These notes were contributed by members of the GradeSaver community.
We are thankful of their contributions and encourage you to make your own.
Written by people who wish to remain anonymous
The Importance of Empathy
The novel explores the issue of pain and how being hurt by someone makes it difficult to view them empathetically. The narrative shows this difficulty through the conflict between Meg Murry and Mr. Jenkins. He fails to see how his response to Meg Murry is interpreted as antagonism (or maybe even represents exactly that), and throughout the book, Meg struggles to maintain a view of Mr. Jenkins that is empathetic.
Meg's issue is an exploration of how her disappointment with Mr. Jenkins treatment of her and her family makes it difficult to perceive him correctly, and in the story, she is asked to reconcile this misconception, having to select the real Mr. Jenkins from a lineup of replicas, and having to deal with the monstrous facsimile of him that seems to represent her subconscious view of him.
In the end, they work together and are both helped by the cosmic helper. She comes to view him with charity toward the end of the novel, and appreciates him in ways that she had previously not.
Knowledge and Intelligence
L'Engle's novels often deal with how being intelligent can isolate someone from their peers, and this novel is no exception. Meg is moved to action when she sees how Charles Wallace's genius is costing him in school. This is an issue she has dealt with in A Wrinkle in Time.
Another expose of this theme occurs when the angelic alien, "Proginoskes," helps the siblings to come to peace in the narrative conflicts of the book. Proginoskes is a Greek word containing the stem for "knowledge," which may be intended to show how understanding is an advantage in succeeding against the enemies (Echthroi) of life.
Another aspect of this is Meg's struggle to have a true view of Mr. Jenkins. Her emotional experience of him leads her to view him as monster, and to perceive herself as a victim of his evil, instead of correctly identifying that the Echthroi afflict all humans and all humans are in need of cosmic help and salvation.
Proginoskes as a Christ-character; Cosmic Love
The extraterrestrial angel Proginoskes can be seen as a reference to the Biblical character of Jesus Christ, in that Progo teaches the children to use supernatural powers to communicate telepathically, and that he assists them in their fight against the evil Echthroi, eventually even laying down his life and wellbeing for the hope of their success and life.
Madeleine L'Engle often employs Christian imagery and philosophy in her novels, which allows for an allegorical interpretation of the story. Through that lens, the story functions to show how through Christian love and empathy, we overcome our natural shortcomings (portrayed through Charles' mitochondrial disease), we accomplish empathy (shown in Meg's conflict with Mr. Jenkins), and in the end, overcome the attacks of the enemy.
The Conflict Between Good and Evil
In this story, L'Engle paints a portrait that includes the unseen forces of good and evil, which both act upon the natural world and the humans in a contest over their well-being and the state of their mind and soul. This is seen through the characters' struggle against the Echthroi, and the cosmic help that Proginoskes offers in that struggle.
This theme underscores the importance of openmindedness and right thinking. If, as L'Engle suggests, there are supernatural forces impacting the literal world in unseen ways, then it follows that humans ought to continually guard themselves against attack through the invocation of divine help and by continuing to do what is right, including having love and empathy for people who are difficult to view charitably.
Update this section!
You can help us out by revising, improving and updating