A Wrinkle in Time

“It was a shadow, nothing but a shadow. It was not even tangible as a cloud. Was it cast by something? Or was it a Thing in itself?”

“Meg looked. The dark shadow was still there. It had not lessened or dispersed with the coming of night. And where the shadow was the stars were not visible.”

“‘But what is it?’ Calvin demanded. ‘We know that it’s evil, but what is it?'” ‘Yyouu hhave ssaidd itt!’ Mrs. Which’s voice rang out. ‘Itt iss Eevill. Itt iss thee Ppowers of Ddarrkknesss!'”

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We first see Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time in the season one episode Numbers as one of the many books that Sawyer reads throughout the series. We later see it on Sawyer’s bookshelf in the season six episode Recon, along with Watership Down and Lancelot (both of which I’ll get to in later posts). Putting the book in Numbers was symbolic – the book follows three children on a long journey through the unknown to find their father, similar to Hurley’s journey to find Danielle in the unknown jungle this episode.

A Wrinkle in Time follows three children – siblings Meg and Charles Wallace and their friend Calvin – on a journey to a distant planet to find their father. Meg and Charles Wallace’s mother and father have invented a device called the tesseract. The tesseract allows anyone to manipulate time. Typically time moves in a straight line; a tesseract allows the operator to fold the ends of the line together to make it substantially faster for one to travel from point A to point B. Meg and Charles’ father used the tessearct to travel to distant planets; eventually he found himself trapped on the evil planet Camazotz. Camazotz has been overrun by the aforementioned Black Thing. The Black Thing has allowed a large computer called IT to take over the planet. IT controls all the thoughts and movements of Camazotz’s citizens through telekinesis. In short, the planet has gone bad because it doesn’t allow people to have free will. The three children, with the help of three friendly witches, travel to the planet on a tesseract to save their father from the evil entities on Camazotz.

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A Wrinkle in Time is a 1962 children’s novel, so there’s not much point in giving a recap of the children’s journey to save their father – of course we know going in that there’s going to be a happy ending. The children suffer through a series of trials and tribulations: for example, they land on a 2-dimensional planet at one point and struggle to see because parts of Camazotz are so dark as to make human eyes completely ineffective. In the end, they rescue their father and return to Earth, where, thanks to the tesseract, they find mere seconds of time have elapsed through the whole long ordeal.

By now, you can tell where this is going in regards to Lost: the Black Thing and time travel both appear throughout the series. The book gives some insight into the Smoke Monster and it’s pretty clear that Damon and Carlton based the Smoke Monster at least in part on the Black Thing. Like the Smoke Monster, the Black Thing is a fuzzy cloud of dark matter that is the embodiment of evil. Unfortunately for us, L’Engle is just as vague as the Lost creators into the specific nature of the creature/thing/random black stuff. The clearest explanation the reader gets is through Mrs. Which’s explanation that I quoted at the beginning of this article: the Black Thing is the embodiment of evil.

Instead of a direct explanation, we are left with certain traits that represent evil. The most important of these evil traits is that people of Camazotz have been stripped of their free will by the Black Thing. This sheds some light on the free will vs. fate battle that appears frequently throughout Lost: having the right to choose to perform good acts is a key factor in actually being good. The people of Camazotz are influenced by evil simply by not being able to make choices independent of IT. The most obvious example of this in Lost is the season six episode Ab Aeterno, when Richard Alpert meets Jacob and the Man in Black for the first time. The Man in Black (evil) seeks to influence Richard by communicating directly with him – he tricks Richard into trying to kill Jacob by convincing him that Jacob is the devil. Jacob (good), on the other hand, takes a hands-off approach – he thinks that people should choose to be good on their own and not be persuaded by anybody. In the end, it’s not as simple as that: Richard becomes a go-between for the “good” Jacob because people need a nudge in the right direction. Still, the general point remains: in both A Wrinkle in Time and Lost, we associate determinism with evil.

The second theme from A Wrinkle in Time that appears in Lost is time travel. More precisely, both explore the fact that time isn’t static; people (or islands!) can manipulate time in any matter that they choose. Much of season five is devoted to time travel, but the entire series hints at various manipulations of time. Most notably, DHARMA sought to manipulate time at the Orchid station throughout the series. Presumably, they were attempting to make an apparatus similar to the tesseract. The placement of this book in season 1 (and later in season 6) was also used to mess with the viewers a little bit. Watching Sawyer read this book in season one, I can imagine how I would have felt at the time – were the castaways simply in a “wrinkle in time” that felt like several months but in fact lasted through only a few seconds of turbulence? No wonder Damon and Carlton included the book in the first season…not only did they mess with viewers’ heads, they also hinted at themes and events that would become important later in the series.

There are also a few more subtle themes that Lost and A Wrinkle in Time shared. The kids eventually save their father because Meg continues to have faith in her brother Charles Wallace – a hint towards the faith vs. reason theme that appears throughout the series. There’s also the matter of Charles Wallace – an undersized young child, considered weird by others, that has an amazing psychic ability to tell what other people are thinking. Sound like any young child that was a passenger on Oceanic 815? Finally, in the season six episode Lighthouse, we find out that candidate 108 (the numbers added together) was named Wallace. Although we never did find out who Wallace was (or did we?), many, including Doc Jensen from EW, speculated that this was the fictional character Charles Wallace.

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A Wrinkle in Time was another good read from the Lost creators. I was definitely much older than the target audience, but this seemed like a 1960s Harry Potter-type book – enjoyable for everyone, but especially enjoyable for young adults. While it wasn’t one of my favorite books in this series literature-wise, it gave me as much to think about as any other book that appears in Lost lore.

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