A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time Summary and Analysis of Chapter 2: Mrs. Who


The next morning the storm has passed and Meg hopes that the scene of the previous night was all just a dream. When she goes downstairs to find her mother making French toast for the twins, however, her mother reminds her that it was all very real. Mrs. Murry tells Meg that tesseract used to be a joke between her and Meg’s father and that she will tell Meg what it means later. The twins chide Meg for being so strange and they implore her to act more normal, which in turn just makes Meg more bitter.

At school, Meg can’t remember a fact about Nicaragua and gets in trouble with the principle for smarting back at her teacher. The principle, Mr. Jenkins, tries to encourage Meg to do better in school, but after Meg is smug with him as well, he says coldly that her father is never coming home. Meg is sure that the postmistress, who saw her father's last letter a year ago, has spread news of his disappearance throughout the town.

When Meg gets home from school, Charles Wallace implores her to go with him to see Mrs. Whatsit in the haunted house in the woods. Though Meg is still wary of Mrs. Whatsit, Charles Wallace insists that “She’s on our side.” As they walk through the woods to the house, Charles Wallace says that he wants to find out more about tesseract and to warn Mrs. Whatsit and her friends to be more careful and not steal sheets.

During their walk Chalres Wallace asks Meg about her day at school, and when she tells him she got in trouble with Mr. Jenkins, Charles Wallace says that he already knows. Meg asks how he can know, whether he can read her mind, and Charles Wallace tells her that it’s more that he can understand her inadvertent language, like understanding “the wind talking with the tress....”

When Fortinbras barks up ahead, they know that someone is near. They run after the dog and find him barking furiously at a boy. Meg tells Charles Wallace that this boy is Calvin O’Keefe, a boy a few grades up from Meg who is currently on the basketball team. Calvin questions what Meg and Charles Wallace are doing, but Fortinbras growls at him when he tries to leave. Calvin is surprised at the way that Charles Wallace talks because he had assumed he was a “moron.” Calvin tells Charles Wallace that he’s a “sport,” which means “a change in gene resulting in the appearance in the offspring of a character which is not present in the parents but which is potentially transmissible to its offspring."

Calvin tells Charles Wallace and Meg that he had had a “compulsion” telling him to come to the haunted house this afternoon, an inner voice that he felt like he always had to follow. Charles Wallace believes Calvin, invites him for dinner, and tells him that Meg isn’t “one of us” but that she’s “not really one thing or the other.” Charles Wallace leads the two to the haunted house, a menacing place (though Charles Wallace assures them it is just “props”), and they meet Mrs. Who in the house’s kitchen where she is furiously stitching together sheets. Charles Wallace tells her that she shouldn’t have taken those sheets, and Mrs. Who responds, quoting Pascal, that “The heart has its reasons, whereof reason knows nothing.”

Mrs. Who tells him that they are going to use the sheets to dress up as ghosts, though they didn’t mean for Charles Wallace to find out. He asks her if she knows Calvin, and she answers that “I think he’s a good one.” Then she says that “he needs our help,” and when Meg asks who “he” is, Mrs. Who tells her it’s her father. She then sends them off with another quote (“Faith is the sister of justice), imploring them to eat up and get some rest. As they head back to the Murry house, Calvin comments that he’d never seen their house before but that “for the first time in my life I’m going home!”


After the night with Mrs. Whatsit, Meg finds that she is as much of an outsider now than she’s ever been. Her tiredness after the long night doesn’t help her memory, but she finds that she simply cannot complete the simple school tasks that her classmates can. In this way, L’Engle presents Meg as a classic character of the hero/quest genre of novel. Often, the main characters of these stories are forced to undertake journeys of extraordinary difficulty because they can no longer be a part of their home communities - because they don’t fit in or because they have been cast out. They can undertake such journeys because they have special gifts or talents that were not apparent at first or unacceptable to their communities. This form of mythmaking stretches historically all the way back to classic Greek epics. The character of Meg, then, appropriately stands within that tradition.

Meg’s character, however, represents a trailblazing character in the realm of young adult fiction. As L’Engle has commented, one of the reasons she believed her novel had trouble getting published was because at that time there simply were no female characters in science fiction literature. It should be remembered that L’Engle’s book, published in 1962, also chronicled the real-life issues of fitting in with friends and family, issues of conformity, that would play a large role in the social life of the 1960s. Meg’s character, in this way, also stands as one of the first characters to portray the real issues of youth during this time.

Meg, also, is not particularly meek as a character. She rebels against authority with a keen sense that she has larger priorities than worrying about the answer to classroom questions about Nicaragua. Where other fantasy characters are plucked from their worlds and spend a good portion of the time expressing agog at their new lives, Meg seems more than ready to escape the mudane clutches of reality and launch herself into something more significant.

The characters of Meg and Charles Wallace are loosely based on Albert Einstein, the famous physicist. Einstein, as a child, had trouble with speech, just as Charles Wallace did, and also had trouble with fitting in during his early school years. The issues of conformity, in this chapter, are presented as a clash between those with special talent and intelligence and those without. L’Engle’s characters highly value the skills required for deductive reasoning, and she makes this case when Meg suggests that it is pointless to learn facts about imports and exports - when she possesses analytical skills that are far more valuable. L’Engle greatly values the kind of intelligence that allows an individual to see the world in a different way. Just as Einstein saw the world in a different way, so too are Meg and Charles Wallace gifted with a talent that sets them apart.

L’Engle also introduces here a concept that will be important for the rest of the novel: the combination of faith and reason. L’Engle herself was a religious person and saw one of the keys to understanding the universe to be her own religious faith. Just as Mrs. Who quotes Pascal’s line on the heart and reason, L’Engle suggests that having the faith to love is also a key component to what makes her characters different and special.