Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Wrinkle in Time: A Heroine for Odd, Awkward Girls

Today is Madeleine L’Engle’s birthday.  There are many literary touchstones for young women writers:

--wanting to be Jo in Little Women
--the Jane Eyre vs. Eliza Bennet debate
--Nancy Drew: good or evil?
--imagining Laura Ingalls writing on her yellow tablets

But I’m certain that every young girl of a literary bent just has to be absolutely enthralled when encountering A Wrinkle in Time for the first time:  odd, awkward Meg is the ultimate appealing heroine for odd, awkward girls with a literary bent.

While I was in Iowa this summer, I brought home a few beloved childhood books, including my copy of A Wrinkle in Time (my name and phone number penned inside).  It’s amusing to read the first line:

It was a dark and stormy night.
Surely the author is having some fun with that!

But we quickly get to the heart of the conflict in the next paragraphs:

            In her attic bedroom Margaret Murry, wrapped in an old patchwork quilt, sat on the foot of her bed and watched the trees tossing in the frenzied lashing of the wind.  Behind the trees clouds scudded frantically across the sky.  Every few moments the moon ripped through then, creating wraithlike shadows that raced along the ground.
            The house shook.
            Wrapped in her quilt, Meg shook.
            She wasn’t usually afraid of weather.  –It’s not just the weather, she thought.  –It’s the weather on top of everything else.  On top of me.  On top of Meg Murry doing everything wrong.
            School.  School was all wrong.  She’d been dropped down to the lowest section in her grade.  That morning one of her teachers had said crossly, “Really, Meg, I don’t understand how a child with parents as brilliant as yours are supposed to be can be such a poor student.  If you don’t manage to do a little better you’ll have to stay back next year.”
            During lunch she’d rough-housed a little to try to make herself feel better, and of to the girls said scornfully, “After all, Meg, we aren’t grammar-school kids any more.  Why do you always act like such a baby?”
            On top of this, we learn that her father is mysteriously missing.  Trouble upon trouble upon trouble.  Poor Meg.  How can an odd, awkward girl save the day in the end?  And yet she does, giving hope to odd, awkward girls everywhere.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.