For over 50 years, Madeleine L’Engle’s novel A Wrinkle in Time has been widely beloved, with a highly anticipated big screen adaptation on the way. Winning numerous accolades, including the prestigious Newbery Medal and Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, the novel continues to be popular among schoolchildren and adults alike — featuring positive messages about embracing individuality and using love to conquer hate.
But despite being a celebrated and best-selling novel, A Wrinkle in Time has also had a complicated history with readers. Like many of its peers, including Where the Wild Things Are, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, and the Harry Potter series, the novel has faced an intense amount of scrutiny due to its contents. Since it’ publication fifty-four years ago, the novel has been one of the most commonly banned books.
A Wrinkle in Time follows teen Meg Murry, her younger brother Charles Wallace, and friend Calvin O’Keefe on a journey through time and space to rescue Meg and Charles Wallace’s father from an unknown evil force. While that sounds like a intense read, but one with a strong message, it has spent the last few decades in the top 100 banned or challenged books, according to the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association.
So what makes A Wrinkle in Time so controversial?
For starters, the novel possesses a lot of fantastical elements — including the Happy Medium and their crystal ball, along with the the mysticism of the three Mrs. W’s — making it a popular target among conservative Christians, who often campaign against content containing magical elements from being taught in schools or libraries. Additionally, conservative Christians have been critical of L’Engle’s depiction of religion — specifically the implication of Jesus not being a supremely divine individual. Controversially, a passage in the middle of the novel, seemingly equates Jesus with figures like Einstein, Buddha, Gandhi, and Da Vinci. At one point in the novel, the three Mrs. W’s explain to the children that others before them have fought the looming darkness — naming the famous religious and creative beings alongside Jesus, to the outrage of conservative Christians.
L’Engle, an Episcopalian, shrugged off the complaints that her novel attempted to undermine religious beliefs. She told the New York Times in 2001, “It seems people are willing to damn the book without reading it. Nonsense about witchcraft and fantasy. First I felt horror, then anger, and finally I said, ‘Ah, the hell with it.’ It’s great publicity, really.”
According to The Guardian, her detractors didn’t mince words when describing the “danger” of L’Engle’s writing. Following the writer’s death in 2007, the newspaper reported that someone once complained, “Madeline (sic) L’Engle teaches universalism in her books and denigrates organised Christianity and promotes an occultic world view.”
While everything from the novel’s allusions to communism to its (perceived) commentary about religion has struck a chord with detractors, A Wrinkle in Time endures as one of the great novels of the latter 20th Century.
The highly anticipated Disney adaptation of the novel tessers into theaters on March 9th.