Time Quartet

Time Quartet

Infobox Novel series
name = Time Quartet
books = A Wrinkle in Time A Wind in the Door Many Waters A Swiftly Tilting Planet
author = Madeleine L'Engle

image_caption = Spines of the Time Quartet in their original hardback dust jackets
title_orig =
translator =
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
genre = Young adult, science fantasy
publisher = Farrar, Straus and Giroux
pub_date = 1962 – 1986
english_pub_date =
media_type = Print (Hardback & Paperback)
preceded_by =
followed_by =
The Time Quartet is a fantasy/science fiction series of four young adult novels written by Madeleine L'Engle.

Those novels are:
*"A Wrinkle in Time" (1962), (Newbery Award Winner), ISBN 0-374-38613-7
*"A Wind in the Door" (1973), ISBN 0-374-38443-6
*"A Swiftly Tilting Planet" (1978), ISBN 0-374-37362-0
*"Many Waters" (1986), ISBN 0-374-34796-4

With the addition of the following:
*"An Acceptable Time", 1989, ISBN 0-374-37362-0

the series is marketed as the Time Quintet.

Publishing history

The series originated with "A Wrinkle in Time", written in 1959 to 1960 and turned down by many publishers before Farrar, Straus & Giroux finally decided to publish it in 1962. "A Wrinkle in Time" won the Newbery Medal and has sold over 6 million copies. The sequel, "A Wind in the Door", takes place the following year but was published over a decade later, in 1973. "A Swiftly Tilting Planet", set ten years after "A Wrinkle in Time", followed in 1978. The last of the quartet, "Many Waters", was published in 1986, but takes place several years before "A Swiftly Tilting Planet". This is readily apparent from the fact that Sandy and Dennys Murry are in high school as of "Many Waters", but refer to their college studies at the time of "A Swiftly Tilting Planet"; and from Meg's unmarried status as of "Many Waters".

All four titles have been published in numerous editions over the years, with occasional changes in cover art and, in 1997, a new introduction by L'Engle for the Dell Laurel-Leaf paperbacks. The books have also been packaged as a boxed set, first (before the publication of "Many Waters") as the Time Trilogy, next as the Time Quartet.

Since 1989, the Time Quartet series plus "An Acceptable Time" (which takes place a full generation after "A Wrinkle in Time") have been collectively called the "Time Quintet".

In May, 2007, the books were reissued under the Square Fish imprint in both mass market and trade paperback form. Both editions include new cover art, "An Appreciation by Anna Quindlen", a "Questions for the Author" interview, and the text of Madeleine L'Engle's Newbery Medal acceptance speech, published under the title "The Expanding Universe".


This series follows the lives of Meg Murry, her youngest brother Charles Wallace Murry, and their friend Calvin O'Keefe as they try to save the world from evil forces. The remaining Murry siblings, twins Sandy and Dennys Murry, take up the struggle in one volume from which the other protagonists are largely absent. A further book about Polly O'Keefe, the eldest child of Meg and Calvin, features several characters from the other novels and completes the Time Quintet.

A Wrinkle in Time

The mysterious Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who and Mrs Which send Meg and Charles Wallace through time and space to rescue their father on the planet Camazotz, accompanied by their new friend Calvin. Along the way, the three children learn about the "Black Thing", a cloud of evil that shadows many planets, including Earth.

A Wind in the Door

Meg, Calvin and the disagreeable school principal Mr. Jenkins have to travel inside one of Charles Wallace's mitochondria to save him from a deadly disease, part of a cosmic battle against the evil Echthroi and the forces of "Unnaming".

Many Waters

Sandy and Dennys Murry, the twin brothers of Meg and Charles Wallace, accidentally travel back in time and meet Noah. They help the patriarch reconcile with his father, fall in love with Noah's daughter Yalith, and become involved in a struggle between the seraphim and the nephilim.

A Swiftly Tilting Planet

Charles Wallace must save the world from nuclear war by going back in time and changing might-have-beens, accompanied in spirit (through kything) by Meg at home.

An Acceptable Time (Time Quintet)

Meg and Calvin's eldest daughter, Polly O'Keefe, visits her maternal grandparents only to find herself trapped 3000 years in past, caught up in a struggle between the People of the Wind and the warlike, drought-stricken People Across the Lake.


This series takes place in a roughly contemporary setting, usually understood to be in the near future with respect to the publication dates of the first two novels. Since the series was written over the course of decades, it is not possible to establish an exact year in which each story takes place; historical events mentioned in the books (such as the dates of the Apollo space program and the name of the President of the United States) do not always correspond to the "real world". In recognition of this, and of the cosmic nature of the series, the inside front cover of "Many Waters" states that the series is set in Kairos, a way of looking at time as "real time, pure numbers with no measurement". cite book
last = L'Engle
first = Madeleine
authorlink = Madeleine L'Engle
coauthors =
title = "The L'Engle Family Tree", in Many Waters
publisher = Farrar, Straus & Giroux
date = 1986
location = New York
pages =
url =
doi =
id = ISBN 0-374-34796-4
] , reflecting her belief that "God's time and our time are not the same".cite book
last = L'Engle
first = Madeleine
authorlink = Madeleine L'Engle
coauthors =
title =
publisher = Harold Shaw Publishers
date = 1993
location = Wheaton, Illinois
pages =p. 93
url =
doi =
id = ISBN 0-87788-726-8

Each of the books contains one or more instances of time travel, carrying the protagonists to metaphysical battlegrounds in the cosmic struggle between good and evil. The eponymous "wrinkle in time" is a short hop to the immediate past, engineered by the Mrs W's to allow Meg, Calvin and Charles Wallace to accomplish their mission and return before they are missed at home. In "A Wind in the Door", Proginoskes takes Meg to "yesterday" to show her the Echthroi destroying a patch of stars. Charles Wallace spends most of "A Swiftly Tilting Planet" "Within" the bodies and minds of people from the distant (and not so distant) past, traveling there by unicorn. "Many Waters" finds Sandy and Dennys stranded in the time of Noah after unwisely typing on their parents' computer while an experiment is in progress.

The milieu is identified by the author as science fantasy. As L'Engle explains in her book "The Rock That is Higher: Story as Truth": "If we limit ourselves to the possible and provable...we render ourselves incapable of change and growth, and that is something that should never end. If we limit ourselves to the age that we are, and forget all the ages that we have been, we diminish our truth." L'Engle, "The Rock That is Higher", p. 100.] Later in the same book, she further explains her use of the science fantasy genre: "Writing "A Wrinkle in Time"...was my first effort in a genre now called 'science fantasy', and science fantasy is not far from fairy tale, that world which delves deep into the human psyche, struggling to find out at least a little more of what we are all about." L'Engle, "The Rock That is Higher", p. 222. ]

The world of L'Engle's characters is filled with fictional place names, often taken from mythological figures that relate symbolically to the locale. For example, the planet Ixchel in "A Wrinkle in Time", where Meg is cared for by a motherly, sightless creature with tentacles, is named for Ixchel, a Mayan moon goddess. Other, more mundane locations are often fictionalized versions of places L'Engle has lived or visited in the real world, such as L'Engle's Connecticut home, which strongly resembles that of the Murry family.cite book
last = L'Engle
first = Madeleine
authorlink = Madeleine L'Engle
coauthors =
title = A Circle of Quiet
publisher = Farrar, Straus & Giroux
date = 1972
location = New York
pages = pp 5–6, 21, 66, 217–218
url =
doi =
id = ISBN 0-374-12374-8


The main characters (protagonists) in the Time Quartet are as follows:

*Margaret "Meg" Murry is the eldest child of scientists Alex and Kate Murry. Mathematically brilliant but less than adept at other subjects in school, Meg is awkward, unpopular, and defensive around authority figures as well as her peers, but generally gets on well with her family and Calvin. Meg is initially unhappy with her physical appearance, particularly her mouse-brown, unruly hair, braces and glasses. She outgrows most of these limitations in the course of the books, although she never completely overcomes her inferiority complex. By the time of "A Swiftly Tilting Planet" she is married to Calvin O'Keefe and imminently expecting her first child.

*Charles Wallace Murry is the youngest Murry child, the most extraordinary and the most vulnerable of the novel's human characters. Charles Wallace did not talk at all until he was nearly four years old, at which time he began to speak in complete sentences. Charles can empathically or telepathically "read" certain people's thoughts and feelings, and has an extraordinary vocabulary. As he ages, he faces illness and other difficulties, but survives and adapts. At age fifteen he remains small for his age, and has a serious, quiet demeanor. He is entirely absent from the O'Keefe series of books, being "off somewhere on a secret mission."

*Calvin O'Keefe is the third eldest of Paddy and Branwen O'Keefe's eleven children, a tall, thin, red-haired 14-year-old high school junior (as of the first book) who plays on the school basketball team. Neglected by his own family, Calvin joyfully enters the lives of the Murrys. By the time of "A Swiftly Tilting Planet" he is married to Meg, holds two doctorates, and is presenting an academic paper on chordates.

*Alexander "Sandy" Murry and Dennys Murry — Younger than Meg but older than Charles Wallace, the twin sons of Drs. Alex and Kate Murry describe themselves as the "squares" of the Murry clan. This changes somewhat when, as teenagers, they are transported to the time immediately preceding the Deluge in "Many Waters". In the remaining volumes of the Time Quartet, they are the realists of the family, and tend to be skeptical about Meg and Charles Wallace's accounts and theories about what is happening. In later life, as seen in the O'Keefe series of books, particularly "A House Like a Lotus", Sandy is an "anti-corporate" lawyer, and Dennys is a neurosurgeon.

*Polly O'Keefe is the protagonist of "An Acceptable Time", the fifth book in the Time Quintet. The eldest child of Meg and Calvin, she is born shortly after the events of "A Swiftly Tilting Planet". Intelligent and widely traveled, Polly speaks numerous languages. In her first three appearances ("The Arm of the Starfish", "Dragons in the Waters" and "A House Like a Lotus"), she has not yet settled on a specific career path, but may have found her calling as of the end of "An Acceptable Time".


The "Time Quartet" shows themes of love, loss, friendship, loneliness and the triumph of good over evil. L'Engle often borrows elements from the Bible in a way similar to C. S. Lewis, one of her favorite authors. In "A Wrinkle in Time", for example, the beautiful creatures of Uriel sing a psalm, and Mrs Who quotes St. Paul; and angelic characters — the three "Mrs Ws", the "singular cherubim" Proginoskes, and the seraph Aradnaral, among others — aid the Murrys and Calvin, but still leave the humans to make their own difficult choices.

Related series

L'Engle has written four books featuring the children of Calvin and Meg O'Keefe, especially their eldest daughter, Polly O'Keefe, and their eldest son Charles. These are, in order of both publication and character chronology:

*"The Arm of the Starfish" (1965) ISBN 0-374-30396-7
*"Dragons in the Waters" (1976) ISBN 0-374-31868-9
*"A House Like a Lotus" (1984) ISBN 0-374-33385-8
*"An Acceptable Time" (1989) ISBN 0-374-30027-5

These also take place in a Kairos framework, although only "The Arm of the Starfish" and "An Acceptable Time" have the characteristic science fantasy elements to any great extent. Taken together, the eight books are called the "Murry–O'Keefe" series. The O'Keefe books further connect, through such characters as Adam Eddington, Canon Tallis and Zachary Gray, to the Austin family series of books, which take place primarily in "chronos" (or "ordinary, wrist-watch" time). Further overlaps between characters connect virtually every L'Engle novel into one massive series of books.


In 2003, "A Wrinkle in Time" was adapted into a television movie by Disney.


External links

*http://mavarin.com/lengleweb/murry.html The Time Quartet bibliography page

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