About the Book

Book Protagonist: Meg Murry
Publication Date: 1962
Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Teen and Young Adult

Historical Context

A Wrinkle in Time

By Madeleine L'Engle

Madeleine L'Engle’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ has some interesting backgrounds leading up to its eventual 1962 publication. Along with her life’s challenges, L'Engle wrote her book for a society undergoing arguably the roughest times in human history.

The mid-20th century was famous for the Cold War, the stock market crash, and the eventual great depression. In the same century, several groundbreaking scientific ideas like Planck’s quantum theory and Einstein’s relativity theory also became popular. These times were also characterized by peak Christian orthodoxy cultures, which influenced a vast population of the American people. These and author Madeleine L’Engle’s personal and family struggles were a significant inspiration for her novel, ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’

Before A Wrinkle in Time

Madeleine L’Engle published A Wrinkle in Time in 1962, but before that, there were a series of events that were simultaneously happening during this period – which could be viewed as having spurred the author’s idea for the book.

The mid-1940s to late 1950s was the height of the Cold War when the world’s superpowers were flexing their military might, building and testing nuclear warheads, and warming up to the competition on who would be the so-called political world power. 

The Soviet Union was particularly aggressive and dedicated to this cause, and their activities – along with those of their allies- caused far-reaching social panic for the American people. Space technology and exploration also thrived during this time and led to the idea of time travel and multiverse being taught in schools. 

Such was the sociopolitical climate of the times which inspired Madeleine L’Engle’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’ Then L’Engle was a young author who had just found interest in children’s literature and had started exploring it with her 1949’s, ‘And Both Were Young’ followed by the more successful series, ‘Meet the Austins.’ 

L’Engle wanted to make the kind of children’s book she’s never made before; the kind that wasn’t popular or seen around in her days. She wanted to add, to this book, some elements of fantasy and science fiction – a sort of imagined reality powered by extraordinary scientific technologies and possibilities.

Yet she also wanted to mirror her social, economic, and political reality and already had a number of ideas gleaned from her current society. However, the final piece of the puzzle for her ideas was a family trip across a number of US states –  including some areas around New Mexico and Arizona. The author spent two years on this trip with her family – and as the artistic family that they were, they explored mostly artistic landscapes, reserves, and beautiful parks. These experiences helped L’Engle create the sort of journey, time, and space travels that we see in ‘A Wrinkle in Time.

Madeleine L’Engle’s Strict Upbringing 

Also playing an important role in the history and antecedents of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ is Madeleine L’Engle’s upbringing and her personal experiences. The author’s birth in 1918 coincided with the heat of the Great War of the world, with her father Charles Wadsworth, being remarkably absent during her birth because he was a military conscript who was out in the battle with the US army. 

L’Engle grew up during uncertain times; if it wasn’t a blatant war, it was a red scare, and if it wasn’t that, it was the stock market crash. The author saw it all growing up, and as a child, that greatly impacted her worldview, and readers can notice how that has been reflected in ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ in the sort of dystopia that goes on in Camazotz. 

Another part of L’Engle’s personal experience that influenced the personality of her main character Meg Murry in ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ is her education. The author’s inability to fit in at school – being shy, unathletic, disorganized, and unsociable – is reflected in many different ways in Meg’s experiences in the book, and although this is deeply saddening for her, the reality of her father makes her even more miserable.

The Science Side of A Wrinkle in Time

Madeleine L’Engle integrated several scientific theories to make sure ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ is more than just mere science fiction but that it is also backed by mathematical and logical proofs. The author noted that she was indulging in the work of Albert Einstein, specifically the theory of relativity, as it was popular at the time she was writing ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’ 

The use of scientific terms such as tesseract, tessering, fifth dimension, and dark matter (or dark thing, in the book) – are all signs of just how much the finished version of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ is integrated into the sciences. Throughout the book, scenes abound where the complexities of time, space, and the universe are reduced to a layman’s sense by the three strange, intergalactic women – Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which.

Publishers’ Rejections of A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time’ was one of the few books that suffered the most rejections from publishers during its manuscript stage. The book was rejected a devastating twenty-six times before it was finally published by Ariel Books. 

The author finished writing the book in 1960, but it wasn’t going to be published until 1962 due to American publishers not being interested in printing and promoting the book because they thought it lacked convention for its chosen category and also wouldn’t sell. However, after its release, the opposite happened as the book quickly became the readers’ choice and a bestseller – winning the Newbery Medal in the next year.

Banning and Removal From Public Shelves

For all its waves and successes, Madeleine L’Engle’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ is also one of the most frequently contested or banned books of all time. The book is included in the American Library Association’s list of top 100 frequently banned books of all time – occupying number 23rd from between the early to late 90s and number 90 between the early 2000s to 2009s. 

Over the years, there have been some heavily contested arguments from parents calling for the book to be banned and removed from public children’s libraries and shelves – one of the notable incidents was that of an Elementary school in Anniston, Alabama. For the majority of the time, these requests were hinged on one group’s opinion that the book was anti-Christianity or another’s notion that it promoted practices of the occult.


How did L’Engle get her idea for ‘A Wrinkle in Time’?

L’Engle is said to have conceived the idea for ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ while she was embarking on an interstate trip with her husband. She was reading some remarkable cosmological books at the time.

Why was ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ banned?

L’Engle’s book faced a series of ban claims because a group of people – most notably parents of young school children – at different points demanded that schools take down the book from their libraries and shelves because they felt it too provocative, mature for its intended age, and against the Christian religion. 

Did L’Engle’s work get rejected?

Madeleine L’Engle’s bestseller, ‘A Wrinkle in Time,’ was rejected over twenty-six times by publishers because they thought the book was out of category, and a bad investment that wouldn’t sell. 

What historical periods influenced ‘A Wrinkle in Time’?

Aside from the author’s personal life experiences, there are a number of great historical events that might have also influenced L’Engle’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time,’ and some of them include the Cold War, the 1929 stock crash, and the Great Depression. 

Victor Onuorah
About Victor Onuorah
Victor is as much a prolific writer as he is an avid reader. With a degree in Journalism, he goes around scouring literary storehouses and archives; picking up, dusting the dirt off, and leaving clean even the most crooked pieces of literature all with the skill of analysis.
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