Of all the striking pictures in A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle one memorable scene stands out. The children heroes–Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin–arrive on the planet Camazotz to fight the evil darkness that has engulfed it and that keeps Meg’s dad captive. A suburban area sits on the edge of town and causes the kids to stop. Up and down the street children play with balls and jump rope, but they do it all in time with each other. It’s a monotonous, droning rhythm that unsettles the protaganists. Further in town, they notice all the buildings look the same and all the people act as one. Those out of step seem frightened and do their best to get back in unison.
Thus is the great evil of IT, the darkness gripping the planet. It brings everyone into conformity and erases individualism. The kids’ main method of fighting this is to break the rhythm of IT by emphasizing their unique abilities and strengths. When A Wrinkle in Time came out in 1962, many assumed that communism was the target. Later, L’Engle’s granddaughter asserted the point was against tyranny in general. Indeed, the great danger running through every human society is complete, total conformity. The obvious reason why this is dangerous is because to what are we conforming? Whose worldview is dominant? What ideals are raised as the unconditional standard for everyone else?
It’s understandable why conformity is desired. We inherently want unity and peace on earth and conformity seems like the way to go. After all, if everyone believes and thinks and acts the same way then there’d be no need for conflict. The struggle, though, is that often this push for harmony sacrifices individuality or dissenting opinions. You think as a group, not with your own brain. Every society fights this. In America, we have the media constantly saying that LGBTQ relationships are normal and you’re a hateful, fearful bigot to think otherwise. In fact, you’re on the “wrong side of history”. See what’s happening? Many of their tactics come down to intellectual bullying with the goal in mind that you don’t think about the issue at all. You accept it. You become one with the crowd. But, to be fair, tactics and arguments like these are used all over the place by people on both sides of a given issue. Everybody wants everybody else to conform to what they believe.
A detractor may point out, “How, pray tell, is the church any different?” Yes, the church (and the Bible) calls for a certain conformity and Christian leaders have abused this in the past. The Bible, I believe, walks a fine line between becoming one with Christ and other Christians and keeping your own distinct personality. Consider the many writers who, guided by the Holy Spirit, wrote the Bible. While their message is consistent from Old to New Testament, their styles vary from book to book. Even though when a person becomes a Christian they join the larger body of believers, that person still has an individual and unique gifting to contribute (see 1 Corinthians 12).
In the end, for worldwide harmony to be a thing, there must be conformity to one idea. But the challenge is what is that idea? I believe that should be belief in Christ and following His teachings. However, I would never want to force someone to conform to that against their will. Bullying, threatening, and shouting someone else down to my ideal is not helpful or right. Sin wants us to conform to its will, to accept its rebellion of God as the only way. To think otherwise must be eradicated. But the warning from A Wrinkle in Time reminds us there is a battle of good and evil in this world and we must not give in to the darkness.
While A Wrinkle in Time contains a variety of memorable images and characters, the plot keeps me from loving it too much. At times it feels like L’Engle is simply coming up with the narrative as she goes and this makes for an odd pacing. No wonder the recent adaptation struggled to update the story, there’s not much there to begin with. Still, if I had read this as a kid I would probably appreciate it more and that seems to be a common thought from other reviews I’ve read/heard.