Study Guide

A Wrinkle in Time Chapter 1

By Madeleine L'Engle

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Chapter 1

Mrs. Whatsit

  • Meg sits alone in her attic bedroom on a dark and stormy night, terrified that the roof's going to blow off.
  • She thinks about all the things that happened that day to confirm her loser status: her teacher threatened to make her stay back a grade because she's so dumb, her so-called friends made fun of her for being a baby, and she got in a fight after a boy talked smack about her little brother.
  • Underlying it all is her grief about her father, who is missing and has been for some time.
  • Another source of worry: she heard at the post office that there's been a tramp (a homeless wanderer) nosing around the neighborhood, who stole some sheets.
  • Meg goes downstairs to make herself some cocoa, passing the door of the bedroom belonging to her twin brothers Sandy and Dennys. The twins are obnoxiously normal in comparison to her own oddball identity.
  • Meg arrives in the kitchen to find her youngest brother, Charles Wallace, already there with the family dog, Fortinbras.
  • Charles Wallace had already put a pot of milk on the stove for Meg, and she reflects on her brother's uncanny ability to read her mind and her mother's.
  • Charles Wallace and Meg are both considered by the townspeople to be a little slow, but their parents think they're just developing at their own pace, and are really very intelligent.
  • Part of the reason for the poor opinion of Charles Wallace is that he doesn't talk much around strangers, but in the family he talks like someone much older than his five years.
  • Mrs. Murry, the kids' mom, joins them in the kitchen, and Charles Wallace makes everyone sandwiches, including a tasty liverwurst-and-cream-cheese one for his mother.
  • Meg feels much better in the light and comfort of the kitchen.
  • Mrs. Murry talks about an unsatisfying conversation she had with the mother of the boy Meg had fought earlier that day. She wishes Meg wouldn't be so extreme about everything, but instead would find a happy medium.
  • Meg is both impressed and depressed by the fact that her mom is not just a brilliant scientist, but also gorgeous to boot.
  • Mrs. Murry, at Charles Wallace's prompting, assures Meg that she was awful-looking when she was Meg's age.
  • Charles Wallace says that he would like to talk to his new friend Mrs. Whatsit about Meg.
  • Upon questioning from his family, he elaborates: Mrs. Whatsit lives with two friends in a house in the woods that's rumored to be haunted, and Charles Wallace met them chasing after the dog.
  • That very same dog starts acting strangely, growling in the direction of the Mrs. Murry's lab, which leads to the outdoors.
  • Mrs. Murry goes out to investigate and comes back with a strange little person wrapped in scarves: Mrs. Whatsit.
  • Mrs. Whatsit unwraps herself and, with help from Mrs. Murry, empties out the water from her boots. All the while Mrs. Whatsit is saying things that make it sound like she knows more than she should about the Murrys.
  • Meg thinks that Mrs. Whatsit is probably the tramp she heard about, and Charles Wallace gets the strange woman to admit to being the sheet thief.
  • Mrs. Whatsit gets ready to leave, but drops a mysterious bombshell on Mrs. Murry before she leaves, saying that there is such a thing as a tesseract.
  • Mrs. Murry is blown away by this cryptic pronouncement, and Mrs. Whatsit blows out the door.

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