Reading 'A Wrinkle In Time' For The First Time As An Adult Proved That This Book Is An Essential Read, No Matter Your Age
A devout bibliophile, I rarely allow myself to see a film adaptation before I've read the original book. So when it was announced that Ava DuVernay was helming A Wrinkle in Time film adaptation starring none other than Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to read a classic book from childhood I had somehow missed growing up. Little did I know that reading A Wrinkle in Time as an adult was exactly what I needed.
When you're a child, figuring out who you are and where you fit into the world can seem like an lonely and altogether impossible undertaking. Feeling like an out of place oddball, strange or stupid, insecure or altogether misunderstood by those around you is a nearly universal experience every kid goes through. Or at least, that is what the adults in our lives told us when we were young. What no one told me, though, what no one warned me about, is the undeniable fact that those feelings of otherness never quite go away, no matter how old you get.
Throughout my 20s, I have been dogged by this constant fear of being left out or let behind by those around me who seem to know the secret formula to happy, confident adulthood. Everywhere I look, my friends are moving on, getting married, having children, buying houses, and planning for futures they just seem so sure of. I, on the other hand, have been too busy agonizing over how utterly inadequate and ill-prepared I am for adulthood that I often wonder if I'm really there yet at all.
When I picked up A Wrinkle in Time for the very first time ever this year, I expected to find a charming children’s story with a fun plot and a heartwarming message about light’s ability to triumph over darkness. What I didn’t expect to find, right there on the first page of a middle grade novel published nearly 60 years ago, was a young girl who knew, who understood completely, what it was like to be me.
“It’s the weather on top of everything else,” Meg Murry, the book’s frizzy-haired, braces-wearing, socially awkward protagonist laments in A Wrinkle in Time’s opening passage. “On top of me. On top of Meg Murry doing everything wrong.” A square peg living in a world of round holes, Meg has spent her life feeling strange and out of place in every possible way. Despite being gifted at math and science, she struggles at school where her teachers find her troublesome and her peers think she’s weird. Aside from her younger brother, her scientist mother, and her missing father, there are few people who understand Meg, and who Meg truly understands in return. She is an outcast in every sense of the word, and despite being at least a decade younger than me, I could almost immediately see myself in her.
Like me, Meg Murry feels like there is something inherently wrong with her, something deep inside that keeps her from being as beautiful as her mother, as smart as her father, or as normal as her younger twin brothers. “Just be glad you’re a kitten and not a monster like me,” she says to her feline companion early on in the book, and her sentiment echoes something I have thought, if not said out loud, thousands of times before. Like the book’s young heroine, I can't help but feel flawed and beastly in my own skin. I might have ditched the glasses and the braces that make her feel even more self conscious, but underneath my contact lenses and straightened teeth, I might as well be Meg, sitting alone in the attic reliving every mistake I've ever made.
Throughout A Wrinkle in Time, Meg is self-critical to the point of cruelty, a nasty habit I myself am guilty of. She is quick to point out her own flaws, whether in her head to herself or out loud to those around her. She refuses to take comfort in her mother's reassurances that, with time, she will grow out of what every insecurities she has. Meg never feels sure of herself, but she does feel sure of her inadequacies.
But Meg is more than her flaws, doubts, and fears, and her journey through A Wrinkle in Time becomes emblematic of that. She isn't magical or particularly gifted, and yet, she is the ultimate hero of the novel: she saves her father from the Black Thing and rescues her brother's mind from IT using the things she has had inside of her all along. Anger, one of Meg's purported flaws, becomes a powerful tool that allows her to fight back in ways her companions aren't capable of. Even the unwavering love she feels for her family, the love she was told to abandon by those who were sure her father would never return, ended up serving its own purpose: it was the key to defeating IT.
As it turns out, Meg didn't need her brother's emotional intuition, her friend Calvin's confidence, her father's intelligence, or any of the other qualities she always saw herself as lacking, because everything she needed to be a hero was inside her all along. By embracing the things she had tried so much of her life to break away from, Meg not only saved her family, but learned to become her own person in the process.
"Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet," Mrs. Whatsit advises Meg, "You're given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself." And that is exactly what adulthood is, or so I’m slowly learning: an exercise in self-expression whose strict rules are really more like suggestions. For so much of my life, I too have tried to be a square peg in a world of round holes. Now, I'm learning from Meg's examples and carving out a space for myself, instead of carving myself down to fit into a space I never belonged in the first place.