A Wrinkle in Time
Chapter 10: Absolute Zero
As Meg regains consciousness, she feels icy coldness all around her and finds herself unable to move her body or speak. She hears the voices of Calvin and her father discussing her condition, but she has no way of communicating with them.
Meg hears Calvin ask her father about his journey to Camazotz. Mr. Murry explains that he never intended to go to this planet; he was part of a team of scientists trying to tesser to Mars. Mr. Murry says that he knows he could not have been on Camazotz for longer than two years, but time seems to flow differently on this planet. He tells Calvin that he was about to give up all hope and surrender to IT when the children arrived to rescue him.
Meg desperately tries to make a sound to let her father and Calvin know that she can hear them. She finally succeeds in making a small croaking noise, slowly regaining the ability to speak. She demands to know where Charles Wallace is, and she is furious to learn that they left Camazotz without him. She yells at her father for his inability to solve their difficulties and deliver them all to safety. Mr. Murry tells his daughter that he is only a fallible human being, and no miracle-worker; however, he expresses the belief that "all things work together for good for them that love God."
Mr. Murry massages Meg's fingers, and she cries out in pain. He tells her that the pain is a good sign; it means she is regaining sensation. Suddenly, Calvin tells them to look ahead of them. Three strange upright creatures advance toward them, each with four arms; they have tentacles in place of hair, and soft indentations where their eyes would be were they human. Calvin introduces himself politely to the creatures, and explains Meg's precarious condition. At first Meg is terrified, but when one of the creatures reaches out to touch her with its wavy tentacle, warmth spreads through her body. The creature picks her up and tells Mr. Murry that it is taking Meg with it.
The title of this chapter, "absolute zero," is a scientific term for the temperature at which all molecular motion ceases, -273 degrees Celsius. Meg experiences this dangerously low temperature when she tessers with her father through the Black Thing. Thus, when she wakes up, she is so cold that she cannot feel her own body.
Meg's faint pulse is barely detectable to Mr. Murry and Calvin, in striking contrast to the overwhelmingly dominant and unavoidable pulse of IT's rhythmic brain. When Meg awakens, it is as if she has been in a coma; she struggles to recover her senses. Her struggle to communicate with her father recalls Calvin's struggle to communicate with the possessed Charles Wallace and Meg's own attempt to get through to her father when he was imprisoned in the glass column.
When Meg winces in pain as her father massages her fingers, he tells her that the pain is actually good, for it means that she is able to feel again. Meg learned the emotional equivalent of this physical lesson while still on Camazotz: on this planet the inhabitants are never unhappy, but this is because they are unable to feel any emotions at all; pain and sorrow are a natural and necessary part of the ability to feel.
In this chapter, L'Engle demonstrates that evil is not merely external, as Meg would like to believe. Meg unfairly blames her father for failing to rescue Charles Wallace; although she fails to realize it, her self-righteous accusation is characterized by the same evil exuded by IT and the Black Thing. As L'Engle writes, "she did not realize that she was as much in the power of the Black Thing as Charles Wallace." Meg will only later understand that she is often threatened by internal evils just like the one possessing Charles Wallace externally.
Meg lashes out at her father because she cannot accept that he is merely a fallible human being like herself. She expects him to be superhuman and to solve all their problems. Like all children, Meg is going through the difficult experience of realizing that her parents do not know everything. Only when she abandons this naive view of her father will she fully mature and be able to value her own unique abilities and potential. Ultimately, it is not Mr. Murry, but Meg herself, who will save Charles Wallace.
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