A Wrinkle in Time
The highest praise I can give an adaptation is that this graphic novel version of the classic science fiction fantasy novel by Madeleine L’Engle gave me new insight into the beloved story.
Meg Murry struggles at school, for social and academic reasons. She’s too bright for the other kids to be comfortable around her, she’s too distracted to care about class, and she doesn’t even bother trying to fit in. Her younger brother, Charles Wallace, is thought to be “just not right”, subnormal, a moron, although in reality, he’s also a genius, and she gets in fights defending him. And her physicist father is missing.
I remember reading and loving A Wrinkle in Time when I was younger — what bookish child doesn’t identify with Meg? and hope that amazing creatures recognize one as special the way they do her? — but this visual take by Hope Larson led me to new realizations. Back then, I didn’t pick up on the implications about the father’s absence. The gossips aren’t shy about implying that the mother has failed and the father has run off with someone else, which may account for why everyone looks down on and pities Meg.
Like many special kids, Meg blames herself for being different, when it’s really the others who are lacking. She calls herself a monster, but among the many lessons taught by her adventures is the idea that what others call monsters can be the most wonderful and caring people.
And what adventures! Magical voyages to different planets with beings of amazing abilities. Mrs. Whatsit is the first to appear, with the acknowledgement that “there is such a thing as a tesseract.” Then Mrs. Who, with all her quotes and aphorisms, and Mrs. Which, who can’t quite manifest as human. They help the children venture to find their father and fight the evil influence of the Black Thing.
This book was my first exposure to adults who talk to kids as though they were real people. The early scene in the cozy kitchen, late night while the winds blow outside, and Mother talking to Meg and Charles Wallace as though they were all adults together, is heart-warming and reassuring, with comforting images of people who truly care for each other, in spite of their challenges, and lots of wisdom shared. I was also touched by a later scene where artists and thinkers are considered fighters against the nothingness.
Larson’s book is done in black and white with one other color, a shade of blue-grey that alternately reads as spooky — in scenes with unusual beings or different worlds — or comforting, at home with the family. Her strong, never-straight lines beautifully delineate the characters, with firm shadows grounding the images. Take, for example, the joy of Meg finding someone else like her, Calvin, another smart kid who’s been bumped ahead in school because he’s tall and can play basketball. Their budding relationship takes place mostly in looks and smiles. Or later on, when Charles Wallace is brainwashed, the way his eyes and expressions change.
Reading the story now, I was surprised by how constrained things used to be. Meg is called “inexcusably rude” for grumbling to herself in class when she can’t answer a question. Meg’s brothers blame her for “making everything harder for herself” and urge her to find a “happy medium”. She’s not “tractable” enough. That desire of the times, for everyone to fit in, may be why the planet where everyone works in concert is so frightening. Thank goodness we have imaginative works like this to show a different way, one that postulates love as the answer.