A Wrinkle in Time | Study Guide

Madeleine L'Engle

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A Wrinkle in Time | Plot Summary

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Summary

Chapter 1|Mrs Whatsit

Teenager Meg Murry sits in her attic bedroom in the family's large farmhouse, while a storm rages outside. She is worried about her performance in school, but is more concerned about her father, who has been missing for over a year.

Meg goes to the kitchen where her mother, Mrs. Murry, and younger brother, Charles Wallace, are having a midnight snack. The three are visited by an old woman named Mrs Whatsit, a friend of Charles Wallace. Mrs Whatsit can't stay long, but she tells Mrs. Murry, "there is such a thing as a tesseract." Mrs. Murry is shocked.

Chapter 2|Mrs Who

The next morning Meg asks her mother what a tesseract is. Mrs. Murry says it's a concept she will explain later. Meg is distracted in school and sent to the principal's office. The principal, Mr. Jenkins, warns Meg her father might not come home.

In the afternoon Meg and Charles Wallace meet Mrs Who, a woman who lives with Mrs Whatsit in a farmhouse people believe is haunted. The Murrys run into Calvin O'Keefe, a popular older boy from Meg's school. Calvin says he felt a "compulsion" to come out to the woods. He reveals he is lonely, and happily joins the Murry family for dinner.

Chapter 3|Mrs Which

Meg and her mother discuss Charles Wallace, whose genius-level abilities set him apart from others. Mrs. Murry says she doesn't understand Charles Wallace, but she accepts him. Meg and Calvin go for a walk in the woods, where Calvin asks Meg about her father. When Meg breaks down crying, Calvin understands.

Charles Wallace finds Meg and Calvin, and tells them they need to leave for a mission. He is not sure where they are going, but the mission has something to do with their father, Mr. Murry. Joining the three children are Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and their companion, Mrs Which, whom the children see as a "shimmer," without physical form.

Chapter 4|The Black Thing

Meg feels herself yanked into a cold, dark nothingness. When she emerges she is on a field of grass surrounded by mountains. Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which explain they are on the planet Uriel, where they have stopped to rest. Mrs Whatsit transforms into a winged horse. The children ride on her back over Uriel. As the sun sets they observe a dark, menacing shadow over the planet. Mrs Whatsit explains Mr. Murry is fighting this shadow, called the "Black Thing." The children have been sent to rescue him.

Chapter 5|The Tesseract

Mrs Whatsit and Charles Wallace explain to Meg that they have used a device called a tesseract to travel through space-time. They travel to another planet to visit the Happy Medium, a fortuneteller. The Happy Medium shows the children that the Black Thing has shadowed planet Earth. Mrs Whatsit reassures them that forces throughout the universe are fighting the Black Thing. Some of the greatest fighters have been scientists, artists, and religious leaders on Earth.

Chapter 6|The Happy Medium

Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which send the children to the planet Camazotz, which has "given in" to the Black Thing. Each of the children receives a gift to help them fight. Meg is given her faults—anger, stubbornness, and impatience. Charles Wallace is warned not to let "pride and arrogance" betray him.

On Camazotz the children discover a suburb where all the mothers and children move in synchronized robotic ways. They travel to urban Camazotz and enter a mysterious building called "CENTRAL Central Intelligence."

Chapter 7|The Man with Red Eyes

In CENTRAL Central Intelligence the children find a man with red eyes, who encourages them to give in to Camazotz's powerful leader, a being called IT. He says this is the only way they will find Mr. Murry.

Meg and Calvin resist, but Charles Wallace feels he has the brainpower to learn more about IT. He also wants to find his father, whom he hasn't seen since infancy. Charles Wallace draws closer to the man with red eyes. Then Charles Wallace's behavior changes. Meg realizes Charles Wallace has been taken over by IT.

Chapter 8|The Transparent Column

The children continue through CENTRAL Central Intelligence to find Mr. Murry. Charles Wallace, now in the power of IT, tells Meg that conformity and obedience on Camazotz have solved all the people's problems. He claims differences and individuality make people unhappy. Meg tries to argue with him, and Calvin tries to coax the real Charles Wallace out.

Chapter 9|IT

Meg then sees her father trapped in a transparent column. She is able to reach him, using a pair of glasses Mrs Who gave her. Meg hopes her father will solve everything. But when Mr. Murry is helpless and unable to talk to Charles Wallace, Meg is disappointed. Charles Wallace leads Meg, Mr. Murry, and Calvin to IT, a large, disembodied brain with a rhythmic "heartbeat." Calvin and Meg almost fall into IT's power. At the last minute, Mr. Murry hurls Meg and Calvin through a tesseract.

Chapter 10|Absolute Zero

When Meg resurfaces, she is trapped, frozen, and on another planet with Mr. Murry and Calvin. Mr. Murry explains to Calvin that he and his fellow scientists were experimenting with interdimensional time and space travel, but the experiment went wrong. Mr. Murry realized he knew much less than he thought. Meg slowly recovers the ability to speak. She is furious with her father for not rescuing Charles Wallace. Mr. Murry tells her he is an imperfect human being, but he still has hope everything will work out.

Three large beasts with tentacles find Meg, Mr. Murry, and Calvin. They see that Meg needs immediate treatment and take her back with them, despite Mr. Murry's protests.

Chapter 11|Aunt Beast

Meg bonds with the beast who takes care of her, naming her Aunt Beast. Meg learns the beasts don't need sight—they know the way things are, not the way things look.

When Meg recovers, she reunites with her family. The beasts have been discussing a plan to recover Charles Wallace but haven't found a way. Meg grows increasingly frustrated.

Chapter 12|The Foolish and the Weak

Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which return and reveal that they can't save Charles Wallace either. Meg learns she will have to return to Camazotz on her own. She knows Charles Wallace best. Meg forgives her father and sets off on her journey. Mrs Which advises Meg that she has a secret weapon IT doesn't have, but she needs to discover this weapon on her own.

Meg returns to Camazotz and IT. Charles Wallace, trapped in IT's power, is waiting. Meg feels hate, anger, and resistance but realizes that IT has all those things. After Meg reflects on Mrs Whatsit's love for her, she knows IT doesn't have love. Meg feels her love for Charles Wallace, and slowly her brother breaks free from IT's hold on him.

Meg and the recovered Charles Wallace move through a tesseract, back to their home on Earth with Mr. Murry and Calvin. The Murry family joyfully reunites, and Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which leave for another journey.

A Wrinkle in Time Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction

Introduction

1 Meg meets Mrs Whatsit and Mrs Who.

Rising Action

2 Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace travel to Uriel.

3 The children learn about the fight against the Black Thing.

4 Charles Wallace is taken over by IT on Camazotz.

5 Meg rescues Mr. Murry from Camazotz.

6 Meg, Calvin, and Mr. Murry meet the beasts on Ixchel.

Climax

7 Meg volunteers to save Charles Wallace.

Falling Action

8 Meg rescues Charles Wallace from Camazotz.

Resolution

9 The Murry family is reunited on Earth.

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