The Black Thing in A Wrinkle in Time

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  • 0:03 A Cosmic Evil Force
  • 0:32 Introducing the Black Thing
  • 1:17 Describing the Black Thing
  • 2:44 The Black Thing in Action
  • 3:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kelly Beaty

Kelly has taught fifth grade language arts and adult ESL. She has a master's degree in education and a graduate certificate in TESOL.

'A Wrinkle in Time,' by Madeleine L'Engle, presents a struggle between good and evil in the science fiction/fantasy genre. One of the key elements in this story is the Black Thing, which is the subject of this lesson.

A Cosmic Evil Force

Let's consider the idea of 'a cosmic evil force' behind widespread oppression and pain: the Holocaust, slavery, Apartheid, the Crusades, terrorist attacks . . . Had enough? This kind of evil is the real villain in A Wrinkle in Time - the source behind oppression and pain. Madeleine L'Engle gives readers a name for this cosmic evil force. It is called the Black Thing.

Introducing the Black Thing

We are first introduced to the Black Thing in chapter four, which is aptly titled ''The Black Thing.'' The setting is planet Uriel in a distant galaxy. Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin have landed on this hospitable planet so that Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which can show them the Black Thing from a distance before they have to actually face it.

Mrs. Whatstit, in her winged form, gives the children a grand tour of Uriel. This journey takes them high above the land, where they witness the peace and beauty the planet has to offer. This tour is not meant to be a pleasure trip, though; after they experience Uriel's peace, Mrs. Whatsit very intentionally introduces her guests to an ominous presence in the distant sky known simply as the Black Thing.

Describing the Black Thing

The children first see the Black Thing as a shadow in the distance. Calvin instantly gets a bad vibe: 'I don't like it' (p. 67). It is more than a gigantic shadow; it is something that darkens the moods of those who even look in its direction.

Meg wonders 'What could there be about a shadow. . .that would chill her with a fear that was beyond shuddering, beyond crying or screaming, beyond the possibility of comfort?' (p. 68).

So, what exactly is the Black Thing? This is what the children demand when they see it. Mrs. Which gives the most direct answer in her labored form of English: 'Itt iss Eevil. Itt iss thee Ppowers of Ddarrkkness!' (p. 84).

According to Mrs. Whatsit, this darkness is being fought all over the universe - successfully by some planets, unsuccessfully by others. Earth, according to the ladies, is 'shadowed' and 'fighting the shadow,' but not fully taken over by it (p. 170). Planets that have succumbed to the Black Thing are known as dark planets.

This brings us to the purpose of this journey through time and space: Mr. Murray is being held captive on one of the dark planets, and the children are trying to release him. In fighting the evil force, they join the ranks of other champions of faith, discovery, and creativity, including Jesus, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Bach, Buddha, Gandhi, and Einstein.

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