A Wrinkle in Time | Study Guide

Madeleine L'Engle

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A Wrinkle in Time | Chapter 9 : IT | Summary

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Summary

Meg rushes to the column but can't go through the transparent wall. Charles Wallace laughs when she stumbles backward. She notices her father's hair has grown long and gray, and his glasses are missing. Calvin explains that Mr. Murry can't see them. Meg pleads with Charles Wallace to let her in, but Charles tells Meg she will have to go to IT first.

Calvin recalls the lines from The Tempest Mrs Who gave him in Chapter 6. He realizes Charles Wallace is the spirit trapped in the cloven pine and urges him to come out. When Charles shudders and falls to the floor, Calvin realizes he was almost successful. Meg encourages Calvin to try and release their father. Then she remembers she has Mrs Who's glasses.

As Meg puts the glasses on, Charles Wallace lunges toward her to grab them. Meg barely has time to run through the transparent door inside the column with her father. Charles Wallace tries in vain to stop her.

Meg reaches her father and they have a warm, joyful reunion. However, Meg discovers her father can't see her, Charles Wallace, or Calvin. She gives her father Mrs Who's glasses, and he can see the atoms rearranging in the wall. He recognizes Charles Wallace but can tell something is wrong with his son. Mr. Murry goes through the column, leaving Meg alone briefly before he comes back for her. As they exit the column, Meg feels the presence of the Black Thing, but she knows her father will keep her safe.

Outside the column, Charles Wallace waits, saying, "IT is not pleased." He rejects Mr. Murry's greeting, disrespectfully calling his father "Pop." Meg tries to explain Charles Wallace isn't his ordinary self. Charles Wallace prepares to take both of them to IT. Mr. Murry, who has seen IT before, protests that Meg couldn't hold out against IT's strength.

They leave the column and enter the hallway, where Calvin waits. Meg is discouraged—she thought everything would be all right once she found her father, and hoped he would make all the decisions. Instead the situation is growing more complicated. She resists going any further to IT, but Calvin says they need to stay with Charles Wallace.

The group leaves the CENTRAL Central Intelligence building. They walk toward a dome glowing with light. Meg feels a "rhythmical pulsing," similar to a heartbeat. She feels things can't get any worse.

Inside the domed building is IT, a large disembodied brain, surrounded by a "red fog." The brain is a horrifying sight, and it transfixes Charles Wallace. Meg dimly hears her father telling Calvin not to give in. She worries she will lose consciousness and fall into IT's rhythm, but remembers that Mrs Whatsit told her to use her faults of "anger, impatience, stubbornness."

Meg tries to recite the Declaration of Independence. When she says, "All men are created equal," Charles Wallace says Camazotz has equality with "everybody exactly alike." Meg is confused for a moment but then responds, "Like and equal are not the same thing at all!" Her father praises her from a distance.

Meg still knows she is no match for IT's power. A voice within her says if she destroys IT, she will destroy the real Charles Wallace. Meg wonders if everyone on Camazotz will die if IT dies. At her father's urging, she recites the periodic table of elements, but her recitation becomes "too rhythmical" to resist IT. She switches to reciting square root functions. She still feels her concentration breaking as IT absorbs her.

Calvin tells Mr. Murry to tesser. Mr. Murry grabs Meg, and she is yanked into darkness.

Analysis

Vision and sight are often synonymous with power and knowledge. Mrs Who calls this knowledge "virtue." With Mrs Who's glasses in her possession, Meg has power combined with love. She can walk through barriers to get to her father.

The glasses also reveal how science lets people see things in a new way. When Meg's father puts them on, he can see atoms rearranging in the wall. Meg is also fascinated by how atoms work. She compares the wall to a curtain of rice, giving the reader an image to illustrate the concept.

When Mr. Murry is trapped, his sight is limited. He appears to be "frozen in a column of ice." Evil and IT are associated with a darkness and cold that transcends the senses. The darkness is so thick that Meg can feel its surface.

The significance of the name IT becomes more apparent as well. "It" is used as a pronoun to describe an inanimate object, not a human. "It" can also describe an action, as when Charles Wallace says, "I wouldn't have done IT if IT weren't the right thing to do." The capital letters signify authority. Calvin sees another reason why IT wanted to trap Charles Wallace before trapping Meg or Calvin. Charles, like his father, is a delicate spirit who thinks too freely. He resembles "Ariel in the cloven pine."

Getting through the trials of Camazotz and saving her father was the first part of Meg's journey. Now the second part begins. She becomes focused on saving Charles Wallace. She also has to take charge and make decisions herself.

When Mr. Murry meets the "bewitched" Charles Wallace, Meg thinks, "Everything will be all right now." But her father has no luck. Mr. Murry reveals that he knows no more than Meg does. Meg's narrative then takes a turn she doesn't expect. Her father has always helped and guided her. In the first few chapters, she idealized him. Now she has to guide her father out of the column when he can't see. She silently pleads for him to save them, but he does nothing. Meg is going through a common coming-of-age process, realizing parents are imperfect human beings who aren't "omnipotent," or all-powerful.

What Meg wants is similar to the peace offered on Camazotz. She wants problems and responsibility taken out of her hands. But instead of the "happy and expected outcome," she gets the unexpected problems of a real adult life.

Before IT's form is revealed, the reader learns that IT has control over breathing and the beating of a heart. Meg feels her heart and lungs "worked by some outside force." She feels new experiences—like tessering—as physical transformations and sensations. The descriptions bring the reader close to Meg's experience, and show the vulnerabilities of having a human body. Breath and heartbeat keep people alive, and IT has complete control over life. Appropriately, IT turns out to be a brain, the body's control center of movement, thought, and speech.

IT is surrounded by a "red fog" and glow, similar to the man with red eyes. The choice of red, an abrasive color, may also reflect fears of communism. Red is a color associated with revolution and blood. The American fear of communist control in the 1950s was referred to as the "Red Scare."

The brain demands conformity, and Meg likes to argue. She fights Charles Wallace's assertion that "like" and "equal" are the same things. She believes people do not have to be identical to deserve equal treatment under the law. The political system of communism promised equality, suggesting that without the class divisions of rich and poor, everyone would have the same opportunities. But this system also required everyone to conform to the same ideas. There was no room for disagreement or dissent.

Meg's combative nature helps her fight IT, but so does her intellectual curiosity. She is not a well-behaved student, but she memorized the Declaration of Independence "simply because she liked it." She doesn't enjoy the step-by-step math at school, but she can perform square root functions in her head. Her intelligence, however, isn't enough to save her from being absorbed by IT. And when her father tries to rescue her, he makes a dangerous mistake.

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