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A Wrinkle in Time: Themes & Conflict

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  • 0:04 Themes & Conflict
  • 0:58 Good vs. Evil
  • 1:56 The Power of Love
  • 2:56 Individuality
  • 4:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Emily Manetta
In this lesson, we will discuss the major themes and conflict in Madeline L'Engle's 'A Wrinkle in Time.' We will explore the power of unconditional love, the strength of human individuality and the struggle of good versus evil inherent in the text.

Themes & Conflict

Madeline L'Engle's classic work A Wrinkle in Time is a young adult novel which draws upon science fiction, humanist concepts and Judeo-Christian literary traditions (such as the work of C.S. Lewis). It tells the story of a teenage girl, Meg Murray, who finds herself on an interplanetary mission to rescue her scientist father and her precocious younger brother, Charles Wallace.

The novel features several important key themes, or predominant concepts, including the power of unconditional love and the value of human individuality. The primary conflict, or clash between ideas or characters, is the interaction between the forces of good and evil. The themes and conflict complement one another to send the message that the power of good, love and individuality always prevail over forces of evil, hatred and conformity. (These ideas are further explored in the two sequels to the novel, A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet.)

Good Vs. Evil

In A Wrinkle in Time, L'Engle creates a universe in which good and evil are locked in a struggle to win over planets and their inhabitants. Meg's father vanishes while experimenting with a special form of multi-dimensional space travel called a tesseract. He and Charles Wallace are ultimately held captive on the planet Camazotz by the evil disembodied brain called IT. Meg and others on the side of good work together to save them.

In the novel, good is represented by the Murray family and Meg's friend Calvin, the three Mrs. Ws, the Happy Medium and the creatures of unshadowed planets like Ixchel (including Aunt Beast). Symbols of goodness in the novel include light, harmony, humility, individuality and love.

Those squarely on the side of evil include the Man with Red Eyes and the disembodied brain IT. Symbols tied to evil include darkness, shadow, pride, conformity and hatred.

The Power of Love

Throughout the novel, L'Engle depicts unconditional love as something wielded by the forces of good and not understood by the powers of evil. Mrs. Which tells Meg that she has something that IT doesn't have, and this weapon turns out to be her ability to simply love. Meg's unconditional love for Charles Wallace is what saves him from the clutches of IT and the strictures of the planet of Camazotz. It is also implied that it is the capacity to love that could save humanity and the earth from the shadow of evil that threatens to destroy it.

The importance of family as a source of unconditional love is a feature of many of Madeline L'Engle's novels, and A Wrinkle in Time is no exception. Meg and her quirky family share a deep bond and have a great ability to connect and empathize with others. Rituals such as family dinners are an important source of strength for them while Mr. Murray is missing. Meg's school friend Calvin envies the closeness of the family, asking Meg, 'Do you know how lucky you are?'

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