“Teaching the Madeleine L’Engle Tetralogy:
Using Allegory and Fantasy as Antidote to Violence”
By Mary Warner
Story allows for humans, but more specifically for children and adolescents, to deal with aspects of life we least like to handle, be those evil or violence or the unexplainable, like death. From Shirley Jackson’s classic short story, “Charles” where a young kindergartner creates an imaginary naughty child to assume his bad behavior to Sarah Byrnes, Chris Crutcher’s heroine in serious and poignant, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, stories are the medium for facing reality while remaining shielded from the immediate harshness. Particularly when dealing with evil or violence, story-- more specifically in this article, allegory and fantasy--provide the channel to filter the pain in order to deal with it. Madeleine L’Engle’s four novels: A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet and Many Waters, are filled with allegorical elements and fantasy; these two elements, instead of causing these novels to be treated lightly or designated as merely “children’s works,” make the books powerful means for addressing the violence pervasive in the lives of so many young people.
I am not currently a middle or high school English teacher, though I did teach English/Language Arts in these settings for nine years; I am, however, an English Education professor who has truly been "up close and personal" with public school classrooms and with the pre-service teachers. I know in-service, veteran English/Language Arts teachers who are eager to find news ways to use story, and literature in general, for the great "end" all of us "literaphiles" desire: as a means to help our students find their life paths through the texts we so love.
The selection of the Madeleine L'Engle tetralogy for use in a curriculum of peace arises from my love of these stories as well as from the love young readers have for these books; my immediate "test case" has been nieces and nephews enthralled for hours by a read aloud of A Wrinkle in Time. These same children then avidly read the rest of the Tetralogy. I also offer these teaching ideas based on L'Engle works because I'm keenly aware of the desire to infuse "character education" into school curricula, particularly in these waning months of the 20th century and in anticipation of the 21st, and the Tetralogy so viably achieves such integration. Further, I offer a range of strategies, fully aware that teachers will select whatever they esteem as usable and beneficial for their teaching context; I give more suggestions than teachers might want to use or be able to use primarily because I appreciate options and because my work with pre-service teachers leads me to see that in the case of strategies for discussion of literature: More is better.
L’Engle’s books fit the created category of Young Adult literature in that the protagonists are adolescents or younger, and these protagonists narrate. The themes of the books, though, clearly are not bounded by age-specificity; rather each novel addresses the large universals of human experience. Also, while often the novels have been read by middle school students, the richer implications of the allegory are better interpreted by high school students. In exploring the theme of the darkness, both literal and metaphorical which clouds Earth and all its inhabitants even into the waning years of the twentieth century, A Wrinkle in Time draws readers through the allegory to the real and challenges them to discover what each has to counteract the forces of hate and evil. A Wind in the Door examines the inner sickness that can stifle human growth, particularly the growth of the spirit. Through the fantastic environment of the mitrochondria and farandola which are literally and scientifically too minute to be explored, L’Engle presents the all-important philosophy:
Remember, Mr. Jenkins, you’re great on Benjamin Franklin’s
saying, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we will all
hang separately.” That’s how it is with human beings and
mitrochondria and farandolae—and our planet, too, I guess,
and the solar system. We have to live together in—in
harmony, or we won’t live at all. (A Wind in the Door147)
The next two novels, A Swiftly Tilting Planet and Many Waters both explore the deplorable reality of enmity between brothers or in families and communities, again using the adolescent protagonists who see the reality through those who are lovers of peace and those who are not.
Since L’Engle’s novels are not necessarily among the canonical texts and
thus teachers who are so time-bound by curricular demands and end-of-course tests might not feel they can justify teaching one or more of the novels, a rationale for teaching the works does need to be established. I argue that the Tetralogy pervasively and comprehensively discusses many issues of violence from responsible use of the planet’s limited resources to the human aversion to difference and the consequent attacks on any person of difference. Additionally L’Engle uses allegory and fantasy as media for her narrative and thus provides readers with contemporary textual experience in these literary techniques.
In North Carolina where I am currently teaching, the ninth grade end-of-course test has a major component evaluating knowledge of literary term. L'Engle's novels, sometimes categorized as science fiction, provide engaging reading with easily comprehensible uses of symbol, fantasy and allegory and would be most appropriate for this group. Time might not permit the total-class study of more than one of the Tetralogy; A Wrinkle in Time might be the best of texts to cover in class. The other three novels could be used for out of class reading and literature circles. The tenth grade curriculum in North Carolina (and in other states as well) requires the study of world literature, culminating in a writing test involving a prompt that always includes discussion of literary elements. Because the world literature curriculum often includes selections from the Bible, Many Waters would be an excellent text for students to study. This novel would clearly offer an extension of the Flood story and would make a wonderful parallel with the Gilgamesh epic.
A working definition of fantasy suggests
Fantasy is a “conscious-breaking free from experienced
reality that can be seen in several contexts: a work taking
place in a non-existent and unreal world; a work that
concerns incredible and unreal characters; or a work that
employs physical or scientific principles not yet discovered
or contrary to present experience ” (Thrall, Hibbard, Holman 198).
In the Tetralogy, L’Engle creates several non-existent worlds in order to better expose the real world of late twentieth century United States. In seeing the world of Camazotz, which L’Engle creates in A Wrinkle in Time, the reader meets what could be seen superficially, as an ideal world. The man with the red eyes assures Charles Wallace, Meg and Calvin, that indeed Camazotz is a world without pain. All the hard decisions of life have been taken away from the citizens, but then the precious gift of freedom has also been taken.
In A Wind in the Door, the unreal world of “inside” helps demonstrate how the exterior world can be recreated. In this same novel, the “Echthroi,” incredible characters who are always at the site of war and evil, work away at young farandolae to prevent these vital-to-life microscopic elements from “deepening” and performing their essential role in the life chain.
The non-existent world of time travel is the basis of both A Swiftly Tilting Planet and Many Waters. In the former, Charles Wallace goes “inside” several males in the Welsh line of Mrs. O’Keefe, traveling from “long ago to Salem, MA in the 1640’s and eventually to the l860’s in both Civil War America and Vespugia in South America. In the latter, Sandy and Dennys go back into Pre-flood period in the desert of Noah’s era, experiencing the world of such evil that the God who created would destroy all civilization. All four works then can allow help high school students grasp the notion of utopias or dystopias, paralleling texts of British Literature or World Literature. A Swiftly Tilting Planet with its tracing of civil hatreds in Salem, MA and in Civil War America, would work well in the eleventh grade study of American Literature.
Fantasy may be used purely for whimsical delight, or it may be the means of an author for serious comment on reality (Thrall et al l99). Clearly Madeleine L’Engle’s tetralogy serves to comment seriously on reality, particularly on the range of violence which marks the twentieth century, yet is as old as centuries BCE, when the Nephilim were on earth, having refused to be loyal to the Presence. The Teaching Guide accompanying this article begins with an activity called Charting the Conflicts. Students need to see that each novel includes “real world” characters in real world conflicts: Meg and Charles Wallace each experience very real conflicts in school; neither is understood for their intuitive and creative intelligence. While the Chart works only with the conflicts coming early in A Wrinkle in Time, the same process can be used throughout the reading of the Tetralogy. A Swiftly Tilting Planet for example, shows the corruption that power wreaks in “the People of the Wind” an early civilization, while also exposing the violence spawned during the Witchcraft hysteria in Colonial America and the brutality of war, particularly a civil war.
At the same time, each novel is rich in the fantasy elements serving as conduits of reality. Students can create a list of the incredible (in the sense of unbelievable or difficult to believe in) characters that are part of each novel to recognize the fantastical and its power in the narratives. Animals like Fortinbras in the first two novels; Ananda, Louise the Larger, the mammoth, the manticore, and the Nephilim or other creatures like the Echthroi fit the category of incredible; in addition, as in the case with Ananda, her name is allegorical and her arrival, seemingly from nowhere and at such a crucial time in the events of A Swiftly Tilting Planet further demonstrates L’Engle’s careful craft.
A second literary device which L’Engle uses is allegory.
Allegory is a technique of aligning imaginative constructs,
mythological or poetic, with conceptual or moral models.
Particularly in Medieval times, imaginative structures were
regarded as rhetorical analogues to the revealed truth,
which was communicated more directly in conceptual
(and mainly theological) language (Frye, Baker and Perkins,12-13); Allegory is a form of extended metaphor in which objects and
persons in a narrative are equated with meanings that lie
outside the narrative itself; allegory represents one thing
in the guise of another – an abstraction in that of a
concrete image. In allegory, characters are usually
personifications of abstract qualities, the action and the setting representative of the relationships among these abstractions.
Allegory attempts to evoke a dual interest—one in the events,
characters, and settings presented, and the other in the ideas
they are intended to convey or the significance. The characters,
events and setting may be historical, fictitious or fabulous
—the test is that these materials be so employed in a
logical organization or pattern that they represent meaning
independent of the action described in the surface story.
Such meaning may be religious, moral, political, personal
or satiric (Thrall et al 8-9).
These definitions, and those connected with fantasy, are provided for teachers—you will have your own ways of helping students grasp these terms, but again L’Engle has provided a series of allegorical elements. From A Wrinkle in Time a dominant image is “the Black Thing”—“ What could there be about a shadow that was so terrible that she knew that there had never been before or ever would be again, anything that would chill her with a fear that was beyond shuddering, beyond crying or screaming, beyond the possibility of comfort? (72)
Also from A Wrinkle in Time: Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, the Happy Medium, Aunt Beast and her fellow creatures, and “IT” each represent wisdom. In the case of the latter, IT, the wisdom is the seductive temptation to be part of a world where all human initiative is acquiesced. All wisdom figures are allegorical; specifically in the L’Engle works, the allegorical significance is religious and moral.
From A Wind in the Door: dragons in the garden, the microscopic elements that signal the “sickness” of the whole universe, Louise the Larger, Proginoskes Blajeny(the meaning of their names and the occupation of Teacher), birth and deaths of stars, Naming, Kything, “Going inside,” Sporos, and X-ing –-all these characters and elements convey the central message of interrelatedness. While each living thing is unique and separate, each also depends on other life forms. When we destroy or corrupt any one element, we hurt the whole.
In A Swiftly Tilting Planet, poetic elements, the Rune and the oracle poem about the special gifts of the blue-eyed child, serve as central conveyors of the allegory. This novel also has wisdom figures like Gaudior, the unicorn, who constantly challenges Charles Wallace to fulfill his call. “You human beings tend to want good things to last forever. They don’t. Not while we’re in time” (169) In the allegorical and fantastical, time can be altered; L’Engle’s use of time and space variations allows her fiction greater scope of reality than she might have in solely using realism.
In each work there are sensory allegorical elements, integral to the ambient: smells, sounds—frequently music, the warmth or coldness, the light or darkness, the wind; and the power of eyes or looks or vision. In Many Waters, Yalith, the youngest of Noah’s household has learned to “listen to the stars.” She teaches Dennys this art as well:
“Listen,” Yalith suggested. “Alarid says you are able to
At first, Dennys heard only the desert silence. Then,
in the distance, he heard the roar of a lion. Behind
them, on the oasis, the birds chirred sleepily, not yet
ready for their dawn concert. A few baboons called back
and forth. He listened, listened, focusing on one bright
pattern of stars. Closed his eyes. Listened. Seemed to
hear a delicate, crystal chiming. Words. Hush. Heal. Rest.
Make peace. Fear not…(106-7)
There are also objects that serve the function of fantasy and allegory. In A Swiftly Tilting Planet in the section telling of the “People of the Wind,” Madoc, the kinder, gentler brother, has a vision in the scrying glass:
Madoc had always feared the scrying glass; so he feared
the small oval of water which reflected Gwydyr’s face,
growing larger and larger, and darker and darker, quivering
until it was no longer the face of a man but of a screaming
baby. The face receded until Madoc saw a black-haired
woman holding and rocking the baby. “You shall be great,
little Madog,” she said, “and call the world your
own, to keep or destroy as you will. It is an evil
world, little Madog.” The baby looked at her, and
his eyes were set close together, like Gwydyr’s, and
turned inward, just so, and his mouth pouted with dis-
content. Again the face grew larger and larger in the
dark oval and was no longer the face of a baby, but
a man with an arrogant and angry mien. “We will
destroy, then, Mother…(92)
From such passages, students can do the “Get a Line” activity, which may provide the most powerful antidotes to violence: words that give alternative ways of thinking, suggest insights that are universal and thus help students see the commonalities in cultures and peoples. One of the most powerful passages suggesting just such alternatives is given to Meg in A Wrinkle in Time. Meg has been recognized as the only one who can reclaim Charles Wallace, who has been subsumed by IT, the disembodied brain personifying the ultimate force of evil. Meg has been told by Mrs. Which, “You have something that IT has not. This something is your only weapon” (203). As Meg struggles to realize this gift, she learns an invaluable insight and comes to the recognition of the gift that each human has in the face of violence:
If she could give love to IT perhaps it would
shrivel up and die, for she was sure that IT could not
withstand love. But she, all her love and foolishness and baseness
and nothingness was incapable of loving IT. Perhaps it was not
too much to ask of her, but she could not do it.
But she could love Charles Wallace (207).
In wisdom figures and words of wisdom expressed in allegory and fantasy, Madeleine L’Engle has given readers story; her stories are of and about real humans in the real, turbulent and violent world that we too can transform through love.
While I have not had the opportunity to teach Madeleine L'Engle's tetralogy in a classroom context, I have taught teachers who believe as I do that these four novels hold much potential for engaging, enjoyable reading of serious issues affecting the human race. While reading these powerful stories enriched by allegory and fantasy, students can discover new ways of making peace. The following Teaching Ideas address all four novels and can be adapted for use in English classes for grades 9-12.
TEACHING IDEAS FOR the Madeleine L’Engle Tetralogy:
A Wind in the Door
A Swiftly Tilting Planet
I. Charting the Conflicts: Students make a Chart on which they record the conflicts experienced by Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin; the key is to identify the conflicts these characters face which are similar to conflicts experienced by readers. The following is a sample list based on Chapter One of A Wrinkle in Time
l. Meg does not feel accepted at school; her teachers do not understand her inability to do certain subjects (e.g. English or history) while Meg can solve nearly any mathematical or science problem. Another tangential conflict: Meg does not solve problems as others would; she can “intuit” the answers without many of the difficult processes.
2. Her father has been gone from the family for over a year; his letters have stopped coming.
3. Meg is embarrassed that people of the town, or Mr. Jenkins at school, talk about her father having gone off with another woman or that they suggest Meg just accept the fact that her father is not coming back.
4. Charles Wallace, Meg’s dear little brother, who’s closer to her than anyone, is mocked because people think he is dumb or odd. Meg gets in fights as she tries to defend and/or protect Charles Wallace.
5. Meg has braces and wears glasses; she doesn’t think she’ll ever be pretty, feels misunderstood and out-of-place.
6. Calvin comes from a large and uncommunicative family; probably fitting the label dysfunctional.
7. The weather is unusual, eerie; the book’s opening line is “It was a dark and stormy night.” There is darkness and storm marking the weather and human relations.
8. The Murry home is on an isolated back road and there are rumors of a tramp or some vagrant about.
9. Meg is emotionally tense and impatient; everyone is telling her she needs to find a happy medium.
***These are all realistic conflicts, easily among those your students could identify as you present them with a writing prompt: These are the conflicts that mark my life right now…
II. Identifying Images or Descriptions that Signal Conflict or Violence Here are guide questions to help students identify the signs or images of Conflict:
1. What are “conflict” words?—dark, stormy, trees tossing in frenzied lashing of the wind;
2. Can nature or the climate or the weather signal the violence in humans/families? How?
3. What about other signals—like Fortinbras, the family dog, barking; the rumors of a tramp about and his possibly having a knife; Meg’s sentiments, “nobody’d care anyhow” “I’m full of bad feeling” “I hate being an oddball.” The strange appearance of the even stranger-looking, Mrs. Whatsit
4. From A Wind in the Door what about the pallor and weakness in Charles Wallace? What about the effects on the human race, on all living things, when there are problems with mitrochondria? The “echthroi” signal violence too—discuss them.
5. From A Swiftly Tilting Planet what about the President’s call on Thanksgiving? The threat of nuclear war and brother-hating-brother, and the hope of returning to or re-establishing “the ancient harmony—how are these imaged?
6. From Many Waters –the setting is the Pre-flood world, but are there parallels to the late 20th century world, where power, greed and corruption are still motivations.
III. Fantasy Elements: Fantasy is a “conscious breaking free from experienced reality” (Thrall, Hibbard, Holman 198) that can be seen in several contexts:
1) a work taking place in a non-existent and unreal world --in the Tetralogy, what fantasy worlds or setting does L’Engle create? What is her purpose in creating these worlds? How do these help readers more completely grasp the “real” world of which they are part?
2) a work that concerns incredible and unreal characters—create a list of the incredible (in the sense of unbelievable or difficult to believe in) characters that are part of each novel. What does each character provide? Consider Aunt Beast (A Wrinkle…); Proginoskes, the Cherubim or Blajeny, the tall stranger (A Wind…); Gaudior, the unicorn (A Swiftly Tilting…) or the Seraphim and Nephilim in Many Waters. Work with these or other examples from the novels.
3) a work that employs physical or scientific principles not yet discovered or contrary to present experience. Here your students can obviously identify a number of elements from tessering to kything to transcending space and time—remember in A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Gaudior keeps telling Charles Wallace that it is not “where but when” that is key; in A Wind in the Door Meg, Mrs. Jenkins, Calvin are “in” the mitrochondria, and the idea or postulatum, Metron Ariston. How does each element serve to explore a present experience?
In each of the novels L’Engle creates a number of fantasy elements: First, identify the element; then, provide an explanation of the purpose of that element. Here are examples: from A Wrinkle in Time the tesseract; the planet Camazotz; and travel to that planet; going to Uriel, the third planet of the star, Malak;
III. Are the fantasy elements purely fantasy? In considering the purpose of each element, ask whether the fantasy has any grounding in reality? Do the fantasy elements demand suspension of disbelief or as readers do you see the fantasy as real to human life/ the world context as you know it? For example, the power of Naming in A Wind in the Door? Or what about Charles Wallace’s ability to “know” what his mother and Meg are experiencing? Or Charles Wallace’s extraordinary intelligence and extraordinary sense-life? What about kything which is happening in A Wrinkle in Time but only named and defined in A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet?
Students’ creations: Select a fantasy element to illustrate or create your own. What does your creation signify? If you were going to choose a piece of music to portray your creation or one of L’Engle’s, what would you select?
IV. Allegory: is a form of extended metaphor in which objects and persons in a narrative are equated with meanings that lie outside the narrative itself; Allegory represents one thing in the guise of another –- an abstraction in that of a concrete image. In Allegory, characters are usually personification of abstract qualities, the action and the setting representative of the relationships among these abstractions. Allegory attempts to evoke a dual interest—one in the events, characters, and settings presented, and the other in the ideas they are intended to convey or the significance. The characters, events and setting may be historical, fictitious or fabulous—the test is that these materials be so employed in a logical organization or pattern that they represent meaning independent of the action described in the surface story. Such meaning may be religious, moral, political, personal or satiric (Thrall et al 8-9). L’Engle has provided a series of allegorical elements.
From A Wrinkle in Time, “the Black Thing”—“ What could there be about a shadow that was so terrible that she knew that there had never been before or ever would be again, anything that would chill her with a fear that was beyond shuddering, beyond crying or screaming, beyond the possibility of comfort? (72)
Also from A Wrinkle in Time: Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, the Happy Medium, “It,” and Aunt Beast and her fellow creatures
From A Wind in the Door: dragons in the garden, the microscopic elements that signal the “sickness” of the whole universe, Louise the Larger, Proginoskes Blajeny(the meaning of their names and the occupation of Teacher), birth and deaths of stars, Naming, Kything, “Going inside,” Sporos, and X-ing.
From A Swiftly Tilting Planet: Gaudior, Ananda, the Rune—each line can offer a range of allegorical meanings, and the blue eyes, with the accompanying poem.
From Many Waters: the shape changing and illusions of the nephilim and seraphim, the names of the seraphim—all beginning with “A,” the Old Language.
In each work there are sensory allegorical elements: smells, sounds—frequently music, the warmth or coldness, the light or darkness, the wind; and the power of eyes or looks or vision.
Utopias or Dystopias: Consider the world of Camazotz (see Ch.7 of A Wrinkle in Time). Is this the world you would like to be a part of? Why or why not? Create your own Utopia.
Wisdom Figures: people who are wise, (regardless of age or experience) and who are healers or comforters abound in these novels—ask students the following:
1. What is a wisdom figure?
2. How can you recognize a wisdom figure?
3. Write about a wisdom figure in your life. You can describe what kind of wisdom figure you would like to have if you do not have one at this point. Look at A Wrinkle in Time in Ch. 6 for the gifts each of the Mrs. W’s gives to Meg, Calvin, and Charles. These are good examples of what wisdom figures do for others. Remember that Madeleine L’Engle has provided many good models.
Riddle Me a Riddle: Frequently a wisdom figure guides a mentee to discover an answer or find a truth for him or herself. In A Wrinkle in Time Mrs. Which tells Meg, “You have something that IT has not. This something is your only weapon. But you must find it for yourself.” If you were facing the greatest evil possible, what would you have that that Evil would not have? Write about this riddle.
V. “Get a Line” Students are probably familiar with the popular saying, “Get a life.” It is a easy transition in working with L’Engle’s novels to shift the phrase to "Get a line." Many of her powerful, allegorical lines can be an antidote for violence. I provide samples below—encourage your students to decide on their “Line” for Life. The range of possibilities can also let teachers know how rich the Tetralogy is in "lines for life."
From A Wrinkle in Time
Mrs. Murry to Meg: “…but one thing I’ve learned is that you don’t have to understand things for them to be” (23).
Charles Wallace about his intelligence: “I think it will be better if people go on thinking I’m not very bright. They won’t hate me quite so much” (30).
Calvin to Meg: “I call when I’m not going to be home. Because I care. Nobody else does. You don’t know how lucky you are to be loved” (40).
Calvin again: “I feel as though I were just being born! I’m not alone anymore! Do you realize what that means to me?” (44)
Mrs. M. to Meg: “But I think with our human limitations we’re not always able to understand the explanations…just because we don’t understand doesn’t mean that the explanation doesn’t exist” (46).
Mrs. Which: “The only way to cope with something deadly is to try to treat it a little lightly” (61).
Mrs. M. to Meg: “…but people are more than just the way they look. Charles Wallace’s difference isn’t physical. It’s in essence” (47).
Mrs. Whatsit: “Explanations are not easy when they are about things for which your civilization still has no words” (75).
Mrs. Whatsit: “But of course we can’t take any credit for our talents. It’s how we use them that counts” (84).
The Happy Medium: “Oh, why must you make me look at unpleasant things when there are so many delightful ones to see?” (85)
Mrs. Which: “There will no longer be so many pleasant things to look at if responsible people do not do something about the unpleasant ones” (86).
Mrs. Whatsit answering Meg who wonders if the Black Thing has just come to earth: “It has been there a great many years. That is why your planet is such a troubled one” (87).
Mrs. Whatsit: “A star giving up its life in battle with the Thing…it won…But it lost its life in the winning” (92).
Meg to the Man with Red Eyes: “Didn’t you ever have a father yourself? You don’t want him for a reason. You want him because he’s your father” (123).
Meg on the planet of Camazotz: “Maybe if you aren’t unhappy sometimes you don’t know how to be happy” (142).
Mr. Murry: “We can’t leave her. And we must stay together. We must not be afraid to take time” (165).
Meg to Aunt Beast: “How can you explain sight on a world where no one has ever seen and where there is no need of eyes?” (181)
Aunt Beast to Meg on things that help: “Good helps us, the stars help us, perhaps what you would call light helps us, love helps us.. This is something you just have to know or not know” (186).
Meg on the gifts she’d been given to return to It: “That’s quite something, to be loved by someone like Mrs. Whatsit” (205).
The quotes used by Mrs. Who:
“The heart has its reasons, whereof reason knows nothing” (from Pascal, given in French, 35)
“Nothing deters a good man from doing what is honorable” (from Seneca, given in Latin, 36)
“Faith is the sister of justice” (Latin, 36)
“What grievous pain a little fault doth give thee!” (from Dante, Italian, 54)
“An old ass knows more than a young colt.” (from A. Perez, Spanish, 54)
“To action little, less to words inclined” (from Horace, Latin, 60)
“Nothing is hopeless; we must hope for everything.” (from Euripides, Greek, 61)
“The more a man knows, the less he talks” (French, 62)
“To stake one’s life for the truth” (Latin, 63)
“The work proves the craftsman” (German, 64)
“Experience is the mother of knowledge” (from Cervantes, Spanish, 75)
“How small the earth is to him who looks from heaven” (from Delille, French, 86)
“And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (the Gospel of John, 89)
“I do not know everything; still many things I understand” (from Goethe, German, 101)
From A Wind in the Door
Charles Wallace to Meg: “Why do people always mistrust people who are different?” (20)
Charles Wallace again to Meg: “But then I wonder what normal is, anyhow, or isn’t?” (23)
Meg: “It was that suddenly the whole world was unsafe and uncertain. Several houses nearby had been broken into that autumn, and while nothing of great value had been taken, drawers had been emptied with casual maliciousness…Even their safe little village was revealing itself to be unpredictable and irrational and precarious, and while Meg had already begun to understand this with her mind, she had never before felt it with the whole of herself…(33-34)
Meg: “Like everything else…it’s falling apart. It’s not right that in the United States of America that a little kid shouldn’t be safe in school” (44).
Description of the “Man in the Night”: “…there was something in the repose of his body, the quiet of his voice, which drove away fear” (54).
Proginoskes: “Age, for cherubim, is immaterial. It’s only for time-bound creatures that age even exists” (56).
Words of Blajeny: “Nevertheless you are called, and anybody who is invited to study with one of the Teachers is called because he is needed. You have talents we cannot afford to lose” (59).
Blajeny: “I am only a Teacher, and I would not arrange the future ahead of time if I could” (64).
Meg about astronauts: “It [place they landed] wasn’t inhabited. I’ll bet when our astronauts reach some place with inhabitants it won’t be so easy. It’s a lot simpler to adapt to low gravity , or no atmosphere, or even sandstorms, than it is to hostile inhabitants” (71).
Meg: “People are always hostile to anybody who’s different” (72).
Proginoskes: “If he [God] calls for one of them, someone has to know which one he means. Anyhow, they like it; there aren’t many who know them all by name, and if your name isn’t known, then it’s a very lonely feeling” (78). “When I was memorizing the names of the stars, part of the purpose was to help them each to be more particularly the particular star each one was supposed to be. That’s basically a Namer’s job. Maybe you’re supposed to make earthlings feel more human” (78)
Mr. Murry: “It isn’t just in distant galaxies that strange, unreasonable things are happening. Unreason has crept up on us so insidiously that we’ve hardly been aware of it. But think of the things going on in our own country which you wouldn’t have believed possible only a few years ago” (85).
Mrs. Murry: “Here we are, at the height of civilization in a well-run state in a great democracy. And four ten-year-olds were picked up last week for pushing hard drugs in the school where our six-year-old is regularly given black eyes and a bloody nose” (86).
Mr. Murry when asked, “what else [beyond pessimism and despair] is there?" answers: “There are still stars which move in ordered and beautiful rhythm. There are still people in this world who keep promises. Even little ones, like your cooking stew over your Bunsen burner. You may be in the middle of an experiment, but you still remember to feed your family. That’s enough to keep my heart optimistic, no matter how pessimistic my mind. And you and I have good enough minds to know how very limited and finite they really are. The naked intellect is an extraordinarily inaccurate instrument” (87).
Proginoskes about Echthroi: “It has to do with un-Naming. If we are Namers, the Echthroi are un-Namers, non-Namers” (89).
Progo: “I have heard your host planet [Earth} is shadowed, that it is troubled” (96). “So if I care more about Naming than anything else, then maybe I have to give myself away, if it’s the only way to show my love. All the way away. To X myself” (101). “Love isn’t how you feel. It’s what you do. I’ve never had a feeling in my life. As a matter of fact, I matter only with earth people” (118).
Blajeny: “Don’t try to comprehend with your mind. Your minds are very limited. Use your intuition” (128). “You must try to understand things not only with your little human minds, which are not a great deal of use in the problems which confront us…You must understand with your hearts. With the whole of yourselves, not just a fragment” (130). “It is the nature of love to create. It is the nature of hate to destroy” (131). “It is not always on the great or the important that the balance of the universe depends” (142).
Progo: “Time isn’t any more important than size. All that is required of you is to be in the Now, in this moment which has been given us” (151). “A Teacher never does anything without a reason” (164).
Calvin to Meg: “Communication implies sound. Communion doesn’t” (170).
Progo: “The temptation for farandola or for man or for star is to stay an immature pleasure-seeker. When we seek our own pleasure as the ultimate good we place ourselves as the center of the universe. A fara or a man or a star has his place in the universe, but nothing created is the center” (178). “Don’t you understand that we’re all part of one another, and the Echthroi are trying to splinter us, in just the same way that they’re trying to destroy all Creation?” (186)
Senex: “It is only when we are fully rooted that we are really able to move” (190).
From A Swiftly Tilting Planet
Mr. Murry: “El Rabioso sees this as an act of punishment, of just retribution. The Western world has used up more than our share of the world’s energy, the world’s resources, and we must be punished…We are responsible for the acutely serious oil and coal shortage, the defoliation of trees, the grave damage to the atmosphere, and he is going to make us
Dennys: “I do think we’ve gotten our priorities wrong, we human beings. We’ve forgotten what’s worth saving and what’s not, or we wouldn’t be in this mess” (17).
Meg: “We don’t live in a reasonable world. Nuclear war is not reasonable. Reason hasn’t gotten us anywhere” (22).
Charles Wallace: “Strength can always be used to destroy as well as to create” (28)
Meg: “Kything was being able to be with someone else, no matter how far away they might be, was talking in a language that was deeper than words” (35-6).
In this fateful hour
I place all Heaven with its power,
And the sun with its brightness,
And the snow with its whiteness,
And the fire with all the strength it hath—
And the lightning with its rapid wrath,
And the winds with their swiftness along their path—
And the sea with its deepness,
And the rocks with their steepness,
And the earth with its starkness,
All these I place
By the help of God’s almighty help and grace
Between myself and the powers of darkness.”
Ananda: A name meaning “That joy in existence without which the universe will fall apart and collapse” (38).
Gaudior: “There are many who would like to let you [people of Earth] wipe yourselves out, except it will affect us all; who knows what might happen? And as long as there are even a few who belong to the Old Music, you are still our brothers and sisters” (46). “Echthroi, the ancient enemy. He who distorted the harmony, and who has gathered an army of destroyers. They are everywhere in the universe” (47).
Meg: “Has the world lost its joy? Is that why we’re in such a mess?” (49)
Description: “The breaking of the harmony was pain, was brutal anguish, but the harmony kept rising above the pain, and the joy would pulse with light, and light and dark once more knew each other, and were part of the joy” (50).
Gaudior to Charles Wallace: “It’s what happens in the When that matters” (53). Explaining where the destroyer has come from: “From the good, of course. The Echthros wanted all the glory for itself, and when that happens the good becomes not good; and others have followed…Wherever the Echthroi go, the shadows follow, and try to ride the wind. There are places where no one has ever heard the ancient harmonies” (55)
“Only machines have glib answers for everything”(57).
“ Everything that happens within the created Order, no matter how small, has its effect. If you are angry, that anger is added to all the hate with which the Echthroi would distort the melody and destroy the ancient harmonies. When you are loving, that lovingness joins the music of the spheres” (61).
The Teller of Tales to Harcel” I saw a man kill a man.” Harcel: “But why? Why ever would one man kill another?” ( 64)
Reschal: “When there has been love during life, why should that change after death?” (81)
Madoc: “When people are worshipped, then there is anger and jealousy in the wake. I will not be worshipped, nor will I be a king. People are meant to worship the gods, not themselves” (85).
Reschal: “pride has turned the light behind your [Gwydyr] eyes to ice, so that you can no longer see clearly” (91).
Gaudior: “Roses often burn. Theirs is the most purifying flame of all” (98).
Ritchie: “I cannot find it in me to believe that God enjoys long faces and scowls at merriment” (122-3).
Brandon: “It is understanding the healing qualities of certain plants and roots. People are afraid of knowledge that is not yet theirs” (127).
Zylle: “I do not know what pagan means. I only know that Jesus of Nazareth sings the true song. He knows the ancient harmonies” (133).
Brandon’s father: “Anger is not bitterness. Bitterness can go on eating at a man’s heart and mind forever. Anger spends itself in its own time”(146).
Charles Wallace to Gaudior: “I have learned that every time I’ve tried to control things we’ve had trouble” (160).
Charles Wallace to Gaudior: “I’m not a virus and I’m not deadly” Gaudior: “Some of them think mankind is deadly” (166)
Mrs. O’Keefe as a child Beezie, asking her grandma about the truth of a story; her grandma’s response: “To those with the listening ear and the believing heart” (176).
Bran to Matthew: “I like adventure—but not killing. And it seems the two are seldom separated” (242). “I went to war thinking of myself as Galahad, out to free fellow human beings from the intolerable bondage of slavery…There were other, less pure issues being fought over, with little concern for the souls which would perish for nothing more grand that political greed, corruption, and conniving for power…” (243) “It was brother against brother, Cain and Abel all over again. And I was turned into Cain. What would God have to do with a nation where brothers turn against each other with such brutality?” (243)
Mr. Maddox to Dr. Llawcae: “When the sons of men fight against each other in hardness of heart, why should God not withdraw? Slavery is evil, God knows, but war is evil, too, evil, evil” (247)
Matthew to Zillah: “Over and over again we get caught in fratricide, as Bran was in that ghastly war. We’re still bleeding from the wounds. It’s a primordial pattern, left us from Cain and Abel, a net we can’t seem to break out of. And unless it is checked it will destroy us entirely” (255) “Nothing, no one, is too small to matter. What you do is going to make a difference” (256)
From Many Waters
Japheth: “But I can understand you, if I listen with my under-hearing” (21)
Alarid (a Seraphim) “The seraphim have chosen to stay close to the Presence” (59).
Matred, wife of Noah: “People do not choose to be poor and hungry…” (74).
Yalith: “He is our guest. We do not let our guests die” (75).
Noah on whether or not to help the injured: “Perhaps you make them suffer more that way, than if you let them die?” (76)
Oholi (wife of Japheth): “People don’t revere old people the way they used to. They don’t want to listen to their stories” (81).
Yalith: “People are ugly to one another today. Were we this cruel before the nephilim and the seraphim came?” (81)
Lamech to Sandy: “These are troubled times. Men’s hearts are turning to evil…We have not used our long years well” (89)
Dennys asking Noah: “Is he good, this El?” Noah’s response: “Good and kind. Slow to anger, quick to turn again and forgive” (97).
Alarid explaining about the post-Babel times: “But underneath them all, is the original language, the old tongue, still in communion with the ancient harmonies. It is a privilege to meet one who still has the under-hearing” (102).
Dennys to Yalith: “Oh, yes, we have stars. But our atmosphere is not as clear as your, and not nearly as many stars are visible” (106).
The Nephilim: “We have made our choice. We have forsworn heaven.” (127)
The name of Adnarel, a seraphim: “That I am in the service of the Maker of the Universe(134).
Oholibamah: “Where there is an unreconciled quarrel, everybody suffers”(141).
Lamech: “My Grandfather Enoch—how I miss him. El talks with me, and sometimes I am able to understand, but I have never been able to walk with El in the cool of the evening, like two friends” (145).
One of the seraphim speaking of God: “As long as the One knows, there is no need for us to know”(171).
Sandy to Dennys: “If we get nuked, it will be because of people. Power and greed and corruption. It wouldn’t be a natural disaster” (179).
Dennys: “Human beings—people have done terrible things, but we’re not all bad, not all of us” (198).
Sandy, when he might have tried to kill Tiglah and escape: “Violence was no longer an option” (232)
Shem to Dennys: “Some people are wicked, and the imagination of their hearts is only to do evil” (237).
Adnarel: “The Nephilim fear what they do not understand” (253).
Description: “The stars never gave false comfort” (275) Yalith and Dennys are able to listen to the stars.