A Wrinkle in Time | Study Guide

Madeleine L'Engle

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A Wrinkle in Time | Chapter 12 : The Foolish and the Weak | Summary



The three women emerge, blurred, but still recognizable. They heard the children calling them. Meg pleads with Mrs Whatsit to save Charles Wallace. Mrs Whatsit coldly reminds her they cannot go to Camazotz themselves. Mr. Murry and Calvin both offer to go, but Mrs Which and Mrs Whatsit say they won't be successful. Charles Wallace has retreated deeper into IT.

A long silence follows, and Meg begins to sob. She realizes the only solution left is for her to go to Camazotz alone. Mrs Whatsit explains that Meg shouldn't do anything without grace or understanding.

Meg says she understands it has to be her, as she has known Charles Wallace the longest. Mr. Murry angrily refuses to let her go. Calvin accuses Mr. Murry of being "in league with IT," and says he'll go himself. Mrs Whatsit warns Calvin and Mr. Murry they are making a hard task even harder for Meg. If Mrs Which goes with Meg, Mrs Whatsit believes she will succeed. Meg admits she doesn't have the courage to go alone, but she'll do it anyway.

Mrs Whatsit understands that Mr. Murry doesn't trust her. She acknowledges Meg might face mortal danger, but she and the Happy Medium believe Meg will survive. Doesn't the Happy Medium know what will happen, Calvin asks? No, Mrs Whatsit says. If they knew the future they would live like the people on Camazotz, "with everything all planned and done for us."

She gives Calvin the example of a sonnet in poetry. To compose a sonnet, a poet must follow a strict form and rhyme scheme but can say whatever he or she wants within those lines. Life is similar, Calvin realizes, as "a strict form, but freedom within it."

Meg says goodbye to the beasts and apologizes to her father for blaming him. Mr. Murry offers to go in her place, but Mrs Whatsit tells him to "allow Meg the privilege of accepting this danger." Mr. Murry advises Meg not to be afraid of fear.

The women give Meg parting gifts. Mrs Whatsit gives Meg her love. Mrs Who gives her advice in a quote, saying, "The foolishness of God is wiser than men." Mrs Which then takes Meg to Camazotz.

As Meg stands on the hill looking over the town in Camazotz, Mrs Which gives Meg her gift. She says Meg has one weapon—something IT doesn't have—but she needs to discover this weapon herself.

Meg walks through a quiet Camazotz toward the domed building where IT lives. She wonders what her weapon is. Resistance? No, IT can resist. Mrs Who's advice was meant to make Meg appreciate the way she is, although she isn't as smart as IT. Mrs Whatsit's love is "quite something" coming from a being like Mrs Whatsit.

Meg reaches the dome and sees Charles Wallace still crouched beside IT. Charles Wallace greets her and says, "We have been waiting for you." He knew Mrs Whatsit would send her. Meg feels herself almost succumbing to IT. She experiences feelings of anger and hate, and wonders if those are her secret weapons. Her hatred nearly consumes her, but then she recalls, "IT knew all about hate."

Charles Wallace then says, "Mrs Whatsit hates you." Meg replies that Mrs Whatsit loves her, and she discovers this is her answer. She has love from several people in her life, whereas IT doesn't have love. She thinks of her little brother, and how much she loves him. As her love grows stronger, Charles Wallace slowly stops his strange behavior. He walks toward her and then runs into her arms, calling her name. Charles Wallace is back.

Meg feels the two tessering again. She and Charles Wallace fall to Earth, and land in Sandy and Dennys's vegetable garden. Her father and Calvin are there to greet them, and the family has a joyful reunion. Meg can feel the presence of Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which, but the women leave for an unknown errand before they have a chance to say goodbye.


Even the all-powerful Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which can't solve every problem. Mrs Whatsit tells Meg, "This is not our way." They are guides and leaders, but they don't do the hard work for humans.

No one tells Meg she will have to save Charles Wallace. She accepts the task herself, which is an important step for her. Meg has to prove to Mrs Whatsit that she has "grace" and "understanding." As Meg takes a step toward responsible adulthood, her feelings toward her father change. She realizes his job isn't easy either.

However, Meg is still her father's child, even if Mr. Murry can't protect her anymore. His resistance and anger stem from his love for Meg, and Mrs Whatsit doesn't blame him. Calvin is also adjusting to the fact that his age and physical strength can't protect Meg. He is used to seeing her as "backward" and vulnerable.

Human emotions come to the forefront under stress. Calvin and Mr. Murry accuse others of betrayal. Meg acknowledges she is terrified. How should people act in terrifying times when the future is uncertain?

Mrs Whatsit offers one solution. Using Calvin's interest in language and poetry, she gives him a message of independence, strength, and responsibility. The "strict form" of the sonnet can represent situations people are unable to control. Although people may not choose the circumstances of their lives, they can choose how to react to these circumstances. They are empowered to determine their own futures and can shape their own identities.

Life on Camazotz may be comfortable, and Camazotz residents do not experience fear of the unknown. But not knowing what will happen is a risk humans accept in exchange for freedom. A Wrinkle in Time encourages readers to view the unknown with wonder and anticipation.

Before Meg leaves, she reaches a new understanding with her father. She accepts the fact that he is simply human, and he accepts the fact that she is growing up. Meg has learned that her own humanity and "foolishness"—weakness, insecurities, and fallibility—can help her. The passage Mrs Who quotes from the first book of Corinthians in the Bible is meant to encourage followers of God who think they are foolish or weak. They don't have to feel powerful to do powerful things.

Meg sees herself as weak compared to the powerful IT and the wise Charles Wallace. IT has intelligence, knowledge, and control, which Meg lacks. She may think she has "nothing that IT hasn't got," but the book likes to upend expectations. Weaknesses become strength and power.

The nature of Meg's "weapon" becomes an important question near the end of the book. Weapons are usually associated with violence and force, so Meg initially thinks of her weapon as resistance, hate, and anger. Instead, she comes to understand that her weapon—love—is simple and humble, something she took for granted in Chapter 3.

Meg loves Charles Wallace even though he can't return her love in his current state. Her love is selfless. She brings "all her weakness and foolishness and baseness and nothingness" to IT, and doesn't try to hide who she is. Charles Wallace responds to the genuineness of her love, and love is the last transition the book needs. The tessering back to Earth happens quickly.

The story ends on a joyous note. The description of the garden and its "sweet smelling autumnal earth" recalls the pleasures of nature and the human world. Characters have traveled all over the universe, but planet Earth is still home.

However, not every question is given an answer. The reader doesn't know the fate of Camazotz, or whether the Black Thing still shadows Earth. They never learn where Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which go when they leave, but the book shows that the Murry family's happiness is enough.

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