Why “A Wrinkle in Time” Missed the Mark

by Diana Belchase

Like thousands of other Americans, I eagerly awaited the release of the movie, A Wrinkle in Time. As a kid’s fantasy adventure, it contained the special effects, star-studded cast, and fast action  designed to create a modern blockbuster. A film you waste a couple of hours on and then forget. It’s not the type of film to change anyone’s life, and that is exactly the problem.

Wrinkle Cover

It wasn’t surprising to me that the audience was comprised of women — some my age, some older, some younger — who came without kids, without friends, to see the film version of a treasured classic. The truth is, Madeline L’Engle changed lives with her book.

I am sure of this, because she changed mine.

A Wrinkle in Time was published in 1962 — a year when children didn’t read sci-fi, female heroines weren’t math geniuses, and the cold war was in full swing. While I didn’t come to know the book until many years later, by the time I got to reading it, we were still afraid of Russia and communists, women weren’t encouraged to study math or be scientists, and kids still didn’t read sci-fi.

I’m glad at least one of those things is no longer true.

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I read the book when I was eleven years old. It contained only one illustration — an ant crawling along the hem of a woman’s skirt. It had quotes by deep thinkers in languages I couldn’t read. It discussed math and scientific principles I’d never heard of and didn’t have the background to understand. It described order as evil and monsters as aunts and deep philosophical ideology I couldn’t fathom. It had women in role models I’d never heard of.

For all these reasons I fell totally in love with it.

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So in love, I tried to memorize the quotes in both the original and translated — yes there was a translation — forms. So in love, I constantly looked words up in a dictionary and grew frustrated as the words, which I immediately loved and breathed in like a new kind of air, impeded my progress through the incredible tale L’Engle spun.

Let me give you a taste. Here is the opening paragraphs of L’Engle’s book:

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