A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time Summary and Analysis of Chapter 4: The Black Thing


Meg suddenly feels her self transported into what feels like another dimension. Charles Wallace and Calvin disappear from around her and all “light and sound” vanished. She feels as though she is moving through a “horrifying void.” Soon Charles Wallace reappears and she can see him, though she feels distant from him, and soon she also sees Calvin again, though it feels as if she's looking at him through a 'shimmering' veil. Eventually, she also materializes from her previous state, and finds that all three of them are now in an open field, surrounded by mountains, with the summer sunlight beaming down on them.

Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which also materialize in a jovial mood, but they tell Meg that what they are embarking on will be serious business. They tell her that the life of her father is at stake - and something more, something they cannot fully reveal at this moment. Charles Wallace knows what it is, but he cannot fully communicate it. When Calvin asks where they are now, the women tell him that they are on “Uriel, the third planet of the star Malak in the spiral nebula Messier 101.” Calvin wants to know how they arrived there, and Mrs. Whatsit tells him that they weren’t traveling by normal means, but instead they all “tessered” or “wrinkled.” This reminds Meg of her mother’s word, tesseract, and she wonders if it is related.

The women tell the children that there father isn't on this planet. Instead, they stopped here to rest, as well as to show them something. Mrs. Which then tells Mrs. Whatsit to “show them.” Mrs. Whatsit begins to transform herself out of her old body and into an indescribable creature, best pictured as a horse with wings. When Calvin falls to his knees to worship the thing, Mrs. Whatsit tells him to never do that to her. The children climb onto the back of the creature and they begin to fly.

They gaze at the new world around them and are amazed by its beauty. They fly over a garden “more beautiful than anything in a dream” that is filled with creatures like the one Mrs. Whatsit had become. They are singing, but not from their throats - rather from their wings. Though Meg cannot understand the music, Mrs. Whatsit implores Charles Wallace to translate it. On Charles Wallace’s face, Meg can see the look of someone trying to wrap their minds around a great puzzle. Mrs. Whatsit soon translates it, and the words begin with “Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein....” Meg feels a “pulse of joy” at these words, though Mrs. Whatsit sighs with a “whisper of doubt.”

Mrs. Whatsit calls for other beasts to bring the children flowers that they will need for their journey. They all begin to move upward and the world below begins to disappear. They have to breathe through the flowers they have because of the lack of oxygen as they continue to rise. Soon they reach the plateau of one of the mountains. Before their eyes, they can see a moon, and behind them empty space, and Mrs. Whatsit makes them watch the empty space. They stare into the thin atmosphere and soon they see a growing shadow out in space. Though Meg can’t adequately explain it, it is “dark and dreadful” and it covers the light of the stars. Calvin wants it to go away because he feels it is evil, and soon they can no longer stare at this darkness. Mrs. Whatsit descends back into the valley and Meg asks whether the dark thing they saw was what her father is fighting.


This chapter begins to openly depict L’Engle’s themes on science and creation, and also introduces the concept of evil into the story line in a more tangible way. As has been the case through the novel to this point, L’Engle does not write about fantastic lands or the implications of faith and religion to the exclusion of science. In her storylines, science plays an integral, fundamental part. Mrs. Whatsit explains that the children had been transported to another land not by traveling at the speed of light, which even Calvin recognizes is impossible, but through a tesser, or as she describes it, a “wrinkle.” Here, then, the reader has to either suspend disbelief in terms of adhering to principles of the mundane world or subscribe to the alternative reality of the new one.

This harkens back to the discussions of mathematics and physics that Meg had with other characters, including her mother. L’Engle, therefore, does not simplistically rely only on elements of magic, but introduces concepts of hard science, which will be further explored in future chapters, to propel her characters and story. In this way, L’Engle might be said to be of the first children’s authors to formulate a kind of magical realism, though her style is much different than other authors associated with that genre. An astute reader of A Wrinkle in Time will constantly look to the text for clues as to what genre the book represents - and as a result, what philosophy L'Engle truly espouses. Is she prosleytizing to children? Is she simply trying to open their minds? Is she not writing for children at all? More and more, it seems that she's attempting to have children think for themselves and make their own conclusions as to what constitutes reality.

And yet, L’Engle does not ignore the spiritual side of her story either. She readily uses creation myths pulled from a Christian framework to create the world of Uriel. As the children fly over the world, L’Engle introduces a garden, meant to represent the Garden of Eden, and the song that the creatures there sing is taken from the book of Isaiah. It is a hymn that the angels in heaven sing. L’Engle uses the world of Uriel to represent purity and new creation, something akin to heaven, though this world is not divorced from science and reason.

From the top of the mountain, the children get the first real glimpse of the evil they will try to combat. It is worth noting that the children could not see the evil darkness until they flew to the top of the world, out of the normal atmosphere. L’Engle suggests here that humanity is actually blinded to the reality of evil in the world - not just microcosmic sin, but the macro-form of sin and evil inherent in mankind. The stimulants of the everyday world has distracted us from the sin we commit in living our lives so blindly.

This blindness to true sin is also a fundamental concept found in Christianity. By leaving the constraints of the lower world, the children can truly see evil for what it is - a menacing dark shadow that obscures the light of the stars. This is a not-so-subtle metaphor for the concept of evil and darkness that lives in nature. The question is how the children can fight evil when they do not understand its true nature. In learning about the whereabouts of their father, they'll come to see that he was fighting a fundamental battle between a good and evil much stronger than what they've ever known.