“Imagine a version of yourself who’s self-assured, confident of who she is, but also remembering that the ongoing narrative of yourself shapes who you become – not about finding yourself, but developing a sense of self. What would she be like?”
My therapist and I had a conversation about Meg developing into herself across Madeleine L’Engle’s The Time Quintet. Those books have always been a touchstone for me. For much of the series, Meg is trying to understand who she is and how she fits in the world.
I’ve read A Wrinkle in Time countless numbers of times, but I’m relatively sure that I’ve never returned to A Swiftly Tilting Planet. It seemed that Meg was in the peripherals of the narrative. Returning to the novel, it’s interesting to notice the parallels between it and Wrinkle: understanding Calvin’s mother and watching Meg still finding her place in the Murry family. Ananda, a stray dog appears on the Murry’s doorstep much like Fortinbras did in Wrinkle, and a kitten keeps her company in her attic bedroom. I wondered how Meg settled into her life. Did she attend college? It seemed like Meg was denied her own narrative, instead serving as a conduit for Charles Wallace, wife of Calvin, and sister of the twins. I missed the sense of Meg we got in Wrinkle. L’Engle wrote a Swiftly Tilting Planet in 1978, in the midst of second-wave feminism, when women were carving out spaces for themselves between home and work. She mentioned Meg briefly in An Acceptable Time, noting that she was a scientist.
In Swiftly Titling Planet Meg serves as an anchor to the world for Charles Wallace and maternal figure — she’s defined by her pregnancy. Throughout the novel, other characters keep worrying about her in her supposedly fragile state. I remember reading about the unfinished book (The Eye Begins to See) L’Engle wrote about Meg and how she’d settled into her later life. I wanted to see Meg defined on her own terms. I did find the Swiftly Tilting Planet‘s focus on the “might have been” fascinating – in the imagined and experienced other narratives.
Wrinkle takes place in a relational context in which kything strengthens the emotional bond between Meg and Charles Wallace. Its world is saved by love and connection. I found myself identifying with Meg and wondering if she settled. Is this what she imagined her life to be? And yet her mother had a rich life with both family and career, including Bunsen burner stews. Do we know how we’ll be or who will become? How much can we control it? I pictured the Meg of Swiftly Tilting Planet to be in her 20s, at home, while Calvin attends the conference in London. I always expected Meg to end up with work of her own, although I read that she finished her PhD during the Polly O’Keefe novels.
Looking back at the titles featuring Meg, I noticed that her relationships deepen across the novels; she seems more connected to other people. She doesn’t feel so odd anymore. I suppose that was the dialogue my therapist was trying to continue with me — that as we become adults, we develop a sense of self-acceptance. Meg seems happy with who she is becoming and no longer feels she is “doing everything wrong.” I still think it’s strange that in Swiftly Tilting Planet, L’Engle describes what Meg looks like, but not who she is, so I choose to imagine her as the headstrong young woman from Wrinkle – the clever one who loved math and fell in love with a boy named Calvin. They made a life together, and I think that Meg found contentment in it.