Monday, April 11, 2016

"Equality" is Not "Sameness"

I wish I had known about this book when I was growing up. Not only is the protagonist named Meg (one of very few I’ve come across), but she goes through the classic middle school struggle that so many of us went through. She goes through this struggle in such a realistic way, and she does it with such wisdom. Meg struggles with the idea of being different. She compares herself to her family members: her popular twin brothers, her extremely intelligent younger brother, and her beautiful mother. She asks a lot of “Why me?” questions until she learns what true conformity looks like.
On Camaztoz IT asks Meg (through Charles Wallace) if she knows that everyone there is happy because they are “all alike” (134). At this point she realizes that being different is the reason she is unhappy, but she also realizes that she does not want to “be like everybody else, either” (134). And with a true sense of wisdom, she notes that never being unhappy does not mean that people are happy (136). People are happy and unhappy because of their differences. Difference is what makes individuals unique, and through our uniqueness we can experience the full human range of emotion.
IT suggests (once again through Charles Wallace) that difference is the reason we have wars on Earth (135). This is a pretty heavy idea for a children’s book, but it is an important one. When Meg finally confronts IT she resists by reciting The Declaration of Independence saying, “all men are created equal” (153). IT believes that by making everyone alike IT is making them equal, but our young protagonist can see that “like and equal are two entirely different things” (154). IT’s belief that they are the same is the true cause of wars on Earth.
People try too hard to achieve “likeness” and fight over another group not doing things the same way they do. If we could all step back and focus on people being equal human beings with the same rights to life as we have, there would be far less tension on a global and local scale. L’Engle makes this point easy enough for a child to understand in the scenes with Aunt Beast and her fellow creatures. They are, perhaps, frightening (different) to look at, but they know that the gift of sight can be “limiting” because it allows people to judge character by what someone looks like rather than by what they are like (174). I’d like to think that A Wrinkle in Time is an effort to educate future generations against making the same mistakes as their ancestors.

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