The Light Shines in the Darkness {Book Club}

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” –Fred Rogers

This quote is not in the book, but from real life. Isn’t it encouraging, though, when faced with troubles in the world, to see that there is good countering it? As the children are sent to fight evil in order to rescue Mr. Murry, they are also encouraged by the knowledge that others have fought and are fighting this same evil.

Last week we had a lot of questions. In this section, we get some answers:

Tesseract: In The Avengers the tesseract is a device which allows one to travel instantly through space. In real life, as far as I understand, it’s a 4-dimensional geometrical shape. In A Wrinkle in Time tesseract is traveling in the 5th dimension. I appreciated the visual aid in chapter 5 showing how the shortest distance between 2 points is not a straight line but a wrinkle. I can understand that, even though I can’t visualize the 5th dimension.

We also find out that, not only did they tesser/wrinkle through space, but also through time, so that the children will arrive home 5 minutes before they left, thus the title of the book. Apparently, “it’s very easy to do if you just know how.”

The Black Thing: Or the Dark Thing, or simply the Thing. It is pure evil, the powers of darkness. Not only are stars shadowed by it, but our planet as well. Some planets have given in to it entirely, and it is on one of these that they will find Mr. Murry. On that subject, Mrs. Whatsit says, “For his children he may be able to do what he cannot do for himself.” What can a father do for his children that he cannot do for himself?

The Mrs. W’s: Mrs. Whatsit used to be a star, who gave her star life in the fight against the Thing. We aren’t told where Mrs. Who or Mrs. Which came from, only that they are much older than Mrs. Whatsit, which could imply that they were previously stars as well.

The Thing is not new, and throughout human history, it has been fought. Mrs. Who quotes John 1:5: Jesus fights this evil, as light shining in darkness. Then they name others who joined the fight on our planet: artists, scientists, composers, mathematicians, even Buddha.

This has caused some controversy. A Wrinkle in Time is one of the most frequently banned books in the United States for having such weighty subject matter and for this mixing of Christianity with science and philosophy. When it was first written, Christian parents did not want their children exposed to the secular references. If you watched the 2018 film version of A Wrinkle in Time, you saw that the Christian references have been removed for modern audiences. Why is this such a problem? Can the quest for what is true and good be considered a fight against evil if it neither begins nor ends with faith in Christ? Is all truth God’s truth?

Finally, almost halfway through the book, they arrive on Camazotz, which is where they are told they will find Mr. Murry. The Mrs. W’s cannot go with them, but they give them all gifts. We will get into these more as we talk about strengths and weaknesses in the conclusion, but here is a summary of the gifts:

  • Calvin: strengthened ability to communicate (from Mrs. Whatsit), a quote from The Tempest (Mrs. Who)
  • Charles: resiliency of childhood (Mrs. Whatsit), a reminder that he doesn’t know everything (Mrs. Who), a warning against going off alone, pride, and arrogance (Mrs. Which)
  • Meg: her faults (Mrs. Whatsit), glasses to use “as a last resort” (Mrs. Who)
  • All: instruction to not let themselves be separated (Mrs. Which)

Camazotz is eerie. The capital city is “perfect,” which is why IT is there. IT talks to them, via a man with red eyes, then through Charles Wallace, explaining what makes Camazotz ideal. In his own words:

“For you, as well as for the rest of all the happy, useful people on this planet, I, in my own strength, am willing to assume all the pain, all the responsibility, all the burdens of thought and decision…I am peace and utter rest. I am freedom from all responsibility. To come in to me is the last difficult decision you need ever make…We let no one suffer. It is so much kinder simply to annihilate anyone who is ill. Nobody has weeks and weeks of runny noses and sore throats. Rather than endure such discomfort they are simply put to sleep…On Camazotz we are all happy because we are all alike. Differences create problems…Nobody suffers here…Nobody is ever unhappy.”

What is the deal on Camazotz? What are your thoughts on IT’s philosophy of sameness and annihilation of suffering and responsibility?

P.S. Tune in next week for the thrilling conclusion, as we discuss Chapters 9-12.

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

15 Comments

  1. Amy Young February 11, 2019

    I am loving this book!!! I had forgotten the Christian tie-ins. Not surprising I had forgotten, since it was years ago when my mother read this out loud to me and my sisters :-)! I’ll see more when I’m not on my phone, but I just wanted to give a shout out to great books read and community!

    1. Rachel Kahindi February 13, 2019

      Reminds me of the CS Lewis quote, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

      1. Paulette February 15, 2019

        Ooh…wonderful quote! Writing this one down.

  2. Elizabeth February 12, 2019

    The book is SO good, one of my childhood (and adult!) favorites. It’s a pity the movie did not in any way do it justice (except for the beginning and ending scenes, which is not enough in my opinion).

    I tend to think of cult leaders when thinking of the way IT wants to control people’s thoughts. . . .

    1. Rachel Kahindi February 13, 2019

      Totally like cult leaders! It also brings to mind Big Brother and the Thought Police from 1984.

  3. sarah February 12, 2019

    Hi friends, unfortunately I’m not able to read the book this month, but A Wrinkle in Time has been one of my favorites throughout my life.
    I thought I’d throw out a book suggestion, though. Last month I read another Newberry winner that repeatedly references A Wrinkle in Time and was quite an enjoyable book – When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Might be a good companion read to AWiT.

    1. Rachel Kahindi February 13, 2019

      Hey, thanks! I haven’t heard of this book, but it sounds good.

  4. Ruth February 12, 2019

    This has been on my to-read list for years, and I’m really enjoying it. And I’m interested to see how the Christian themes come out in the last section (and if/how they get out of this mess)!

    1. Rachel Kahindi February 13, 2019

      I love it when I finally get to read a book that’s been on my list and end up really liking it!

  5. Kristi February 13, 2019

    I think L’Engle does a great job of making IT seem evil, dark, and dangerous. I am intrigued to hear that this book has been banned in some cases because of the mix of Christian references and philosophy/science. It is interesting that there are direct Biblical quotes, and Jesus is even mentioned (at least once) as a source of ‘light’ fighting the darkness, but in the same way that artists or crusaders of justice (like Ghandi) are lights. I love the powerful good vs. evil portrayal, and I think that it does not hinder the Christian message, but rather opens the door to explore it further. What do you think?

    1. Rachel Kahindi February 13, 2019

      What I see in this is that even people who do not know Jesus recognize evil in the world and want to make the world a better place. This is a witness to the goodness of God and also an example of people as image bearers. I think mentioning all of those names brings to mind many more ways people try to create order in the world, following in the footsteps of our Creator.

      Authors who write fantasy with faith take a huge risk because there will always be readers who cry heresy. I’ve seen criticism of CS Lewis’s theology in The Chronicles of Narnia and The Space Trilogy — but those are all fiction and not an explanation of his theology at all! Fiction ferries nuggets of Truth to us, not to be taken literally but to give us just a bit deeper understanding of something real.

    2. Paulette February 15, 2019

      After John 1:5, I admit to being taken aback by the diversity of the list of fighters, though I certainly wouldn’t ban the book!

      All goodness and truth and beauty are reflections of God’s character, right? So even though these glimpses of who He is are far from perfect in a fallen world, I think they can open the door to explore the Christian message further, as you suggest, Kristi, and to seek after the Source of all that is good and perfect. Is one reason that mankind tends to be attracted to goodness and beauty and truth because these qualities, wherever they are seen, stir a hunger or longing for the real thing? As we know that longing can only be fully met in Jesus.

      Rachel, loved your insight that by creating order in the world, people follow in the footsteps of the Creator.

  6. Sarah Hilkemann February 13, 2019

    “Differences create problems…” This is scary! And yet how often do we see that today? We are so often afraid of what is different and so we gravitate toward that which is like us. One of the sweetest lessons I learned in my life overseas was to appreciate differences, whether it was in the food available, the views of the culture, the backgrounds of other expats or the personalities of my teammates. I can still be quick to judge, but I also value different perspectives.

    Lots of richness in this book, and I am looking forward to the last section next week!

    1. Rachel Kahindi February 13, 2019

      Yes! Totally. I have also come to value diversity. There’s a lot we can learn from people who are different from us. It’s what I love most about cross culture life. 🙂

  7. Paulette February 15, 2019

    Wow, Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin were given quite an overwhelming task – to fight evil by going behind the shadow, without much understanding of what the shadow even was or what part they would play in the battle. What a powerful picture of how Jesus calls us to fight by going into the darkness, probably without understanding exactly what we are getting ourselves into. That’s not just me, is it? Doesn’t the darkness of this world turn out to be darker and closer-to-home and more ominous and overpowering than we could have possibly imagined?

    But Jesus, the true Light, came into the darkness first! He shined in our hearts first and now shines His light through us. And we never walk alone.

    Heading into the last section of this book, really hoping that the children will not have to face the shadow alone, and that whatever battle they are about to face will result in victory over the powers of darkness, and reunion with their father and entire family!

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