‘A Wrinkle in Time’ by Madeleine L’Engle was published in 1962.
Since that time, it has consistently made the American Library Association’s list of frequently challenged or banned books. In this lesson, you will find out why.
In an interview with PBS in 2000, Madeleine L’Engle held nothing back as she discussed book banning. She said, ‘Hitler and his cohorts started banning books and then to killing people. What you ban is not going to hurt anybody, usually. But the act of banning is.
‘This was a subject that was all too familiar to this award-winning author. Her book A Wrinkle in Time had been and continues to be challenged every decade since its publication in 1962.Individuals or groups can challenge a book’s inclusion in a library or curriculum if they feel that it has inappropriate content for its intended audience.
If libraries and schools determine the challenge is valid, they may decide to ban the book, or keep it off the shelves. Common reasons for challenging books include sexual content, profanity, violence, religious content, and material deemed ‘Satanic’ or ‘occult.’Needless to say, book banning is unpopular unless you are the one calling for the ban.
Some libraries and bookstores even celebrate ‘Banned Book Week’ by encouraging people to read books that others have banned.
A Wrinkle in Time
So what would anyone find offensive in A Wrinkle in Time? The story beautifully combines elements of science fiction, fantasy, and realistic fiction to tell a tale of good winning out over evil. In fact, this book won L’Engle a Newbery Medal for her contribution to children’s literature.It seems that the concepts of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are not as clear for adults as they are for children. Good is only good if it matches up with your religion. Evil is anything that does not fit into what your religion sees as good.
Clear as mud, right? Let’s examine some aspects of A Wrinkle in Time that have led to it getting challenged and banned.
Claim: Undermines the Christian Worldview
There were some that claimed that the book undermines the Christian worldview. In the novel:
- ‘The Happy Medium’ is the name of one of the characters. She is a jolly woman with a crystal ball who helps the children see what they are up against. To some, this is a direct reference to the occult, or mystical powers that do not come from God, or at least not the god of their religion.
- There are also the characters Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, who have been referred to as witches who practice black magic because of their supernatural abilities.
- The character Charles Wallace has uncanny abilities, like the ability to read minds, and this power is not attributed to God.
- And finally, when ‘fighters’ of the darkness are discussed, Jesus is listed along with Gandhi, Buddha, Leonardo da Vinci, Shakespeare, Beethoven, Copernicus, and others. Objections have been made on the basis that this challenges the deity of Jesus.
Claim: Too Religious
Ironically, the book was also banned based on the claim that the book was too religious. L’Engle does not attempt to conceal her Episcopal faith, and it certainly comes through in her writing. Good, evil, darkness, and light are central themes in this story. To some people this is offensive because it presents a story that is too rooted in Christian theology. For example, there are several references to verses in the Bible:
- The winged creatures on the planet Uriel sing (with their wings) part of Psalm 96: ‘Sing unto the Lord a new song, and His praise to the end of the earth.
- Mrs. Who explains, ‘the Light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not,’ a verse taken from the first chapter of John in the Christian bible.
- The creatures on the planet Ixchel are part of the fight against darkness, and they call themselves the ‘called according to His purpose,’ a direct reference to Romans 8:28.
- When Mrs. Whatsit transforms into her true, winged form, she looks so magnificent that Calvin kneels before her.
Her response is, ‘Not to me, Calvin. Never to me.’ Here the implication is that only God should receive such honor.
Since its publication in 1962, A Wrinkle in Time has been challenged and sometimes even banned by various groups and individuals almost every year.
Some protest that the book is too Christian, while others believe that it undermines Christian doctrines by presenting alternative views of good and evil.Madeleine L’Engle summed up her feelings about the whole thing clearly: ‘We find what we are looking for. If we are looking for life and love and openness and growth, we are likely to find them. If we are looking for witchcraft and evil, we’ll likely find them, and we may get taken over by them.’