A Wrinkle as Time
Madeleine L'Engle
Contributed by Ariane Heyne
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Chapter 8

In the grip of IT, Charles sits contentedly eating his turkey dinner. He tells Meg and Calvin that the Man with the Red Eyes is their friend and that the Mrs. W's are their enemies. Meg and Calvin realize that this is not the real Charles speaking. They grab his arm to release the real person caught within. They tell the Man with the Red Eyes that they know that it is he who is controlling Charles. The man identifies himself as the Prime Coordinator and tells them that Charles will take them to Mr. Murry. Charles takes Meg and Calvin down a long white corridor. As they walk, Meg is reminded of Mrs. Whatsit's gift to Calvin: his ability to communicate. She encourages Calvin to try to speak with her brother. For a moment, Calvin's friendly tone seems to reach Charles but then the boy drifts away again. Charles suggests that instead of looking for Mr. Murry, they should turn themselves over to IT, which he identifies as the boss and the Happiest Sadist. Charles extols the virtues of IT and declares that on Camazotz, the total conformity prevents all war or unhappiness. Meg says that sometimes a little bit of unhappiness is a necessary precondition for happiness. Suddenly, Charles waves his hand and the wall of the corridor becomes transparent to reveal a small room emitting a dull, sulfurous light. Replying to Meg's question, Charles says he simply juggled around the wall's atoms to make it open. He shows Calvin and Meg another room in which the little boy that they saw that afternoon is bouncing a ball to a pulsing rhythm. He winces in pain each time the ball hits the ground. Charles explains that it is the boy's punishment for deviating from uniformity. Then, he shows Meg and Calvin another small cell in which Mr Murry sits trapped inside a transparent cylinder.


When Charles tells Meg to stop fighting and relax, it is IT who is speaking through him. The words remind of the advice of the second-grade spelling machine operator who told them to "just relax and don't fight and it will all be much easier for you". The children know the dangers of submitting: If they fail to fight evil and rescue Mr. Murry, darkness will engulf the entire world.

Meg and Calvin try to rescue the real Charles by tightly gripping his arm, an extreme version of holding out one's hand in love. Calvin's grip is one of an intense love only bolstered by the attempts of Camazotz's inhabitants to sever the emotional ties between individuals. Ultimately, Calvin's grip is not strong enough to rescue Charles. Even though Mrs. Whatsit has told Calvin that his greatest gift is his ability to communicate, Calvin's attempt to win back Charles through words is just as futile as his effort to reach him by physical touch. Once again, words prove highly inadequate, just as they did when Mrs. Whatsit struggled to translate the beautiful dance on Uriel into speech, or when Charles found it difficult to explain the word tesseract in normal language.

Charles is momentarily released from IT when Calvin affectionately calls him by his silly, playful nickname "Charlibus". Thus, one word that succeeds partially is a nonsense sound, not even a part of a real language at all. While Meg and Calvin's find it difficult to get through to Charles, in contrast, Charles penetrates the walls with consummate ease, enabling the children to walk right through them. Charles says he is simply shuffling the configuration of the wall's atoms, since an atom is mostly empty space anyway. Charles' comment tells us about the influence of quantum theory on L'Engle's scientific views. The quantum theory conceives of the atom as a core of protons and neutrons surrounded by great regions of empty space in which electrons are found in varying probabilities. Charles here claims to rejig the atoms, merging their regions of empty space into a single material gap in the wall. Although this is not actually possible, the notion gains some credibility in light of quantum physics atomic model. Meg and Calvin learn about the being that controls Charles, although they are unable to get through to him. The newspaper boy mentioned IT when he proudly claimed his town's rank as the most oriented city on Camazotz. The spelling-machine operator first advised the children to submit to IT's control. Here in Chapter 8, Charles assures them that they will come to know of IT "all in good time". These references help build the suspense to its current height; Meg and Calvin are now geared up for their encounter with this mysterious evil force.

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