When we first meet Meg Murry in “A Wrinkle in Time”, she’s hiding under a quilt, shaking in fear from a storm:
- She wasn’t usually afraid of weather.—It’s not just the weather, she thought.—It’s the weather on top of everything else. On top of me. On top of Meg Murry doing everything wrong.
We then find out she’s got a black eye from a fight she got in school that day, and she says:
- —A delinquent, that’s what I am, she thought grimly. —That’s what they’ll be saying next. Not Mother. But Them. Everybody Else. I wish Father—
- But it was still not possible to think about her father without the danger of tears. Only her mother could talk about him in a natural way, saying, “When your father gets back—”
- Gets back from where? And when?
So already on the first page we have an outer quest and an inner quest. She wants to find her dad and to stop doing everything wrong. She then combines the two:
- Surely her mother must know what people were saying, must be aware of the smugly vicious gossip. Surely it must hurt her as it did Meg. But if it did she gave no outward sign. Nothing ruffled the serenity of her expression.
- —Why can’t I hide it, too? Meg thought. Why do I always have to show everything?
This isn’t a flaw we see a lot in stories: Meg wants to be cool, but not the way most tweens do—She wants to be internally cool. She wants to control her emotions. Later, her mother says:
- “You don’t know the meaning of moderation, do you, my darling?” Mrs. Murry asked. “A happy medium is something I wonder if you’ll ever learn.
Of course, Meg is about to go on a big outer space quest to rescue her father, and she’ll literally find a personified Happy Medium out there. As in most science fiction, the hero’s journey into outer space is really a journey into inner space. It allows L’Engle to make Meg’s inner journey manifest in an exciting way.
In most great stories, there is both an outer quest and an inner quest: something the hero physically needs in the real world, and a change they need to make on the inside. The more elegant the story, the more the two quests will be intertwined. L’Engle does a fantastic job.