastes like sand. The man tells the children that the food is synthetic, but Charles would be able to taste it if only he would open his mind to IT. He invites Charles to come with him and know who he really is. Charles agrees even though Meg strongly disagrees with him. The man looks into Charles's eyes until the boy's pupils fade into the surrounding blue irises. Once brought back from the man's hypnotic stare, Charles has transformed into a different person. He asks Meg why is she being so belligerent and uncooperative and urges her to eat the food prepared for them, which he now claims is delicious. Meg is horrified and shrieks to Calvin that the boy beside them is no longer Charles. The Charles they know is gone.

Analysis

On Camazotz, a monotonous uniformity reigns over all individuality. However, L'Engle differentiates between uniformity and togetherness. To fight evil on the planet, the children must stick together even while maintaining their individual identities. Their togetherness is symbolised by the simple act of holding hands, a gesture that keeps recurring throughout the book.

Charles reached for Meg's hand when they walked to the haunted house. Calvin held Meg's hand as they walked through the Murry's garden the night after they met Mrs. Who. Meg reached for Calvin's hand when they saw a vision of his mother through the Happy Medium's crystal ball, and all three children hold hands as they enter the CENTRAL Central Intelligence Building. The chapter again stresses on the difference between appearances and reality as is evident on Camazotz where things are not as they appear.

Charles kicks the Man with the Red Eyes because he seems phony. The food served to them appears to be a turkey dinner, but it is just synthetic food formulated to taste like turkey. To Charles' penetrating mind, however, the food tastes like sand. Meg will realize that the evil force represented by the Man with the Red Eyes lacks one thing that she has: love. Already in this chapter it has become clear that the inhabitants of Camazotz cannot understand love. The Man with the Red Eyes asks Meg why she wants to see her father, not understanding the bond between a father and children.

The incident recalls Calvin's earlier remark about the gossipy inhabitants of their hometown who make stories about Mr. Murry's whereabouts. Just like the Man with the Red Eyes "they can not understand plain, ordinary love when they see it". Although Earth and Camazotz are markedly different, they resemble each other in their inhabitants' expectation of conformity and uniformity. L'Engle notes that the men in the CENTRAL Central Intelligence Building "wore nondescript business suits and though their features were different one from the other, there was also a sameness to them."

Life on Earth too witnesses such situations where the only difference among men is their facial features. Meg notes that on Camazotz everything adheres to sameness, even at a table of men in corporate dress or a group of tuxedoed gentlemen. Camazotz is conformity and uniformity taken to the extreme. When Charles calls Meg "belligerent and uncooperative," he rewinds the words of her high-school principal Mr. Jenkins, who asked her if she "enjoyed being the most belligerent, uncooperative girl at school." Like Mr. Jenkins, Charles has become a figure of uncompromising and unfeeling authority. Charles resemblance to Mr. Jenkins shows the extent to which Meg's journey from earth to Camazotz is also a journey to her own consciousness. Through a transformed Charles, Meg revisits her memories of a crucial experience on earth.

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