A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time Summary and Analysis of Chapter 8: The Transparent Column


As the children continue to sit and eat their turkey dinner, Meg despairs that the Charles Wallace sitting before her isn’t the Charles Wallace that she knows. Though he looked like Charles Wallace, he also had the “sameness” about him that the other people on the planet Camazotz had. Meg screams at the Man with the Red Eyes, but Calvin tells her to save her energy and that what they should do is try to hold on to Charles Wallace as best they can.

They each grab his arms, but Charles Wallace is now stronger than he was before. He releases himself from their grasp and Meg tries to tackle the Man, but is stopped by his body guards. Calvin tackles Charles Wallace and tries to physically restrain him. Charles Wallace tells them that they’ve all been wrong and that Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which are actually their enemies. Eventually the Man’s bodyguards pry Calvin loose from Charles Wallace and he tells them again that they’ve been wrong and that they’ve actually been fighting their “Father’s friend.”

Meg yells again at the Man for putting Charles Wallace under a “spell,” and the Man tells her that is a primitive way of seeing things. Charles Wallace tells her to “relax” because “on this planet everything is in perfect order because everybody has learned to relax.” Calvin asks the Man who he is, and he only answers that he is the “Prime Coordinator.” The Man tells them that Charles Wallace will “conduct” them to their father. As they leave, Meg wants to take Calvin’s hand, but refrains, feeling that she has to do this on her own.

As they walk down a long corridor, Meg tells Calvin that he should try to use the powers of persuasion that the three ladies had given him before they left. He agrees to try, and attempts to talk with Charles Wallace. He almost succeeds in breaking the “spell,” but Charles Wallace narrowly avoids his methods of persuasion. He tells them that they need to continue on to see “Murry,” and when Calvin asks if that’s what he calls his father, Charles Wallace answers that “Father? What is a father?...Merely another misconception.”

He then begins to tell them about the planet Camazotz. He tells them that on Camazotz they had “conquered all illness, all deformity...” No one suffers - if they catch a cold or become sick in any way, IT simply puts them to sleep. When Calvin asks if they are murdered, Charles Wallace retorts that murder is also a “primitive word.”

As they approach a wall, Charles Wallace touches it and it separates into a door. Calvin asks how he did that, and Charles Wallace tells them that he simply rearranged the atoms. He tells him that all things are mostly made up of blank space, and rearranging the atoms allows him to create the doors they walked through. They are then in an elevator, heading upwards, and Charles Wallace reminds them that “On Camazotz we are all happy because we are all alike. Differences create problems.” He tries to remind Meg of the problems that she has at school because she is so different, and Meg responds that though she doesn’t always like being different, she doesn’t “want to be like everybody else, either.”

As they exit the elevator, almost leaving Calvin stuck behind the wall, Charles Wallace tells them about IT. He tells them that IT is the “Boss,” and that IT calls ITself the “Happiest Sadist.” He tells them that the reason they have wars and disease on earth is because they don’t have a central mind like IT. On Camazotz, they have none of that because IT runs everybody’s life for them. The three ladies, he tells them, simply don’t understand what is good for them. When he tells them that no one suffers or is unhappy here, Meg responds that no one is really happy either.

As they walk down another hall, Charles Wallace moves one wall and they see a boy bouncing a ball in a room. The boy looks to be in great pain. They realize that it is the boy they had seen earlier who had mistakenly dropped his own ball. Charles Wallace tells them that he won’t make that mistake again. They then enter another room and see a large translucent tube with a man in the middle of it. Meg shouts out, “Father!”


L’Engle again uses the physical characteristics of the children to illuminate the forces of good and evil that are the driving themes of the narrative. Charles Wallace’s features are described in an almost angelic way, yet Meg can tell that the person in front of her is not really Charles Wallace. It is only his eyes - which retain their blue color, symbolizing goodness - that let her know that a part of him is still there. This also illustrates one of the major lessons of the book - that one cannot judge the character and goodness of a person simply by their exterior features. Charles Wallace’s features retain their childlikeness, but his interior retains nothing of his original character.

When Meg asks the Man with the Red Eyes who he is, he tells her that he is the “Prime Coordinator.” This term is a play on the cosmological argument “Prime Mover,” which asserts that there is a first cause for existence. For example, in Christian and Jewish cosmology, God would be the “Prime Mover.” L’Engle uses that term here, but modifies it a bit so that it loses much of its original significance, just as on the planet Camazotz anything that might be regarded as holy or sacred loses its meaning. By saying that one is just a “coordinator” and not a “mover,” L’Engle means to suggest that the force behind this particular planet is less than holy, though it tries to frame itself within a religious framework.

The scene in which Meg wants to take Calvin’s hand, but refrains, is also symbolic of the ways in which L’Engle’s characters develop. Meg - who had been wholly dependent on both her family’s support and what others thought of her - finds it in herself to become independent and self-sufficient. Through this progression, L’Engle asserts a narrative of strong feminine independence in which individuals begin to accept themselves and the world around them for who they are.

Charles Wallace, having been taken over by IT, begins to tell the other children more about the nature of the planet Camazotz and who IT is. One particular phrase he uses is worth mentioning.: Charles Wallace describes IT as the “Happiest Sadist.” This is a malapropism, meant to convey the conflicting nature of life on Camazotz. A sadist is a person who takes pleasure from inflicting pain on others. Thus, IT derives his happiness from making others miserable, a state that contradicts Charles Wallace’s previous statement that everyone on Camazotz is “relaxed” and happy. The phrase is a malapropism because it deliberately confuses the word “sadist” with “saddest,” words that, though they sound similar, have completely different meanings.

This “happy sadism” is illustrated when Charles Wallace moves one of the walls and the children see the boy from a previous chapter who had mistakenly not bounced the ball in the correct rhythm being punished for his mistake. The boy is obviously in pain and Charles Wallace gleefully tells them that the boy will not make that mistake again. The mood of this planet is thus firmly established in this chapter as a world in which appearances of happiness are simply facades for an underlying deep pain caused by the Dark Thing.