Fifty Years of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’

Original 1962 edition of
A Wrinkle in Time

Half a century ago this year, my nine-year-old soul was impacted by a brand-new book called A Wrinkle in Time. At that tender age, I was already a devoted science-fiction fan, starved for books to read. (I got hooked on SF at age five while watching black-and-white TV space operas like Space Patrol and Tom Corbett—Space Cadet.)

I still remember seeing A Wrinkle in Time standing upright on the “new arrivals” shelf at my elementary school library. The cover illustration—three silhouetted children inside of radiating concentric circles—attracted my attention and the intriguing title pinned my imagination to the wall.

I checked the book out, took it home, and got lost in it. I’ve re-read the book many times since. I remember being impressed by the way L’Engle seamlessly wove science and religious themes throughout the story.

A Wrinkle in Time contains many biblical quotations and allusions. For example, the beings of the planet Uriel sing lines that echo passages from Isaiah and the Psalms, and the character Aunt Beast quotes from Paul’s Roman epistle. The angelic Mrs. Who quotes Paul the Apostle’s words from his first letter to the Corinthians—words I adopted many years later as a central theme of my Timebenders series:

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are (1 Corinthians 1:27-28 NIV).

The spiritual warfare theme of good versus evil, light versus darkness, in A Wrinkle in Time is more than just a matter of dramatic conflict. It mirrors the spiritual struggle that all believers understand—a struggle against hidden authorities, not flesh and blood. The book calls the reader to reject neutrality and join the cosmic conflict in the real world.

A Wrinkle in Time also introduced my young mind to the concept of paradoxes, which are commonly found in both the world of physics and the world of faith. I would define a paradox as a statement or condition that contradicts logic and reason but which is true nonetheless. For example, experimental physics shows that light is both a particle and a wave, even though logically this cannot be true. Rationally, light must be either a particle or a wave, not both. Yet it is both. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double-slit_experiment.)

Animation of a tesseract.

One of the paradoxical concepts Madeleine L’Engle wrote about in A Wrinkle in Time is the five-dimensional tesseract—also known as a hypercube, a geometric construct that exists in four dimensions of space and one dimension of time. L’Engle uses the tesseract as a device for “warping” space and allowing travel across the universe without being restricted by the speed of light.

L’Engle paid a price for including such advanced concepts of both faith and physics in A Wrinkle in Time. The manuscript was rejected twenty-six times before she found a publisher, and one of the criticisms she heard again and again from editors was that young readers would be turned off by these advanced scientific concepts. But she persevered, found a publisher—and was vindicated by her readers.

Ideas like the tesseract were heady concepts for my nine-year-old mind, and I eagerly absorbed them, thought about them, and wondered how much of it was true. Concepts many editors condemned as “too advanced” for young readers were, for me, the essence of its appeal. And when I began writing my Timebenders series in 2001, I was encouraged by L’Engle’s bold ideas to include some challenging concepts of my own. And my editors, to their credit, didn’t raise an objection and tell me I had to “talk down” to young readers.  

I believe one of the many reasons I embrace both science and the Christian faith today is because of the influence, fifty years ago, of A Wrinkle in Time. If you’ve never experienced A Wrinkle in Time, now would be a good time to discover it. If you enjoy the book as I do, maybe it’s time to read it again.

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