When & Where Does A Wrinkle in Time Take Place?

Instructor: Erica Schimmel

Erica has taught college English writing and literature courses and has a master's degree in children's literature.

Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin must travel across dimensions in their quest to save Mr. Murry in 'A Wrinkle in Time.' But what about Meg's home? This lesson will discuss the setting of Earth in Madeleine L'Engle's classic novel.

Where Are You From?

Have you ever moved? Or made friends with someone you've never met before? One of the first things we often ask in such a situation is 'Where are you from?' We often think that knowing where a person comes from helps us to know them.

In Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, however, there is an air of mystery around Meg's hometown. On the one hand, we know she lives on Earth. But we are not told the town's name, or what state the Murrys now live in. Why? Well, omitting the name lends itself to the fantasy aspect of the book. After all, Meg's town could be anywhere. Even where you live right now.

Where We Wake Up

If you've ever been woken up by a loud thunderstorm, you know how unsettling it can be. That's exactly what happens to Meg at the very beginning of A Wrinkle in Time. While a thunderstorm is a perfectly natural event, the fear it stirs up in Meg reflects one of the main themes in the book: the battle between good and evil. The trees are not merely hitting the side of the house; they are ''tossing in the frenzied lashing of the wind.'' The moon does not only show through the clouds, but ''ripped through them, creating wraithlike shadows that raced along the ground.'' Sounds like the setting of a scary movie, doesn't it?

You see, what Meg does not know yet is that evil, represented by the Black Thing, is trying to take over Earth. According to Mrs. Whatsit, this evil is the reason for all the problems on Earth. Later, Meg will witness the ''shadow which darkened the beauty of the Earth'' with her own eyes.

There's No Place Like Home

Before she learns about the Black Thing, though, Meg lives in what probably seems like an ordinary small town. Everyone seems to know everyone else. People gossip a lot. If the creaking noises heard during the thunderstorm are any indication, the Murrys are living in an older home. Mrs. Murry's lab is housed in their home, in the old stone dairy.

Outside the Murry house, the family has a vegetable garden and ''tall stalks of corn.'' Past the garden, there is a ''small apple orchard bounded by a stone wall, and beyond this the woods.'' This house used to be their summer home, but Mrs. Murry and the children came to live there year-round when it looked like Mr. Murry would be traveling a lot.

Across the Universe

Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin may live on Earth, but their quest to save Mr. Murry takes them travelling across space and time. So the 'when' and 'where' of this book can get a little complicated. The main characters visit five planets total, briefly described here:

The first stop in their journey is Uriel, the ''third planet of the star Malak in the spiral nebula Messier 101.'' Uriel is a beautiful planet that is ''golden with light'' and covered with grass, flowers, and mountains. As beautiful as it may be, though, they are not only there for sightseeing. It is on Uriel that the children are first shown the Black Thing.

Their next tesser brings the children very briefly to an unnamed two-dimensional planet. Meg feels as though she is being ''completely flattened out by an enormous steam roller.'' Fortunately, the mistake is realized, and the children are quickly whisked away to the next stop.

That next stop takes them to a planet in Orion's Belt where the Happy Medium lives. Perhaps the most remarkable characteristic of this planet is that it lacks characteristics. Unlike Uriel, or Earth, everything about this planet seems ''nondescript'' and gray. Even the air is gray. Unfortunately, the purpose of this visit is a sad one. They are there so the Happy Medium can show the children Earth. Sadly, their planet looks like it is covered with a ''smoky haze'' - the Black Thing.

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