“They left the great granite plain and flew over a garden even more beautiful than anything in a dream. In it were gathered many of the creatures like the one Mrs. Whatsit had become, some lying among the flowers, some swimming in a broad, crystal river that flowed through the garden, some flying in what Meg was sure must be a kind of dance, moving in and out above the trees. They were making music, music that came not only from their throats but from the movement of their great wings as well.”
Oh, eh…. wrong media format. Whoops.
Well, it’s about time I got to this one. I remember seeing it in the children’s section of the book store as a kid and I just never thought to pick it up. I honestly don’t know why – this book is wonderful!
Summary Story time!
Meg Murry lives a normal life with her family: her mother, her little brother Charles Wallace, and her other brothers, the twins Sandy and Dennys. When a stranger, Mrs. Whatsit, visits her home one dark night, Meg doesn’t trust her, nor does she realize what this kind stranger is. When Mrs. Whatsit mentions a tesseract, their mother reacts in such a way that Meg and Charles Wallace know that something is going on. Charles Wallace, being surprisingly mature at only five years old, asks Meg to accompany him to visit Mrs. Whatsit and her friends, Mrs. Which and Mrs. Who, to find out more about what Mrs. Whatsit was talking about and its significance. It is around this time that we learn that Meg’s father left on a work trip some time ago, but never returned. Meg, Charles Wallace, and Meg’s classmate Calvin go home that night, only to learn from Charles Wallace that Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which are going to help them find their father. The three ladies take them on a journey across the galaxies, exploring some beautiful planets while teaching the children what they need to know to succeed in their task. It is during this time that Meg learns that there is a black Thing fighting to swallow up the earth, and it is this entity that her father is fighting.
Finally, they arrive on a planet called Camazotz, where the three guides can no longer help them, but give the children gifts to help them make it out okay. However, while on the planet, Charles Wallace succumbs to IT (a sort of mind-controlling center that rules the entire place) and leads Meg and Calvin to Meg’s father, who had been trapped there for a long time. They free him, and he gets them off the planet, but at the expense of leaving Charles Wallace. Arriving on another planet, Meg is determined to free Charles from IT before they go home. Receiving help from a group of kindly beasts and the three Mrs. W’s, Meg, Calvin, and Mr. Murry discuss what to do next, eventually deciding that Meg should be the one to go and free Charles Wallace from his imprisonment. She arrives on Camazotz, where her brother tries to stop her from resisting IT. Meg, realizing that love is the gift she has that can help her brother, frees him from his prison, and they flee the planet. The book ends with the entire group returning to Meg’s home, and the entire family is finally reunited.
I think it’s worth mentioning that I’ve seen fantasy stories with this setup (finding a lost parent, usually the father) many times now. Actually, one of my favorite series as a kid had this exact plot line. That said, this did not in any way take away from my enjoyment of the story, and I really think that L’Engle did a great job with what the exact goals of the main characters were. Once Mr. Murry was found, there was still more to do, and I liked seeing that the story depended on more than just that one plot point. I also liked how it was, in the end, a story about family, and how important family is and how wonderful it is to care for someone and be cared about.
“He said to go ahead and be afraid. And Mrs Who said – I don’t understand what she said but I think it was meant to make me not hate being only me, and me being the way I am. And Mrs Whatsit said to remember that she loves me. That’s what I have to think about. Not about being afraid. Or not as smart as IT. Mrs Whatsit loves me. That’s quite something, to be loved by someone like Mrs Whatsit.”
I think, since the characters caring about each other is a major thing in the story, and the reader caring about them is even more so, we should discuss those characters in a little more depth. Let’s start with Meg.
In the beginning, she came off as a bit rough around the edges to me. But she was strong-willed and smart and willing to work to achieve her goals. Is she my favorite character? Not even close, but I like how the characters around her work to bring out the best in her, even if they don’t realize it. I thought it was a nice touch that L’Engle mentioned that she has beautiful eyes at one point, but her glasses distract from that. I say this because I think it’s a sort of “beauty comes from within” message, or something very near it. Deep down, Meg has a beautiful soul, even if her rough exterior hid it in the beginning. She just wants to be able to love herself, and I feel like her journey took her a few steps closer to that than she was in the beginning.
“Her shivering grew uncontrollable.
-You asked to have the attic bedroom, she told herself savagely. -Mother let you have it because you’re the oldest. It’s a privilege, not a punishment.
‘Not during a hurricane, it isn’t a privilege,’ she said aloud. She tossed the quilt down on the foot of the bed, and stood up. The kitten stretched luxuriously, and looked up at her with huge, innocent eyes.
‘Go back to sleep,’ Meg said. ‘Just be glad you’re a kitten and not a monster like me.'”
Now, I want to talk about who is perhaps my favorite character in the story. Little Charles Wallace was such a wonderful character. I like how he was only five years old, yet so wise beyond his years. You’d almost think he was a grown man trapped in a child’s body. There’s no real explanation given for this – only the adage that he’s “different” but I enjoyed his character so much that I’m not even really bothered by this – at least, not as much as I thought I would be. I like how, even with how mature he is throughout the story, in the end he is still Meg’s baby brother, and it was nice to see him want to protect Meg and Meg want to do the same for him. This is done so well that when he was captured by IT, I was really afraid for him, and hoped that he would be okay in the end.
“Charles Wallace looked troubled. ‘I don’t think it’s that. It’s being able to understand a sort of language, like sometimes if I concentrate very hard I can understand the wind talking with the trees. You tell me, you see, sort of inad-inadvertently. That’s a good word, isn’t it? I got Mother to look it up in the dictionary for me this morning. I really must learn to read, except I’m afraid it will make it awfully hard for me in school next year if I already know things. I think it will be better if people go on thinking I’m not very bright. They won’t hate me quite so much.'”
And, need I remind you, this kid is only five years old. When he grows up he’ll probably be a genius rivaling that of Stephen Hawking or Albert Einstein.
Moving on, I want to talk about Mr. Murry a bit. As I said earlier, I’ve seen the missing parent plot line quite a few times now, but I still enjoyed seeing this story’s take on it. Part of the reason for this is because Mr. Murry is portrayed as an extremely likable, yet still flawed man. I particularly liked how Meg had to learn that her father can’t fix everything, and finding him won’t solve all the issues of the story alone. Even though Murry plays the sort of in-distress character before Meg finds him, seeing him grow into his own and become more sure of himself as the story goes on was nice to see. I like how even he had to learn to let Meg do certain things on her own, because that’s something every parent struggles with at some point.
“‘Nothing seemed more important anymore but rest, and of course IT offered me complete rest. I had almost come to the conclusion that I was wrong to fight, that IT was right after all, and everything I believed in most passionately was nothing but a madman’s dream. But then you and Meg came in to me, broke through my prison, and hope and faith returned.'”
Last of all with characters, I want to talk a little bit about the three Mrs W’s. We meet Mrs Whatsit first and, honestly, I didn’t really have enough time to register what my first impression of her was. She seemed nice, but that was about it, at least in the beginning. However, by the end, I really liked her. Mrs Which was an interesting person as well. I found the way she spoke a little annoying at first, but it did help me to remember her character, rather than the three of them being indistinguishable and only recognizable as a group. Finally, Mrs Who was probably the most interesting of the three, although I will admit, her shtick kind of threw me off when I first saw it. She’s always quoting, and the story tells us it’s easier for her to make sense of the world by doing so. I honestly don’t fully understand how exactly that idea works, but it’s an intriguing concept to think about.
“‘Would you care for some hot chocolate, Mrs Whatsit?’
‘Charmed, I’m sure,’ Mrs Whatsit answered, taking off the hat and the stole. ‘It isn’t so much that I lost my way as that I got blown off course. And when I realized that I was at little Charles Wallace’s house I thought I’d just come in and rest a bit before proceeding on my way.'”
Finally, I want to talk about L’Engle’s writing style a bit. Now, I admit, the story’s fantasy having a scientific basis is a new idea to me. That said, L’Engle executed it perfectly, so that science is melded with fantasy to execute the message at the story’s heart. And, needless to say, it left me feeling more than fulfilled in the end.
I would recommend this book to anyone of any age.
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