Tuesday, April 12, 2016

An average girl overcoming anything-but-average obstacles

While this book was enjoyable, it is hard for me to comprehend how exactly and why it was banned. On the surface, it is a tale of nonconformity – children who acknowledge their individual differences and learn to embrace them. In the pre-intro note, Anna Quindlen determines that, “it is really about a more primal battle all human beings face, to respect, defend, and love themselves” (4) and while I agree with this, I have a hard time understanding how a fantasy/science fiction story can be deemed toxic enough to be worth banning. Aside from the encouragement of individuality and nonconformity, the only other aspect I noted that might be troublesome to critics is the genderless transformation of Mrs. Whatsit into a horse-like creature. To live in a world where transgenderism is slowly becoming more accepted, I could understand how it might have been interpreted 50 years ago. Regardless, it is silly to take such a small fantastical element so seriously or to dismiss it before recognizing its worth. None of the Murry children seem to have a problem with it (this is the rewarding part to me), so why should readers?
Like some of the other novels we have read this semester, A Wrinkle in Time turns several seem-to-be truths on their heads, making it such a progressive and wonderful work. For example, the horrifying beasts on the planet Ixchel turn out to be kind and wise, the children are the ones to save the adult(s), and traveling through space and time is somehow possible. Even small details like the tall, scrawny, and outcasted Calvin proves to be an excellent athlete. Above all, the once incapable and pitiable Meg is the one to rescue Charles Wallace. L’Engle puts a sort of magical faith in her characters’ abilities, likewise encouraging belief in her readers. The only criticism I really had when reading this novel was the presentation of Charles Wallace… As a 5 year old, he is extremely unrealistic: too well spoken and too morally upright. I guess his unusual intelligence combined with the fact that he is the first to connect with Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which makes his characterization fitting. In the words of Mrs. Murry, "you don't have to understand things for them to be" (25). And unlike critics who advocate for the banning of this story, I am able to overlook this small annoyance by acknowledging that this book is a combination of reality and fantasy. If others could do this, perhaps they would see the overwhelming value in the portrayal of an average girl overcoming anything-but-average obstacles.
All in all, this story uses imagination in an influential way. Unfortunately, critics are quick to overlook the imaginative aspects when they are, in fact, really crucial to understanding the bigger picture. One cannot understand the full worth of this novel without a sort of "willing suspension of disbelief" (47). That is, you have to cut ties with reality and allow your mind to flow freely through the limitless boundaries of the imagination to really grasp L'Engle's message. You have to willingly submit to the fantasy in order to be positively impacted. The contrast of the ordinary and extraordinary makes this story exciting, but also emphasizes the importance of individuality and faith in toxic or oppressive environments. There needs to be some use of imagination to be able to rise above.

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