In this lesson, you will get an overview of the Time Quintet, also know as ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ book series. The five science fiction/fantasy books, written by Madeleine L’Engle, share common characters and themes.
The Time Quintet
QUESTION: What do time travel, psychic abilities, religious symbolism, and adolescence have in common?ANSWER: They each play a role in the books of the Time Quintet.The Time Quintet is a series of five science fiction/fantasy books written by Madeleine L’Engle.
The books, published over a span of 27 years, began with A Wrinkle in Time. L’Engle won the Newbery Medal for this book, honoring her outstanding contribution to children’s literature. Such high acclaim set the stage for a very successful book series.
Meet the Murry Family
Each book in the series centers on a member, or a few members, of the Murry family.
This family is very loyal, loving, intelligent, and high-achieving. Both parents work as scientists, and their various experiments sometimes unintentionally end up in time and/or space travel and encounters with unusual beings.Over the span of five books, the characters grow older and change life roles. Ideally these books should be read in order; however, L’Engle does a good job of connecting new information to the past, making each book understandable on its own.Take a look at the following list of characters and their descriptions (encompassing all five books):
- Dr. Alex Murry: father, astrophysicist, advisor to the U.
- Dr. Kate Murry: mother, Nobel Prize-winning scientist, beautiful woman
- Meg Murry: awkward adolescent, wife, mother of seven
- Sandy and Dennys Murry: athletic school-age twins, attorney, doctor
- Charles Wallace: a prodigy, possessing high intelligence and psychic-like abilities
- Calvin O’Keefe: teenager from a poor family, popular and high-achieving student, husband of Meg, doctor and noted researcher
- Polly O’Keefe: daughter of Calvin and Meg, multilingual high school student
You might have noticed the high level of intelligence and achievement in this crowd! Add to this a highly intuitive and open-minded way of experiencing life and you have The Murry Family.
Books, in order, include:
- A Wrinkle in Time (1962): Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin go on a quest to rescue Dr. Murry from the planet of Camazotz.
- A Wind in the Door (1973): Charles Wallace is suffering from a disease that affects his blood. With the help of Calvin and the principal at Charles Wallace’s school, Meg must complete certain tasks in order to save her little brother.
- A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978): An evil South American dictator threatens a nuclear attack. Charles Wallace must go back in time to attempt to change history.
- Many Waters (1986): Sandy and Dennys get curious about something in their mother’s lab and end up back during the time of Noah’s Ark in the Bible. Before returning to the present, they have the important task of helping to heal a deep family conflict.
- An Acceptable Time (1989): While spending some time with her grandparents, Polly steps into a culture that dates back 3,000 years.
She gets involved in a conflict between different tribes and must find a way to help make peace without losing her life.
Coming of Age
The Time Quintet books are ideal for children as they make the transition into adulthood. The protagonists are young teenagers and children, and they experience common adolescent woes:
- Meg is awkward and unpopular at school, and her self-esteem is quite low as a result.
- Calvin comes from a poor, unsupportive family.
- Charles Wallace gets picked on at school.
- Polly does not understand her family’s lifestyle.
The thoughts and concerns of these characters weave their way in and out of the stories.
In the end, the characters always learn the necessary coping skills through their involvement in something of major importance in the universe.
Faith in Action
L’Engle was a practicing Episcopalian who had a deep respect for science. In an interview with PBS she stated, ‘Religion is less accepting than science. Science knows things move and change, and religion doesn’t want that. So I am more comfortable with science. At the same time, I am not throwing God out the window.
‘The five stories in the Time Quintet are dotted with Biblical references and themes, reflecting the author’s personal faith. In addition, L’Engle’s characters use magic, mythology, and psychic abilities in service of the higher good. The line between good and evil is always clear and this dichotomy drives the action in each story.
In the A Wrinkle in Time book series, evil is not limited to earth and humanity; it is a dark oppressive force that harms beings all over the universe.
In service of the higher good, characters in these stories rely on a wide range of mystical, scientific, and mythological experiences.
Most notable among these is the ‘tesseract,’ the act of moving through space and time at an abbreviated rate. By tessering, characters travel to distant galaxies and prehistoric times in order to fight the evil in the universe.
The A Wrinkle in Time book series is made up of five science fiction/fantasy books written by Madeleine L’Engle between 1962 and 1989.
These books are known for their unique blend of science, religion, fantasy, and the hardships of growing up.L’Engle described her books in an interview with Scholastic: ‘I don’t think my books tell a lesson, but they do tell a story. We do live in a world where there is darkness and light, and the sooner kids know that, the better.
They need to know that we have a choice, and we do have the option to choose good.’