Study Guide

The Prime Coordinator in A Wrinkle in Time

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The Prime Coordinator

The Prime Coordinator, a.k.a. the Man with the Red Eyes, introduces Meg, Calvin Wallace, and Calvin O'Keefe to the power of IT. As befits someone who's really just a mouthpiece for someone else, his personal presence is disconcertingly vague:

Meg looked up at the fiery eyes, at the light pulsing above them, and then away. She tried looking at the mouth, at the thin, almost colorless lips, and this was more possible, even though she had to look obliquely, so that she was not sure exactly what the face really looked like, whether it was young or old, cruel or kind, human or alien. (7.81)

Meg's inability to look directly at the man, and Charles Wallace's sense that something is speaking through him, point to his insubstantiality as an individual. Like the turkey dinner he serves, he has the appearance being a person, without the actual content. The Prime Coordinator seems to be the villain at this point in the novel, but really he's just a front for the real evil big cheese, IT. Having our heroes meet the Prime Coordinator before facing off against the boss not only ups the ante for the final countdown by bringing Charles Wallace over to the dark side, it also makes IT seem even more horrible in comparison.

So the Prime Coordinator serves as the voice of IT. And what does IT have to say through him? He's got an idea to pitch, and it's a doozy:

"You see, what you will soon realize is that there is no need to fight me. Not only is there no need, but you will not have the slightest desire to do so. For why should you wish to fight someone who is here only to save you pain and trouble? For you, as well as for the rest of all the happy, useful people on this planet, I, in my own strength, am willing to assume all the pain, all the responsibility, all the burdens of thought and decision." (7.62)

Let's see, who else suffered and sacrificed himself in order to take a burden off a sinful population? Could it be...Jesus? Yes, the Prime Coordinator in an unexpected Christ-figure. But why bring Jesus into it? On the one hand, this could be a critique of Christianity. After all, one might say to Christ, as the kids say to the red-eyed man, I'd rather make my own decisions and bear my own burdens, thanks; I didn't ask you to save me, so why should I be beholden to you for doing it? On the other hand, this could be a response to the problem of evil, one of the most long-standing conundrums of theistic morality: if there's an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good God, why does he allow evil to exist? Setting up the Prime Coordinator as a false Christ-figure suggests that without free will, including the freedom to do evil, virtue is meaningless. Given how the theme of free will is treated in the rest of the novel, the latter explanation seems the more likely one, but making one of the most evil figures in the book also a Christ figure should be enough to make anyone stop and think about what the heck is going on here.

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