A Wrinkle in Time | Study Guide

Madeleine L'Engle

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A Wrinkle in Time | Chapter 10 : Absolute Zero | Summary

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Summary

When Meg returns to consciousness she is freezing, and unable to move. She can hear her father and Calvin in the distance. They thought she was dead at first but noticed her slow heartbeat. Meg tries to call out to them, but she can't speak.

Calvin asks how Mr. Murry managed to get them all away from IT. Mr. Murry explains that no one has tried to resist IT for centuries, so IT is not used to refusal. Mr. Murry almost gave in right before Meg rescued him. He was tired, and IT offered rest.

Why was Mr. Murry on Camazotz in the first place, Calvin asks? Mr. Murry says he ended up there by accident. He meant to go to Mars, but tessering proved harder than he thought. He thinks IT captured Charles Wallace first, because Charles Wallace trusted his own strength to protect him. Meg, listening, wonders where Charles Wallace is.

Mr. Murry tells Calvin they need to take their time. He doesn't know how much time passed while he was on Camazotz. Time there is "inverted, turned in on itself."

Calvin wants to know more about Mr. Murry's project. There were several scientists working on the project at once, Mr. Murry explains. He came to Camazotz alone, and wasn't certain he would survive. Traveling through the fifth dimension was risky, since "playing with time and space is a dangerous game." One scientist, Hank, went before Mr. Murry and never returned. Mr. Murry is both afraid and excited by what he has learned about matter, energy, size, and time. He can know these concepts, but he cannot understand them. One thing he plans to tell his fellow scientists is, "We know nothing."

During Calvin and Mr. Murry's dialogue, Meg has been trying to make noise. They finally hear her and check to see if she can move. Meg discovers she is completely frozen. She looks around at a "rusty and gray" planet. Although she can tell the air is warm, she still shivers.

Mr. Murry doesn't know where they are. Meg tells him he shouldn't have tried tessering if he didn't know how. Calvin and Mr. Murry explain they couldn't take Charles Wallace out of Camazotz without damaging his brain. Meg and Calvin would have succumbed to IT if they hadn't left when they did.

Meg is still disappointed and angry. She insists her father return to Camazotz to save Charles Wallace. She thought finding her father would solve everything, but now she feels no hope. Her father can't save her or her brother. She briefly succumbs to hate and despair, certain they will never make it home, and doesn't realize the Black Thing has overcome her.

Meg's father explains he is only a human being. But he and Calvin think they are on this new planet for a purpose. Calvin reminds Meg that she has had more trouble with tessering than the others did.

As feeling returns to Meg's limbs, she sees three large, strange beasts approaching them. The beasts are gray, with several long tentacles for fingers. They have "soft indentations" instead of eyes and facial features. Meg is too terrified to speak, but Calvin greets the beasts, explaining they have accidentally landed on the planet and Meg is paralyzed. One of the beasts lifts Meg with its tentacles, and she begins to feel sleepy and safe. The beast tells Mr. Murry that it is taking Meg.

Analysis

In A Wrinkle in Time, sensations of cold and warmth function like darkness and light, respectively. They are outward symbols for inner conditions of the body and soul. The cold Meg is trapped in is a reflection of her confusion and anger.

Meanwhile Mr. Murry reveals his journey to Calvin. He almost fell into the trap of conformity himself. As he observes, IT is not used to resistance because resistance is rare. It's easier for people to do what they are told to do. Thinking independently takes risks. Passionate scientists who don't always follow convention—like the fighters the children listed in Chapter 5—can face staggering obstacles. Their choices may defy common sense, because they have a vision. Mr. Murry fears his own radical experiments are "nothing but a madman's dream."

Through the details Mr. Murry provides about his project, he gives credibility to the idea of traveling within the fifth dimension. L'Engle, through Mr. Murry, acknowledges, "It's not really a new idea." Despite extensive research, government backing, and accountability, Mr. Murry still got lost. He realized humans experimenting with the fundamentals of the universe can be like "children playing with dynamite." Like Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace, Mr. Murry has confronted forces he cannot comprehend. His message to his fellow scientists will be one of humility and caution.

Mr. Murry has also learned that science can change everything people know about themselves and the world around them. For instance, "Size is an illusion, and ... time is a material substance." Size, something often encountered visually through appearances, is misleading. Time is more complex than many people imagine. The statement "Matter and energy are the same thing" refers to Einstein's famous theory that mass and energy are equivalent, represented by the equation E=mc². Although Mr. Murry is deeply familiar this concept, he doesn't fully grasp its implications. And he is okay with knowing there's always more to learn. He thinks future generations—represented by Calvin and Charles Wallace—will discover more and more about physics.

Mr. Murry hasn't mastered tessering either. He had to make a quick decision to save lives, weighing the costs and benefits. The results weren't perfect. Meg sees the difficulty of making adult decisions. There are no guarantees of a happy ending.

As her frustration and worry take over, Meg's faults of anger and impatience become prominent. She falls into the traps of blame and despair. Her inner state parallels her outer state, and she becomes paralyzed by cold and fear. The phrase "Teetered on the seesaw of love and hate" implies Meg can still choose how she reacts. Although her fear and anger are normal, she is letting them take control.

Mr. Murry realizes he has failed his daughter. When he says, "All things work together for good," he's quoting from the biblical book of Romans. The quote reveals his sense of purpose and hope in something larger than himself. Even when Mr. Murry makes mistakes, he doesn't give up. He knows there's a bigger goal, or "purpose" ahead.

Meg, like her father, has to surrender control when she meets the beasts. They are the first supernatural creatures who physically resemble animals, or alien life forms. As the creatures they meet become less familiar, the travelers have to adapt. For the first time, they have no idea where they are. Meg is physically helpless, and needs to trust more completely than she ever has.

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