What are the most important lessons that Meg learns over the course of the novel?
Meg must learn: 1) the value of individuality and 2) to accept that not everything can be understood rationally. First, she must learn to overcome her desire for conformity and appreciate her own uniqueness as an individual. In the beginning of the book, Meg feels awkward and out of place at her high school. She is involved in frequent fights with her peers and is sent to the principal's office for her misbehavior. Meg tells her mother that she hates being an oddball and wishes she could just pretend she was like everyone else. Camazotz, then, with its rows of identical houses and identical human beings, parodies her extreme desire for conformity. Only after she understands the evil of this planet does she realize the value of being a unique individual. The book celebrates human creativity and individuality, hailing as heroes the greatest creative geniuses in the arts and sciences including Einstein, Bach, da Vinci, and Shakespeare. Another important lesson that Meg must learn is that she cannot know everything. In the beginning of the book, Meg insists that nothing remain unexplained or unquantified. For example, when she meets Calvin, she immediately asks her mother what she thinks of him; she wants an instant and definitive answer. Her mother urges her to be patient, but Meg cannot wait for opinions to form gradually. Meg wants to comprehend everything around her all at once. However, in the course of her travels, she slowly comes to appreciate her mother's words of wisdom: "Just because we don't understand doesn't mean an explanation doesn't exist." She can accept that the musical dance of the creatures on Uriel is beautiful even though she cannot speak their language; she can accept that the Black Thing is evil even though she does not really understand what it is. When she ultimately confronts IT on her return visit to Camazotz, she can at last appreciate the dangers of a mind bent on total understanding, on definitive and authoritative explanations: such a mind becomes robot-like, mechanical, and unfeeling. Meg's rejection of IT is thus also a rejection of the need for total understanding of the world around her.
In what ways can A Wrinkle in Time be considered a Christian book? Is this a fair characterization?
A Wrinkle in Time can be considered a Christian book in the sense that its most important theme is the centrality of love, a notion equally important to Christian theology. Ultimately, Meg is only able to conquer IT through the force of her love for her brother. The novel also contains many explicit references to Christian scripture. Jesus is the first figure cited by Mrs. Whatsit as a fighter against the Dark Thing, and the whole imagery of light vs. darkness is traced back to the New Testament by Mrs. Who in her fondness for quotation: "And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." In addition, Mrs. Whatsit translates the musical dance of the creatures on Uriel into the Biblical words of the prophet Isaiah, and Mrs. Who's second gift to Meg is an excerpt from St. Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians. Yet the characters are never identified as Christians, nor do they engage in any ritualistic religious behavior. Rather, the book is informed by Christian theology and by the notion of a struggle between good and evil forces in the world. In spite of its explicit references to the New Testament, the themes that L'Engle treats are essential components of any religious worldview.
How are women portrayed in L'Engle's novel?
The women in L'Engle's novel are strong, competent, self-reliant, and intelligent individuals. Mrs. Murry is an experimental biologist who has mastered the skill of balancing family and career: she conducts ground-breaking scientific research while nurturing a warm and loving family, even if this means an occasional dinner cooked on the Bunsen burner. The three Mrs. W's travel competently through the fifth dimension--a skill they have mastered far better than Meg's father. Finally, although Meg initially feels awkward and insecure, she, too, emerges as a self-confident and triumphant heroine; ultimately, it is Meg alone (without the aid of her father, brother, or Calvin) who rescues Charles Wallace from IT. By writing a science fiction novel with a female protagonist, L'Engle paved the way for many other female protagonists in a genre traditionally dominated by male heroes. Her cast of intellectually talented women was unusual in the 1960s, though today the competent female protagonist is far more common.
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