It’s recently been announced that Ava DuVernay is going to be directing a movie adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s famous novel, A Wrinkle in Time. Since first reading it seventh grade, this is a book I’ve returned to again and again. Blending science fiction and the growth of a defiant yet lovable heroine, Meg Murray, L’Engle takes readers on a journey through time and space—and also through the heart.
Meg is a refreshing character because she’s not a typical heroine. Flawed and marked as a social outcast by her high school classmates, Meg’s beauty is revealed in her development as a character. This ability to change but also remain essentially herself is the dynamic force that allows her to go on an interplanetary journey in search of her father and little brother.
In anticipation of seeing this powerhouse character come to life on the big screen, here's a look at why women everywhere can learn from and relate to Meg. [Editor's note: For the spoiler-averse, be warned—plot points are discussed here!]
SHE’S GOT GRIT
L’Engle’s famous opening line, “It was a dark and stormy night” is a fitting way to introduce readers to Meg, for the storm described is not just an exterior reality, but also the state of Meg’s own heart. She struggles in school; her classmates and teachers alike find her stubborn and uncooperative. Despite this, Meg is quite smart. She understands math easily, and like her parents, who are both scientists, she can wrap her head around large scientific concepts. Meg also carries the burden of her father’s disappearance (at the story’s opening, readers learn that Mr. Murray was working on a scientific project with the government and has not been heard from for many months) with poise.
Though it is painful for Meg and her three brothers to cope with this uncertainty, when other realities enter her life—namely, the arrival of three witch-like women who bend the time-space continuum, so Meg and company can follow Mr. Murray—she takes them in stride. She does not shy away from the task of attempting a rescue mission for her father, even though it means brushing up against evil and putting her life in danger on the strictly controlled planet of Camazotz, where her father is being held prisoner.
From Meg, I’ve learned that perseverance, even in the midst of what seems to be hopeless, is a beautiful trait that I want to develop in myself. Maybe I don’t get the job I was applying for, maybe the plan I’ve made to see a friend I haven’t talked to in awhile falls through, but these do not define my worth, nor my future success. I must keep trying—keep applying, replan a visit, and not give up.
SHE LOVES FIERCELY
From the moment readers meet Meg, her love for her family, and especially her little brother, Charles Wallace, is clear. She fights boys at school who say Charles is stupid (because he doesn’t talk much in public). When Charles’ brilliant mind gets him in trouble at times, it is Meg who realizes “she could stand there and love [him]” no matter what despicable thing he's up against. It is this same love that leads Meg on the search for her father. And it is this love that allows a loving relationship to develop between Meg and Calvin, a classmate who has accompanied Meg and Charles on their journey.
Meg reminds me that being open to love is a way of being in the world. Meg is beautiful because she fights for those she loves. She comes to learn that sometimes the greatest fight love must be used for is the battle with indifference. From the way Meg loves, I am reminded that reaching out to those around me is perhaps the most important job I will have in life. I am not my day job, my appearance, my thoughts. I am an expression of love called to love others.
SHE USES HER FLAWS
A poignant moment in A Wrinkle in Time happens right before Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace begin their mission to find Mr. Murray. Each of the children is given a gift by the witches, who have been guiding their journey. Meg is given the gift of her faults. Though Meg is initially taken aback by this gift—“but I’m always trying to get rid of my faults!”—she comes to see that her faults can also aid her in her fight against the dark things she encounters. Instead of fearing the controlling power that tries to take over her mind, Meg gets mad. She becomes sullen and is able to use her stubborn streak to persevere on her journey.
Meg’s flaws also help her love others such as her father more deeply. At one point in the book, Meg must come to terms with the fact that her father is not omnipotent and cannot fix everything. At first she gets angry at him, but later she is able to understand that he, like herself, is imperfect.
Meg’s use of her imperfections helps me to see mine more creatively. Sometimes a flaw contains a kernel of goodness in it. Maybe I worry too much about just about everything. But in my worried nature, there is also a genuine concern for others, and an attention toward another’s needs. Though I want to worry less, I don’t want to erase this part of myself. Knowledge of my flaws, and the desire to work with them, is necessary for me to grow into the best version of myself.
When I first picked up A Wrinkle in Time, I never realized what an impact this story would have on me. Madeleine L’Engle surprised me with a heroine who is an ordinary person, with her strengths and her weaknesses, who both needs and is needed by others. Her discovery of herself within this story—as a beloved daughter, sister, and friend—makes this story timeless, a book in which I can also rediscover parts of myself again and again.