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A Wrinkle in Time

Madeleine L'Engle

Chapter 8: The Transparent Column

Chapter 7: The Man with Red Eyes

Chapter 9: IT

Summary

Charles Wallace, now in the grip of IT, 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 the enemies. They realize that this is not the real Charles Wallace speaking and grab his arm in an attempt to release the real person trapped within. They tell the Man with the Red Eyes that they know that it is he who is speaking through Charles. The Man identifies himself as the Prime Coordinator and tells them that Charles will lead them to Mr. Murry.

Charles leads 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 him to try to speak with her brother. For a moment, Calvin's tone of jocular friendliness seems to reach Charles Wallace, but then the boy drifts away again; Charles tells them that instead of searching for Mr. Murry, they should turn themselves over entirely to IT, whom he identifies as the "Boss" and the "Happiest Sadist." He extols the virtues of IT and declares that on Camazotz, the total conformity prevents all war or unhappiness. Meg notes that sometimes a little bit of unhappiness is a necessary precondition for happiness.

Suddenly, Charles waves his hand and the wall of the corridor grows transparent to reveal a small room radiating a dull, sulphurous light. In response to Meg's questioning, Charles says that he simply moved 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 wall to a pulsing rhythm, wincing with pain each time the ball hits the ground; Charles explains that it is a punishment for the boy's earlier deviance. Then he shows Meg and Calvin another small cell, in which stands a transparent cylinder or column; Mr. Murry sits trapped inside.

Commentary

When Charles Wallace advises Meg to "stop fighting and relax," IT is speaking through him. The words echo the counsel of the second-grade spelling machine operator who told them, "just relax and don't fight and it will all be much easier for you." Of course, the children know the dangers of submitting; if they fail to fight Evil and rescue Mr. Murry, darkness will engulf the world as they know it.

Meg and Calvin try to rescue the real Charles by tightly gripping his arm, an extreme version of the repeated gesture of holding out one's hand in love. Calvin's grip is one of a fierce love only strengthened by the attempts of Camazotz's inhabitants to sever the emotional ties between individuals. Ultimately, however, Calvin's grip is not strong enough to rescue Charles.

Even though Mrs. Whatsit has informed Calvin that his greatest gift is his ability to communicate, Calvin's attempt to win back Charles Wallace through words is just as futile as his effort to reach him by physical touch. Words once again prove woefully inadequate, just as they did when Mrs. Whatsit struggled to translate the beautiful dance on Uriel into speech, or when Charles had such difficulty explaining the tesseract in normal language. Charles is only momentarily released from IT when Calvin refers to him affectionately by his silly, playful nickname "Charlibus"; thus the one "word" that succeeds even partially is a nonsense sound, not a part of a real language at all.

Meg and Calvin's inability to get through to Charles stands in contrast with the ease with which Charles Wallace penetrates walls, enabling the children to walk right through them. Charles explains that he is simply rearranging the configuration of the wall's atoms, since an atom is mostly empty space anyway. Charles' comment bespeaks the influence of quantum theory on L'Engle's scientific views. This theory conceives of the atom as a tiny dense core of protons and neutrons surrounded by great regions of empty space in which tiny electrons appear with varying probabilities. Here, then, Charles claims to rearrange 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 physic's atomic model.

Although they are unable to get through to Charles, Meg and Calvin learn about the being that controls 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 them to submit to IT's control. Now, in this chapter, Charles assures them that they will come to know IT "all in good time." These elliptical references have helped to build the suspense to its current height; Meg and Calvin now stand ready for their encounter with this terrifying being.

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Chapter 1-3

by liltwirler2001, September 30, 2013

These chapters are a great add to the story. AMAZING!

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