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A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time

  

by Madeleine L'Engle

Analysis: What's Up With the Title?

A wrinkle in time is not what happens when you forgot that you were doing your metaphysical laundry and you leave Time in the dryer for too long. But, what, in fact, is it? Mrs. Whatsit uses the image of a wrinkle to explain the idea of the tesseract: making a connection between two faraway things in a way that bypasses the distance between them. (See "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory" for our attempt to make more sense of the tesseract.) The difficulty of understanding how this works is a feature, not a bug. By bringing in this concept that most adults, let alone kids, can't make heads or tails of, the novel forces its readers to grapple with the knowledge that there are some things they just don't understand. The handy-dandy illustrated explanation that Mrs. Whatsit gives puts the reader in the same position as Meg, of getting a vague sense of what's going on without really being able to pin it down. Winged centaurs and disembodied mind-controlling brains are all very well, but it takes a tantalizingly-close-to-being-understood-but-not-quite-making-sense physics concept to make us truly feel that there's more out there than we'll ever understand.

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