A Wrinkle in Time
A Wrinkle in Time
by Madeleine L'Engle
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Camazotz and IT

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

IT, speaking through its various mouthpieces, portrays Camazotz as giving Disneyland a run for its money as the Happiest Place in the Universe. Here's what the IT-possessed Charles Wallace has to say about Camazotz:

"Why do you think we have wars at home [on Earth]? Why do you think people get confused and unhappy? Because they all live their own, separate, individual lives. I've been trying to explain to you in the simplest possible way that on Camazotz individuals have been done away with. Camazotz is ONE mind. It's IT. And that's why everybody's so happy and efficient." (8.80)

So Camazotz may look like it has a large population, but really it's like a Sims game where one higher power controls everyone. Free will is an illusion: anyone who deviates from the norm is considered a mistake, and either forcibly brought back into conformity or destroyed. It's utopia...or hell, depending on your perspective. IT says its various offshoots are happy, but does happiness have any meaning in such a tightly controlled system? Can people be forced to be fit one model of happiness? Camazotz forces Meg to confront her own assumptions that she'd be happy if she could just be more like everyone else.

It's common to think about fantasy novels as happening in a world only lightly connected to our own, in a time and place untethered to human history, but it's interesting to think about Camazotz in light of the historical moment in which A Wrinkle in Time originally appeared. The book was published in 1962, at the height of the Cold War, when the greatest threat to American freedom was Soviet Communism. What could rampant fears of a totalitarian social system, run by a single all-powerful dictator, preaching conformity to a single way of being, and symbolized by the color red, possibly have to with Camazotz, IT, and the man with the red eyes? We'll let you answer that one.

While Camazotz may be colored, in more ways than one, by the specter of communism, it also takes up broader questions of freedom, responsibility, and happiness that stretch far beyond the Cold War. The question of how to balance individual freedom with group coherence, and of whether it's better to fit in or to buck the system, continue to be subject to debate, and have no easy answers.

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