by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Books”

Strong Girls for Girl Readers: Part Four

Posted 9 July 2009 in by Catriona

(Part one of this series is here, part two is here, and part three is here.)

When we first meet Meg Murry, in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (1962), she’s sporting an incipient black eye and a torn blouse, after attacking older boys who are taunting her younger brother.

So it’s hardly surprising that she’s in this list, is it?

A Wrinkle in Time is a book for which I have a perpetual soft spot, because, while I’m not convinced that it was the first science-fiction book I ever read, it’s certainly the first one I remember reading.

It’s also the first book in which I came across a woman with a Ph.D. Well, Dr Murry had two Ph.Ds, actually. And a Nobel Prize. She was was also staggeringly beautiful, but that was less compelling to me than the Ph.Ds. It seemed both more probable that I could manage a Ph.D. than that I could become staggeringly beautiful—and also that it would be more interesting. Perhaps I’ve been underachieving, and should have tried for both—and another Ph.D.

No: too tiring.

(Anyway, none of that is important right now, but then that is rather a pattern on this blog. And I did consider the feelings of my lovely readers when I decided not to blog the conversation I had with my best friend earlier today, in which we discussed whether fancying the protagonists of teen fiction is inappropriate if you only feel sixteen in your head, instead of old enough to be the character’s mother.)

To get back to my original point, though, Meg does become distinctly less interesting to me as the series progresses: by the time we get to A Swiftly Tilting Planet, she’s much blander and more domesticated than in the original book—and that’s fine, if Meg is seeking a comfortable domesticity. I like Meg enough that I want her to be happy outside the confines of the page.

But she doesn’t interest me as much.

I like Meg when she’s stroppy and intelligent in the first book.

I like Meg when she’s violent because she’s young and undiplomatic.

I like Meg when she’s uncertain about who and what she is—when she’s driven by the kind of incandescent fury at the unfairness and the brutality of life that she will shout defiance at the dictator who is over-powering even the most powerful people in her life.

And if all that leads her to a comfortable life with the lovely Calvin, then I’m happy for her.

But it’s still going to be A Wrinkle in Time that I come back to.

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