A Wrinkle in Time | Study Guide

Madeleine L'Engle

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A Wrinkle in Time | Chapter 11 : Aunt Beast | Summary



Mr. Murry asks the beast to put Meg down. The beasts are curious—do they frighten him? They prefer talking to Calvin, and ask him how they would be treated on his home planet. Calvin guesses they would be shot, but he hopes the beasts won't hurt him. The smallest beast suggests Earth isn't used to visitors from other planets. The middle beast asks if the humans are from a dark planet. Calvin says Earth is "shadowed. But we're fighting the shadow." Mr. Murry explains he was a prisoner on Camazotz, and his young son is still there.

The beast holding Meg says Meg needs immediate care to fight off the Black Thing's damage. Meg protests at first. She doesn't want to be taken from her father, but she feels secure in the beast's soft fur, as if she is a child again. She senses the beasts have good intentions, and quickly falls asleep.

When she wakes up, a beast is taking care of her. The beast says Mr. Murry and Calvin are resting nearby. Meg asks why the chamber she is in is so dark. The beast is confused. It doesn't know what light and darkness are. They live in an atmosphere Mr. Murry calls "opaque," and they can't see the stars. But the beasts know more about the stars, "their music and the movements of their dance," than humans do. When the beast asks what seeing is, Meg explains it's knowing what things look like. The beast says they prefer knowing what things are.

Meg tries to explain sunlight and artificial light to the beast. She realizes the beasts see and understand on a higher level than humans. Remembering Charles Wallace, she asks if the beasts will help get him back. The beast says they are discussing what to do right now. They have never spoken to anyone who escaped a dark planet before, and it will be challenging to get back to Camazotz. They can't let Meg make her father return, since he might not escape a second time. The beast reassures Meg that they won't abandon Charles Wallace. For the moment, Meg needs to recover.

Meg asks what to call the beast. Reading Meg's mind, the beast decides Aunt Beast would be a good name—better than mother, acquaintance, or monster. As she drifts off to sleep, Meg asks Aunt Beast to sing to her. The song is more glorious than anything she's ever heard. The beasts, she thinks, have senses she can only dream of.

When Meg wakes she asks what the planet is called. Aunt Beast isn't sure how "to put things the way [Meg's] mind shapes them." She decides to call the planet Ixchel. She tells Meg the inhabitants of Ixchel are fighting the Black Thing diligently, with help from the forces of good, from the stars, and from love. Aunt Beast struggles to explain life on her planet to Meg. The beasts focus on "the things which are not seen."

Aunt Beast takes Meg to a large banquet hall. Calvin, Mr. Murry, and several beasts sit around a stone table. Meg is glad to see her father, but she is still disappointed in him and worried about Charles Wallace. She looks to the beasts for help. At Calvin's invitation, Meg eats the food on the table, which is dull-looking, but delicious.

Mr. Murry tells Meg they have discussed how to rescue Charles Wallace. Mr. Murry can't go back to Camazotz himself, since he would likely get lost. Mrs Who's glasses kept him in the solar system, but they've lost their power now, and the beasts can't tesser onto a dark planet like Camazotz.

Meg thinks they need to call Mrs Whatsit for help. She accuses her father of not caring about Charles Wallace, and she can tell her father is hurt by the comment. Aunt Beast explains that Meg may still have "spiritual damage" from being trapped by the Black Thing. She senses anger, blame, and guilt coming from Meg.

Calvin insists he has been trying to explain the three women to the beasts. Meg tries, but she knows she can't use physical descriptions. Aunt Beast urges her to think about what the women are, not what they look like. Meg thinks and thinks, but she can't get away from "a visual concept." Calvin describes the women as "guardian angels" and "messengers of God." This still isn't clear to the beasts. Aunt Beast explains that Earth never communicates with other planets.

Suddenly, Mrs Which's voice announces the arrival of the three women.


In this chapter the human characters gain an even broader perspective on their role in the universe. Earth is not the center of the universe, and humans aren't the highest life-forms. Other creatures might see them as strangers to shoot.

Meg and Aunt Beast have trouble communicating. However, Meg recognizes the beasts' goodness as the universal language of unconditional love. The beasts care for her the same way a mother cares for a child, and Meg is told to "be as an infant again." This relationship reinforces the importance of love and family bonds. The first way many people learn about love is through a parent, and Aunt Beast is reminding Meg what this affection feels like. Meanwhile, Meg is learning a new way to relate to her own father, with a sense of pride and appreciation.

The symbolism of light and darkness becomes more complex. The beasts do not have sight. They don't experience light as physical illumination the way Meg does. But they are still familiar with what light represents. They appreciate the sun and stars, and use temperature—warm and cool—to distinguish between night and day.

Most significantly, the beasts know the difference between "what things look like," and "what things are like." Physical appearances, they believe, provide only a superficial knowledge. Meg has spent the whole book negotiating new terrain based on its appearance, and seeing characters take on different physical forms. She learns that the truth about people lies beneath the surface, just as Charles Wallace's true self is still somewhere within him.

Meg is learning how to observe the world from different perspectives. She struggles to describe things to Aunt Beast without using a physical frame of reference. She and Calvin both think in terms of categories and classifications. They can't describe Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which to the beasts. The names Whatsit, Who, and Which are wordplay, implying the women don't easily fit into any categories. Meg tries the language of mathematics, and Calvin tries the language of religion, but neither language is good enough. Meg and Calvin learn they may not fully understand a concept just because they use words to describe it.

Meg is also opening her mind to someone whose experience is entirely new to her. Both Meg and her scientist father have learned how limited their worldviews can be. Earth may be an impressive planet, but it's isolated. Meg discovers that the beasts' different senses are more enhanced than her own. She doesn't fully understand how their knowledge is greater than hers, but she accepts it.

Aunt Beast's song—like the song on Uriel in Chapter 5—shows the power of music to transcend thought and sensory experience. Aunt Beast sings "a music more tangible than form or sight." The multiple metaphors put readers' imaginations to work.

Meg will have to rise to the occasion, but she is still struggling with disappointment and fears of inadequacy. She feels she has been "measured and found wanting" by the beasts. Her character growth and mission aren't complete.

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