Saturday, September 26, 2009

All You Need is Love: Madeleine L'Engle's Meg Murry

OK Junkies, I'm fighting off the flu--crossing fingers it's not swine--and my belief that my favorite drug does indeed serve medicinal purposes has been reaffirmed. I've spent the last seven hours finishing Suzanne Collins's Catching Fire and I believe it has done more to suppress my cough, relieve my aches, and reduce my fever than the acetaminophen, vitamin c, tea, and lozenges I've been swallowing--well, maybe.

Although I'm tempted to gush about the courage of Katniss, I'll stick to my plan for this post and leave the gushing to my nose--I'm disgusting, I know. Oh don't worry, we'll return to the woes of Panem and District 12 on another day, but for now, let's talk about Meg Murry.

SPOILER ALERT: I am usually a huge stickler about spoilers--just ask my dad--but seeing how this book was published almost 50 years ago, I'm showing no mercy. So if you have not read A Wrinkle in Time, do so now.

Even though she has no special powers, she's not physically strong, she's not the smartest in her family, she's not sexy, and not popular, Meg Murry is the ultimate heroine. Actually, I think make those things her the kick-ass heroine she is.

In a Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle, Meg is awakened in the attic of her family's farm house by a storm. Her parents are scientists and her dad has been missing for weeks. Meg's an awkward and unattractive adolescent, with no friends except the lanky Calvin O'Keefe. She feels inferior to her beautiful scientist mother and can't connect with her two brainiac brothers, Sandy and Dennys.

She shares a special bond with her little brother, Charles Wallace, who has super-human intelligence and the ability to communicate with creatures across the space-time continuum. (Side note: I used to believe my little brother also had super-human intelligence and the ability to communicate with creatures across the space-time continuum, but ten years later, I'm still reeling from the disappointment when he reached puberty, fell in love with automatic weapons and Family Guy, thereby disproving my theory).

Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin end up travelling by tesseract, an actual wrinkle in the space-time continuum. Now, for me, this is where L'Engle goes from good to brilliant. I'm no scientist, and have never set foot into a physics or higher mathematics classroom. But I'm pretty sure L'Engle was on to something. I don't know if her explanation of the 5th dimension and space-time travel was based on any actual theories, and I'm feeling too woozy to look it up, but I'm buying it.

I took tesseracts as fact when I was eight and twenty years later I think L'Engle's description of time travel at least puts the writer's of Lost to shame. In addition, L'Engle's brilliance gives us creatures from other planets that defy our conventional notion of an alien. A creature who looks repulsive and ugly but is kind and loving, and aliens who feel instead of talk or think guide Meg, Charles, and Calvin on their journey.

Calvin is athletic, and Charles Wallace is too smart for his own good, but of course it is Meg who must save them and her imprisoned father. She doesn't karate chop her way to victory, or seduce the enemy, or even outsmart anyone. She saves the day with love. She overpowers the darkness of depression and self-doubt and loves her father, and Charles Wallace, to freedom. Now this might sound incredibly cheesy, but I've read the book 5 times and I feel the power of the message and the emotional truth of it each time.

Thus, my addiction began. I was hooked the second I finished it. At age eight, for the first time I felt the satisfaction and the longing at completing an amazing book. I was so fulfilled that it was so good, yet so sad that it was over. And I knew then, what I didn't remember until a few years ago, that this is what I want to do with my life. I want to write stories like this and make people feel that satisfaction and longing.

I devoured L'Engles other works. A Wind in the Door is arguably better than Wrinkle. It's darker, the stakes are higher, and the writing is more refined. But as my first taste of this delicious drug, I have a special fondness for A Wrinkle in Time. L'Engle's A House Like Lotus created in me the desire to explore Athens and its Ancient Greek ruins, a dream finally realized a few years ago.

I can only hope that the first dream Madeleine L'Engle inspired in me, to make a living as a young adult fantasy writer, will one day be fulfilled.

Ok, Junkies, sorry if I got a little sappy there, my fever is my excuse. Now I'm off in search of my next fix and the hope to escape with a heroine, and leave my headache behind.

1 comment:

  1. I loved the post, I just ordered "A Wrinkle in Time" from Amazon, and if you think you were disapointed when your little brother embraced automatic weapons and Family Guy...