The most powerful quote in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time is buried in the middle of the novel, wedged between the stammering brilliance of Mrs. Which and Mrs. Who quoting The Tempest. It happens as Meg Murry, Charles Wallace Murry, and Calvin O’Keefe are about to lose all contact with the three celestial beings guiding them on their adventure through time and space. From that moment on, the young trio are on their own, navigating the unsettlingly-ordered planet of Camazotz, where Dr. Alex Murry is being held captive and the place the evil “IT” calls home.
As the celestial beings are bidding their young charges farewell with final gifts and words of advice, Mrs. Whatsit tells Meg, “Stay angry, little Meg. You will need all your anger now.”
It is a short but powerful quote that not only acknowledges the anger Meg has spent the prior 100 pages or so struggling with, but offers her a productive way to channel that anger. It was a line that really resonated with me the first time I read the book as another, generally speaking, angry little Meg, and is one that has continued to do so ever since.
But unfortunately, that iconic quote didn’t make it into the newly-released Disney adaptation.
Ava DuVernay’s adaptation is a valiant attempt to bring L’Engle’s very complicated novel to the big screen. While there were many aspects in which I felt the adaptation fell a bit short, the film as a whole is one that I think will genuinely inspire scores of young women and girls seeing it to “be a warrior.” But that’s also precisely why it was so disappointing that the “stay angry, little Meg” quote wasn’t included in the film.
In the novel — and to an extent, in the film — Meg is angry, but can’t often articulate why. She’s angry because nobody knows where her missing dad is or why he’s gone. She’s angry that neighbors and people in town are judging her mom for holding out hope that he’ll return. She’s angry that she doesn’t fit in at school like her “normal” brothers, Sandy and Dennys. She’s also angry because she feels like an inadequate, ugly offspring to her beautiful, intelligent, scientist mom. And to top it off, she’s 13 and trying to navigate that intersection between puberty and high school. Even the mission itself is frustrating for Meg, because unlike Charles Wallace and Calvin, she struggles to tesser and understand exactly what’s happening around them.
This is all to say that Meg is incredibly angry for much of A Wrinkle in Time, but tied to it is grief, confusion, helplessness, and sadness.
What makes that one line by Mrs. Whatsit so moving is that it fundamentally changes the meaning of Meg’s anger. A few pages after her piece of advice, Mrs. Whatsit gifts Meg her faults, which naturally, Meg considers to be a terrible gift. It’s not until much later in the novel that the words completely resonate with our young heroine. As anger manifests around Meg, she realizes that allowing it to overtake her is truly what’s allowing IT to win, so instead, she uses that anger — one of her many self-perceived faults — as a powerful tool, outwitting the evil being and saving her family.
Anger is often seen as a weakness, and if used improperly, it certainly can be. But in A Wrinkle in Time, L’Engle, through Mrs. Whatsit, reveals that not only is it okay to feel anger sometimes, but if channeled correctly, it can be a powerful tool for change. And that’s something we’re seeing around us every day. From actively protesting Donald Trump and taking a stand against sexual abuse and harassment with #MeToo and Time’s Up, to teens taking on the NRA with #NeverAgain, we’re seeing Mrs. Whatsit’s words of advice come to life every day.
Mrs. Whatsit’s message to Meg is an important piece of advice for everyone, but especially for teens during a time in which their place in the world is fundamentally changing. While I wish another generation of kids could have had their lives changed by including that important quote in the film, it’s still heartening to know that even without it, the message will continue to live on.