A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time Summary and Analysis of Chapter 6: The Happy Medium


The Happy Medium implores the children to look into her crystal ball again, and this time they again see the Dark Thing, but also a bright light that touched the darkness. When it touched the darkness, the light disappeared, and the Medium assures them that “it can be overcome.” When Charles Wallace asks what is happening, Mrs. Whatsit tells them that it was a star doing battle with the Dark Thing. The star won, but lost its life in the process. Mrs. Whatsit then informs them that she herself had once been a star and had done battle with the Dark Thing, which is why she has fallen into her current form.

The Medium begins falling asleep, worn out by the work, but shows Calvin and Meg their mothers in the crystal ball before they go. Calvin’s mother is disheveled and yelling at the other O’Keefe children while Meg’s mother is writing a sad letter to Meg’s father. This angers Meg and she stamps her foot and is determined to find her father. Mrs. Whatsit tells her that she will need that anger to fuel her search.

The three women transport the children off their current planet to the planet of Camazotz. The planet is very similar to earth with the same kind of trees and weather. The three women tell the children that they have to leave them now and that they will no longer contact them. As they leave, they give them gifts: Calvin the gift of communicating with others, Meg the gift of her faults, and Charles Wallace the gift of his childhood. As a last gift, Mrs. Who gives Meg her spectacles and tells her to only use them as a last resort. They tell Charles Wallace that things will be especially dangerous for him, that they should never separate and that he should not think that he knows everything.

When they disappear the children begin to walk into the nearby town. Everything in the town looks very similar. All the houses are the same and all the children playing outside are wearing similar clothes. Meg notices that there is something strange about the way the children are playing, and then realizes that they are all jumping rope and playing with balls in an exact rhythm. All their movements are coordinated and the same. As they continue to walk through the neighborhood, Charles Wallace sees one little boy drop his ball. The boy’s mother than comes running out of the house, screaming, and grabs the boy and takes him into the house.

Charles Wallace grabs the boy’s ball and the three children go up to the little boy’s house to give it back to him. His mother nervously answers the door, assuring the children in their section “never drop their balls.” The woman screams that she doesn’t have to let them in if they haven’t shown her their papers, and she slams the door on them. They then meet a paperboy delivering papers, each paper being thrown in the same arc and landing on the same place at the step of each door. The paper boy tells them that they aren’t allowed on the streets during this time.

When Charles Wallace questions the paper boy, he tells them that “Everybody knows our city has the best Central Intelligence Center on the planet. Our production levels are the highest. Our factories never close; our machines never stop rolling. Added to this we have five poets, one musician, three artists, and six sculptors, all perfectly channeled.” Charles Wallace feels very disturbed by all this, though he can’t read the thoughts of the boy or anybody else in order to really understand what is going on. The paper boy then directs them to the CENTRAL Central Intelligence Center and the children take off.

After Charles Wallace and Calvin argue over whether or not the three women really know all that much about what they’ve sent them into, they reach the CENTRAL Central Intelligence. Charles Wallace, again, tries to read the thoughts of the people around, but he is unable to probe their minds. He assures Meg and Calvin that they’re not robots, but they’re not like normal people either. Charles Wallace urges them to enter the Central Intelligence Center, but Calvin stops them, telling him that he has another compulsion - this one telling him that if they enter that building something terrible is going happen.


The Happy Medium’s offer to let the children see their mother gives L’Engle another chance to explore the dynamics of family. Calvin’s picture of his family is a dim one, and this draws he and Meg closer together. But Meg’s vision is of her mother, writing a lonely letter to her father that will never be delivered. This angers her and L’Engle here suggests that the love shared between family members can overcome the greatest of all challenges, including the Dark Thing which represents the apotheosis of evil. L’Engle’s characters do not simply act out of a desire to do the right thing, but are instead motivated and compelled by the love that bonds them all together. In this way, familial love is one antidote to the Dark Thing.

Another antidote to the Dark Thing, L’Engle suggests, is sacrificial love. Modeled on the Christian framework of the novel, the reader learns that stars and their searing light can defeat the Dark Thing, but at the cost of their own lives. Mrs. Whatsit is an example of this, a fallen star. This makes sense in the previous chapter’s naming of Jesus as one of the lights that have done battle with the darkness. The sacrifice of the star is based on the Christian model of Jesus, who is believed to have given his own life to defeat sin and evil in the world. Martyrdom, then, is almost a prerequisite to taking on evil, since the battle will inevitably lead to some form of self-destruction.

The planet of Camazotz is one of the novel’s most striking worlds. It is a picture of perfect conformity: all the houses look the same, all the people wear similar clothes, and they are all compelled to perform the same activities in similar rhythms. In a grand sense, L’Engle here is creating for the reader a world in which evil has taken over. This might seem odd at first, since one might imagine instead that such a world dominated by evil would be a place of immorality and violence. Instead, L’Engle suggests that such a world would be one of total conformity in which people and persons do not have the ability to be individuals.

In one sense, this can also be understood as a critique of communism. Camazotz resembles the kind of conforming world created by the Soviet Union. However, L’Engle’s chief intention here is not political but metaphysical. By creating this world as a metaphor for evil, she suggests that the true sin of humanity lies not in immorality but in conformity. The great advances in the world have not been through political measures but through creative ones. Artists and scientists and religious leaders have been the ones to move humanity forward. Progress has come through those who have bucked the system, not through those that chose to conform.

One other reference is worth noting in this section. In one line, Meg compares a man on Camazotz running to work as a “white rabbit.” This is a reference to Lewis Carrol’s novel “Alice in Wonderland.” In several places, L’Engle draws reference to “Alice,” the story of a young girl who enters an enchanted land much different than her own. While the two books share only a vague similarity, L’Engle does want to draw attention to the plight of her protagonists who have, themselves, gone down a figurative rabbit hole into a strange world.