A Wrinkle In Time: Novel Summary: Chapter 4
The Black Thing
Meg suddenly finds herself alone in complete darkness. She has no idea what is happening to her. She seems to have vanished into nothingness. She is lost in a void. Then she hears Charles Wallace saying that they have had quite a trip. Calvin reappears too. Meg finds herself in a sunlit field, where everything is golden with light. There is an atmosphere of peace and joy. Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which arrive. Mrs. Who tells them they are on Uriel, the third planet of the star Malak in the spiral nebula Messier 101. Mrs. Whatsit says that they "tessered," or "wrinkled" to get there. They are on the way to helping Meg's father, but they have stopped on Uriel to rest. Mrs. Whatsit changes form and assumes the appearance of an unearthly creature. She looks partly like a horse, but with a torso, arms and a head like a man, but a man of greater dignity and joy than Meg has ever seen before. Wings extend from the creature's shoulders. The children climb onto Mrs. Whatsit's back and she flies through the air. They fly over mountains, fields and plains, passing many other similar creatures, who all make a kind of music as they fly. The music is like a song in praise of creation. Mrs. Whatsit gives each of the children a flower, telling them she will explain later about how they are to use it. As they begin to climb higher, the atmosphere gets thinner, and Mrs. Whatsit tells them to hold their flowers up to their faces and breathe through them. The flowers will supply them with oxygen.
They arrive on a mountain peak, from where they can see a moon of Uriel. As the sun sets, they see a faint shadow of darkness that seems to have a life of its own. The stars come out, but the dark shadow remains. Meg feels how terrible the shadow is, and is afraid. Calvin asks Mrs. Whatsit to make the dark Thing go away, because he knows it is evil.
They travel down again, in silence. When they return to the field, Meg asks Mrs. Which whether the dark Thing is what her father is fighting.
This chapter develops the cosmology that underlies the novel, in which the entire universe is a battleground for good versus evil. The good is represented in this chapter by the creatures on Uriel. The Christian references are hard to miss. Uriel is the name of one of the archangels, and the music created by the great winged creatures is equivalent in meaning to the words from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah in praise of God's creation. The Black Thing is the equivalent of the darkness described in chapter one of the Gospel of John: "the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." That sums up the entire theme of the novel.
Mrs. Who's comments about the inadequacy of trying to explain things in words should be noted. Of the three ladies, it is Mrs. Whatsit who is the best at explaining things. She says it is her one real talent, although even she admits that explaining things in words is so much more work, and takes so much more energy, than communicating them directly through some other means.