A Wrinkle in Time is a fantasy science fiction novel written by Madeleine L’Engle, first published in 1962, during the peak of the Cold War. It is a story about Meg, a twelve-year-old girl, who saves her father from the IT, a dark intellectual force that enslaves people’s minds.
A Wrinkle in Time is a great example of allegorical Visionary Fiction. It allegorizes absolutism. Madeleine was criticized for blatant anti-communist propaganda, which is, in my humble opinion, short-sighted. The glove of this allegory fits all kinds of ideologies, including fascism, neo-religion, and capitalist meritocracy – the latter the most subtle of all.
Madeleine pictures the IT as a dark force and a huge brain. Absolutism can take on many forms, but usually has these two elements: intelligence and gloom. To understand the two, we need to invite Friedrich Nietzsche and Carl Jung to the review table.
1882, Nietzsche proclaimed God’s death. What killed him? Science. Science is rational and so is absolutism (religion is dead, long live absolutism). In the aftermath of God’s death, people faced three choices:
Hang on to religion no matter what
The absolutists of the late 19th and early 20th century wanted to distance themselves from their religious ancestors. That is the reason for embracing a rational body of thought and orderliness, preferably with a scientific foundation. Absolutism overemphasizes order.
Mind you, intelligence and wisdom are two different things. Intelligence is the ability to discern and reason, wisdom is knowledge of universal principles. Unguided intelligence always fails, and that’s why smart people can be surprisingly pigheaded. And that’s why we can find irrational ideals at the hearts of idealism, like racism, elitism, the annihilation of private property, or glamorized greed.
What about the allegory of the dark force? Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious explains that. All humans share in the collective unconscious that contains archetypes, common sense, and shared emotions. At the end of the nineteenth century, Europe’s collective unconscious was a mess. It was the peak of the Victorian Age, an over-rational age and time of emotional suppression and rampant drug abuse. People lacked emotional intelligence and below the calm surface of Victorian rationality lurked untamed inner demons – resentment, traumas, paranoia, misogyny, and racism. Europe’s collective unconscious was a powder keg, ready to explode. And it did so twice – with WWI and WWII. Jung foresaw that. He had a visionary dream of Europe drowned in blood.
Back to the story. Three odd ladies, Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, inform Meg that a dark force trapped her father on another planet. Meg, her brother Wallace, and her school friend Calvin space-jump with the help of a tesseract to save Meg’s father.
A Wrinkle In Time is at the fringes of Visionary Fiction. Meg does not go through a transformation and there is no enlightenment involved, except for the global story climax. Meg defeats the IT with the power of love. Were it not for that, I would not have written a review for this story. But enlightenment and love always go hand in hand. Love is the key to enlightenment. Love redeems. Light and love.
Meg rescues her father, but she doesn’t vanquish the IT. This is true for absolutism to date. We know how dangerous absolutism is, but what about those intellectual-idealistic structures that keep doing their thing unnoticed in the collective unconscious? A lot of psychological and enlightenment work remains to be done, which is one of the crucial Visionary Fiction chores.