Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Covert Character Status

C is for . . . Charles Wallace Murry

If you don't know that name, go read A Wrinkle in Time right now.

Okay, now that you're done, let's talk about Charles Wallace, the child prodigy poster child of children's fantasy literature. (Child/child/children. Like that? :P)

Meg Murry is the main character of the first two books in Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quartet, A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door. But her younger brother Charles Wallace is central to the plot in both books, and in A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Meg takes a backseat as Charles Wallace must travel back in time to stop a dictator's plans for nuclear war.

It is Charles Wallace who sets the events of Wrinkle into motion. It is Charles Wallace whose arrogance leads him to the dangerous climax of the book. Charles Wallace is the main focus of A Swiftly Tilting Planet. Though sidelined from the action by a mysterious illness, it is to save his life that Meg and Calvin O'Keefe must journey to the microscopic level of the mitochondria within his own cells.

Charles Wallace is a genius. It's not specifically stated but rather implied through his vast knowledge of things beyond his years, the level of his conversation, and other hints dropped here and there, such as when he says in Wrinkle, "Thinking I'm a moron gives people something to feel smug about. Why should I disillusion them?"

I've always found child geniuses (genii?) particularly interesting, so I was instantly drawn to Charles Wallace. But the more books I read by L'Engle, the more curious I became. In An Acceptable Time, which follows Meg's daughter Polly, a litany of sorts is recited about what the various Murrys are up to, in which Charles Wallace is conspicuously absent. Polly is given his room for the duration of her stay with her grandparents. The tone of that scene always led me to believe that Charles Wallace died young. But in researching for this blog entry, I learned that Charles Wallace gets another mention.

In A House Like a Lotus, which also follows Polly, she says that Charles Wallace "is off somewhere on some kind of secret mission." While this book appeared five years before An Acceptable Time, meaning my conclusion might still be right, it's interesting to note what else Charles Wallace might have been involved in. Was it a mission for the government, perhaps? Not too far out of the realm of possibility, considering his prominent scientist parents and his own talent and genius. Or was it something like the adventures from his childhood, traveling in time and to other planets in order to save the universe? There's no way to know. An Acceptable Time was the last mention of Charles Wallace, and Madeleine L'Engle had stopped writing children's fiction years before her death in 2007.

You're going to find out pretty quickly as I continue this series that I'm constantly drawn to enigmatic characters like this. The desire to know more, whether I will find out or not, is a very powerful driving force.

Tomorrow: I don't know! I have four possibilities for D, and I don't know how I'll ever choose. Maybe eenie-meenie-miney-moe.

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