[Content Note: In-text slurs for ableism.]
A Wrinkle in Time, Chapter 2: Mrs Who & Chapter 3: Mrs Which
I left off kinda early in Chapter 2 last time because I wanted to talk about Calvin, but now we can get back to the action! Which is going to stall just a wee bit but stay with me here, I promise.
Anyway, the kids head up to the local "haunted" abandoned house and knock at the door and the door swings ominously open while crows cry and rats scurry out and rusty hinges squeal and Meg is actually getting super unsettled but it is time for someone to finally be nice to Meg!
Calvin put a strong hand to Meg’s elbow, and Fort pressed against her leg. Happiness at their concern was so strong in her that her panic fled, and she followed Charles Wallace into the dark recesses of the house without fear.
I mentioned that Calvin is Meg's security blanket, right? And I don't mean that in a bad way at all, even a little bit. Calvin is a very effective fantasy fulfillment character (for those who harbor that fantasy) of a romance interest who just genuinely likes a person from the get-go. Heck, I tend to right romances like that--the push and pull and tug of war that we see between Bella/Edward and Ana/Grey may be what some people crave, but I tend to prefer people being nice to each other because it fits better with my reality and my needs.
So while I will fully cop that it is perhaps a little less than realistic that Calvin walks into Meg's life and is already being her rock and anchor and loving support, I won't criticize it as a fantasy and I think L'Engle sells it well here. Certainly this is more subtle than much of what Piers Anthony and his peers churned out for the genre. (Split Infinity, published 20 years later in 1980, would open with a gorgeous sex robot walking up to the hero and proclaiming she was programmed to love and protect him. I mention this purely for context.)
They entered into a sort of kitchen. There was a huge fireplace with a big black pot hanging over a merry fire. Why had there been no smoke visible from the chimney? Something in the pot was bubbling, and it smelled more like one of Mrs. Murry’s chemical messes than something to eat. In a dilapidated Boston rocker sat a plump little woman. She wasn’t Mrs Whatsit, so she must, Meg decided, be one of Mrs Whatsit’s two friends. She wore enormous spectacles, twice as thick and twice as large as Meg’s, and she was sewing busily, with rapid jabbing stitches, on a sheet. Several other sheets lay on the dusty floor.
Charles Wallace went up to her. “I really don’t think you ought to have taken Mrs. Buncombe’s sheets without consulting me,” he said, as cross and bossy as only a very small boy can be. “What on earth do you want them for?”
The plump little woman beamed at him. “Why, Charlsie, my pet! Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait point. French. Pascal. The heart has its reasons, whereof reason knows nothing.”
Mrs Who speaks almost entirely in quotes with is utterly delightful to me (think of all the GoodReads quotes you could scavenge!) and which always gets English majors in a tickle as it's a great way to both show off as an author and make a character seem eccentric and scatter-brained in addition to educated and erudite. (I did something similar in Poison Kiss with Athena, though I wasn't consciously mimicking L'Engle, having not read her in years. Characters who quote Shakespeare and the like are just fun to write.)
Anywho, they stole the sheets because they needed them to make ghosts. You see, they're hiding out in this haunted house and they've been making it seem extra haunted to keep people away, so they wanted to go all out and hang ghosts from the rafters. I guess? I have a hard time thinking that anyone would be fooled by this, but maybe that's the point--we'll soon see that the three Mrs W's don't think like humans because, well, they're not. They talk about sheets for awhile and then Charles switches the subject to that of Calvin, he of the mysterious compulsions to join the plot.
But Charles Wallace held up his hand in a peremptory gesture. “Mrs Who, do you know this boy?”
Calvin bowed. “Good afternoon, Ma’am. I didn’t quite catch your name.”
“Mrs Who will do,” the woman said. “He wasn’t my idea, Charlsie, but I think he’s a good one.”
“Where’s Mrs Whatsit?” Charles asked.
“She’s busy. It’s getting near time, Charlsie, getting near time. Ab honesto virum bonum nihil deterret. Seneca. Nothing deters a good man from doing what is honorable. And he’s a very good man, Charlsie, darling, but right now he needs our help.”
“Who?” Meg demanded.
“And little Megsie! Lovely to meet you, sweetheart. Your father, of course. Now go home, loves. The time is not yet ripe. Don’t worry, we won’t go without you. Get plenty of food and rest. Feed Calvin up. Now, off with you! Justitiae soror fides. Latin again, of course. Faith is the sister of justice. Trust in us! Now, shoo!” And she fluttered up from her chair and pushed them out the door with surprising power.
More plot hooks! Something about their missing father! That's all you get for now! Meg tells Charles she doesn't understand what just happened or why and Charles says he isn't sure what's going on either but that their dog had been calm the entire time so clearly the Mrs W's are on the side of good. (Animals who can sense good and evil are going to be a world-building Thing, so we can allow this either because it's in-universe true or because it's something a 5-year-old boy might reasonably think.) Charles says he's hungry and that they should all go home and eat as suggested.
“Lead on, moron,” Calvin cried gaily. “I’ve never even seen your house, and I have the funniest feeling that for the first time in my life I’m going home!”
The "moron" is gentle ribbing from their previous conversation but it still continues to sting for me personally. Like, the joke is that people call Charles a "moron" but he's not, which... okay but it's still a harmful joke for people who aren't super-geniuses like Charles. I don't expect Calvin to be perfect, but I wish the narrative would drop the ableist language. (I don't think the "joke" runs past this chapter, but we'll see if I'm remembering correctly.)
Do note that Calvin is already imprinting on the Murry family, as I mentioned in his omnibus post.
Oh! And that's the end of Chapter 2! Let's dive into Chapter 3, I promise things will start happening soon! (I've ruined a lot of the tension of these chapters for ya'll because I already told you what was happening with their father. The thing driving you through the early chapters as a reader is the mystery of where this missing father is and what are the details surrounding his absence.)
Chapter 3: Mrs Which
In the forest evening was already beginning to fall, and they walked in silence. Charles and Fortinbras gamboled on ahead. Calvin walked with Meg, his fingers barely touching her arm in a protective gesture.
This has been the most impossible, the most confusing afternoon of my life, she thought, yet I don’t feel confused or upset anymore; I only feel happy. Why?
“Maybe we weren’t meant to meet before this,” Calvin said. “I mean, I knew who you were in school and everything, but I didn’t know you. But I’m glad we’ve met now, Meg. We’re going to be friends, you know.”
“I’m glad, too,” Meg whispered, and they were silent again.
L'Engle was a strong Episcopalian. I don't know whether she was a supporter of the "courtship" model of dating that a lot of modern fundamentalist Christians have latched onto; I suspect she was not as such, but we will see later that she has very strong views about casual sex.
Calvin is, in many respects--and I think not necessarily inappropriately for a YA novel whose protagonist is apparently ~12 years old--a perfect gentleman and the "right" sort of Christian boyfriend. He was guided into Meg's life by the godbeing and imprinted on her within minutes, already steadying her arm and making her feel safe and secured and loved. He doesn't press more of himself onto her; there's never any suggestion that his hands will move to more intimate places, and their kisses are always delicate and shy and chaste.
These were the sorts of romances we were supposed to get into, at least in my community. Girls weren't supposed to pursue boys; God would guide them to our door, to our bible study class, into our lives in some way. And while touching and chaste kisses were permitted, we were never to explore any further. This... isn't a bad model for people who want it? I don't want to slam anyone for something that works for them. Lots of people don't want to experiment further and are perfectly happy with a few gentle touches to the elbow and a few chaste kisses to the cheek and mouth.
But man, let me tell you, if that model doesn't satisfy you, it is not a good place to be. Feeling constantly on the watch for a boy to plop into your midst--because heaven forbid you go out looking for a date--and then constantly holding back from the affection you want to give because a judgmental god is hovering over your left shoulder is awful. And after years of reading only this one model of chaste dating and little else, it's easy to feel as though you are aberrant and weird--a big ball of grotesque sinful shameful desires, unworthy of love because your own love is anything but pure.
Not that I blame L'Engle for any of this, mind you. This is just providing context. Calvin and Meg are interacting in the Approved Christian Way of my youth: he touches her, yes, but in chaste protective ways that are pure-minded in heart.
This context may explain to readers why Calvin is suddenly so glad to have met her and so certain that they will be close friends when they've known each other for five whole minutes. Meg speaks 47 words in between meeting Calvin and this scene here, and all of those 47 words were directed at Charles Wallace (well, correction, 1 of the 47--"who?"--was directed at Mrs Who). Meg hasn't said a single word to Calvin and they're already courting--not because the text overtly tells us so, but because of the signals here of Calvin guiding and protecting Meg with his hands. This didn't seem strange to me as a child reader because I understood that this was, at least in part, a chance for the author to show how I was supposed to act around a boy.
When they got back to the house Mrs. Murry was still in the lab. She was watching a pale blue fluid move slowly through a tube from a beaker to a retort. Over a Bunsen burner bubbled a big, earthenware dish of stew. “Don’t tell Sandy and Dennys I’m cooking out here,” she said. “They’re always suspicious that a few chemicals may get in with the meat, but I had an experiment I wanted to stay with.”
A reminder that Mrs Murry is a biologist and a bacteriologist so I'm less concerned that "chemicals" will get in the food and more concerned that bacteria will. I know this is supposed to be Adorkable Scientist characterization, but seriously the actual kitchen is mere steps away. You couldn't put on the stew to simmer in the other room? (On the other hand, when Charles Wallace is deathly ill in the next book from a mysterious strain of coldsickflu that's been going through town and that Mrs Murry has been trying to cure, I'm going to assume he was contaminated from one of her samples.)
Anyway, Meg asks if Calvin can stay for dinner and Mrs Murry says you betcha and Calvin phones home to let his family know he'll be out late.
“A mother like that! A house like this! Gee, your mother’s gorgeous! You should see my mother. She had all her upper teeth out and Pop got her a plate but she won’t wear it, and most days she doesn’t even comb her hair. Not that it makes much difference when she does.” He clenched his fists. “But I love her. That’s the funny part of it. I love them all, and they don’t give a hoot about me. Maybe that’s why I call when I’m not going to be home. Because I care. Nobody else does. You don’t know how lucky you are to be loved.”
Meg said in a startled way, “I guess I never thought of that. I guess I just took it for granted.”
Calvin looked somber; then his enormous smile lit up his face again. “Things are going to happen, Meg! Good things! I feel it!”
Depizan already pointed this out, but it rings a little hollow to talk about how much you super-love your mother while you're comparing her in a denigrating way to strangers. Calvin manages to pack a lot of criticism in his praise; "a house like this!" probably encompasses both the relative wealth gap between the families, but we also know that Mrs O'Keefe is a terrible slovenly housekeeper even as she scorns Mrs Murry for holding a non-housekeeping job.
I think it's realistic for a fourteen-year-old boy to trash-talk his family while insisting that he totes loves them so much, I just think it's a little... tonally off, coming from a character who otherwise bleeds sensitivity and charm and charisma. Calvin really does have Sympathetic Empathy--not just Charles Wallace's Insightful Empathy--and I have to wonder if he ever thinks about how his family would feel if his words ever got back to them. And yet, the text seems to intend that we take his words as gospel--we will later be shown a picture into his family life, just to clarify that they really are awful and Calvin isn't exaggerating.
Moving on, Calvin picks up a picture of Mr Murry and asks some questions. The picture is of "a bunch of scientists" at Cape Canaveral. This is probably a wee bit subtle to most readers (I had to look it up based on a nagging feeling), but Cape Canaveral is a major rocket launch test site in the United States (since 1949) and there lives the Kennedy Space Center (since 1967, so 5 years before this book was published but the site was already known for rockets and space-related Science!). This is a nice clue--subtle but not necessary to catch--about what Mr Murry was working on and I like it.
“Yup. The one who needs a haircut.” Meg giggled, forgetting her worries in her pleasure at showing Calvin the picture. “His hair’s sort of the same color as mine, and he keeps forgetting to have it cut. Mother usually ends up doing it for him—she bought clippers and stuff—because he won’t take the time to go to the barber.”
Calvin studied the picture. “I like him,” he announced judiciously. “Looks kind of like Charles Wallace, doesn’t he?”
Meg laughed again. “When Charles was a baby he looked exactly like Father. It was really funny.”
Calvin continued to look at the picture. “He’s not handsome or anything. But I like him.”
Meg was indignant. “He is too handsome.”
Calvin shook his head. “Nah. He’s tall and skinny like me.”
“Well, I think you’re handsome,” Meg said. “Father’s eyes are kind of like yours, too. You know. Really blue. Only you don’t notice his as much because of the glasses.”
Oh god, does everyone in this universe have blue eyes because we keep running into it. (Blue Eyes will be a plot point in what I will refer to as Book #4, A Swiftly Tilting Planet.) I mean, I like blue eyes! I have blue eyes myself and they're quite striking! People tend to remark on them! But, like, there are people in my life who don't have blue eyes. I am not surrounded by a sea of blue-eyed faces. Has the narrative mentioned any eye colors that weren't blue (Calvin, Mr Murry) and violet (Mrs Murry)?
A side-note on violet eyes: In the 1960s, Elizabeth Taylor would already have been quite famous and her reputation for "violet eyes" would likely already have been established. Google tells me that violet eyes generally aren't a thing (unless some albinism is in play?) and that Elizabeth Taylor's eyes were actually blue but appeared violet due to lighting and film processing techniques of the time. I don't know if L'Engle would have known any of this--I suspect not, but then again Science! so who knows--but it might explain why the "violet eyes" don't come up again outside this book. But it also means that Mrs Murry is probably also blue-eyed.
I'm just really holding out for Sandy or Dennys or Charles Wallace to have brown eyes. (*checks*) Nope, Charles has blue eyes which are established later in this book. Still no word yet on the twins. We live in hope.
But I digress. Mrs Murry tells Meg to do her homework while she finishes up dinner and Calvin mentions that he has homework and that it's the "one thing I have a hard time keeping up in", i.e. math. And now it's time for a girl to help a boy with math!
Mrs. Murry smiled. “Why don’t you get Meg to help you?”
“But, see, I’m several grades above Meg.”
“Try asking her to help you with your math, anyhow,” Mrs. Murry suggested.
“Well, sure,” Calvin said. “Here. But it’s pretty complicated.”
Meg smoothed out the paper and studied it. “Do they care how you do it?” she asked. “I mean, can you work it out your own way?”
“Well, sure, as long as I understand and get the answers right.”
“Well, we have to do it their way. Now look, Calvin, don’t you see how much easier it would be if you did it this way?” Her pencil flew over the paper.
“Hey!” Calvin said. “Hey! I think I get it. Show me once more on another one.”
Again Meg’s pencil was busy. “All you have to remember is that every ordinary fraction can be converted into an infinite periodic decimal fraction. See? So 3/7 is 0.428571.”
So here we learn that Meg is not, as we've been previously told, stupid at all. She's actually very smart and capable of doing math "several grades" above her (Calvin, are you "a couple" grades above Meg or "several" because those words are not the same thing!), and she's only being held back by Bad Teaching that demands the students work things out via a specific route. This is another nerd-fantasy and also rooted in some truth--I had some doozy of bad math teachers in my time.
But. As much as I love this scene--and I do!--I do have to ask what kind of math they are doing in eleventh grade that 3/7ths is a thing Calvin is struggling with? I realize this is not the 1960s but here in the 2010s, math usually goes Algebra at 8th grade, Geometry at 9th, Advanced Algebra in 10th, and then Pre-Calculus and Calculus in 11th and 12th, with maybe some formal Physics as well and/or some Chemistry (which is really just math with an attitude). I can imagine that maybe L'Engle didn't want Meg doing derivative calculus in a YA book (except why not? that would be so cool!) but really? "You can convert a fraction to a decimal" is a lightbulb moment for an 11th grader?
(Also, and I say this as someone who infinitely prefers decimals to fractions, there are a lot of cases where you really should not simplify fractions this way, so adult-me is less impressed by this section as child-me was.) (God, especially if you're in the 1960s and don't have a pocket calculator. I shudder even to think.)
Wall-of-text time to flesh out the facts about not-so-stupid-after-all Meg:
“This is the craziest family.” Calvin grinned at her. “I suppose I should stop being surprised by now, but you’re supposed to be dumb in school, always being called up on the carpet.”
“Oh, I am.”
“The trouble with Meg and math,” Mrs. Murry said briskly, “is that Meg and her father used to play with numbers and Meg learned far too many shortcuts. So when they want her to do problems the long way around at school she gets sullen and stubborn and sets up a fine mental block for herself.”
“Are there any more morons like Meg and Charles around?” Calvin asked. “If so, I should meet more of them.”
“It might also help if Meg’s handwriting were legible,” Mrs. Murry said. “With a good deal of difficulty I can usually decipher it, but I doubt very much if her teachers can, or are willing to take the time. I’m planning on giving her a typewriter for Christmas. That may be a help.”
“If I get anything right nobody’ll believe it’s me,” Meg said.
“What’s a megaparsec?” Calvin asked.
“One of Father’s nicknames for me,” Meg said. “It’s also 3.26 million light years.”
“What’s E = mc2?”
“What’s E stand for?”
“The square of the velocity of light in centimeters per second.”
“By what countries is Peru bounded?”
“I haven’t the faintest idea. I think it’s in South America somewhere.”
“What’s the capital of New York?”
“Well, New York City, of course!”
“Who wrote Boswell’s Life of Johnson?”
“Oh, Calvin, I’m not any good at English.”
Calvin groaned and turned to Mrs. Murry. “I see what you mean. Her I wouldn’t want to teach.”
“She’s a little one-sided, I grant you,” Mrs. Murry said, “though I blame her father and myself for that. She still enjoys playing with her dolls’ house, though.”
“Mother!” Meg shrieked in agony.
“Oh, darling, I’m sorry,” Mrs. Murry said swiftly. “But I’m sure Calvin understands what I mean.”
Well, it's a Science! family so we have a lot of maths and sciences, but very little by way of literature or geography. This is so very retro that it almost hurts--the earnest belief that really all we need is Science! and the next thing you know we'll be eating algae cakes on the moon thanks to Science! Don't question why we would be eating algae cakes on the moon! We just will! Because Science! And in the meantime no one needs to learn any humanities or be concerned about things like world politics! There's rockets to be shooting into space, you guys!
Mrs Murry is a cool understanding mom and doesn't mind that Meg is one-sided, but it always kind of alarmed me in this--and the next--book that the parents just... kinda... don't take an interest in the kids' schooling? They teach them the stuff they're interested in, biology and physics and Science!, but anything else that the kids let fall by the wayside is just so much ho-hum. It's an interesting study in comparison to the evil O'Keefe's: the O'Keefe parents are actively hostile to education, but the Murry parents are merely neglectful of anything that doesn't personally interest them. I mean, for god's sake, you could teach Meg to make flash cards before she's held back a grade? (Which has been threatened by her teachers!)
With a sudden enthusiastic gesture Calvin flung his arms out wide, as though he were embracing Meg and her mother, the whole house. “How did all this happen? Isn’t it wonderful? I feel as though I were just being born! I’m not alone anymore! Do you realize what that means to me?”
“But you’re good at basketball and things,” Meg protested. “You’re good in school. Everybody likes you.”
“For all the most unimportant reasons,” Calvin said. “There hasn’t been anybody, anybody in the world I could talk to. Sure, I can function on the same level as everybody else, I can hold myself down, but it isn’t me.”
And, oh yeah, it's time for another bout of "I only survive in school because I pretend to be mediocre like the others". Which, you know, again, I understand as a nerd-fantasy and can even attest to some accuracy here, but man are we being beaten over the head with this message. Is this the fifth time we've heard this so far? Sixth? I would have to count, but I think it's at least six.
Also it is somewhat interesting to me that Calvin is clearly already falling for Meg before she shows off as someone who isn't as stupid as he previously thought. I guess that is intended to show him as a good and unsuperficial person, but it means that we don't really see what he sees in Meg before he has this to latch onto. She's not pretty (supposedly), and he thinks (at that stage) that she's not smart. She also speaks not one whit to him until they get to her house. What is he attracted to?
He's clearly impressed with Charles right from the get-go, but Meg isn't Charles. In Book #2, Meg will joke--in a self-deprecating bid for reassurance which her mother doesn't provide--that Calvin is dating her because he likes the family itself, and even as a child I wondered if that wasn't actually the case. I think it is, but that his values are part of the fantasy L'Engle intends: you may not always be perfect and lovable, but your family has value so you don't have to worry about losing your boyfriend if you're not pretty enough or smart enough because that's not the only reason he's with you.
It's one of those fantasies that is either super comforting or super terrifying squick, depending on whether it works for you or not, I think.
Meg was pleased and a little surprised when the twins were excited at having Calvin for supper. They knew more about his athletic record and were far more impressed by it than she. Calvin ate five bowls of stew, three saucers of Jello, and a dozen cookies, and then Charles Wallace insisted that Calvin take him up to bed and read to him. The twins, who had finished their homework, were allowed to watch half an hour of TV. Meg helped her mother with the dishes and then sat at the table and struggled with her homework. But she could not concentrate.
Side note: Five bowls of stew, three saucers of jello, and a dozen cookies?!?! I know he's a teenage boy and under-fed in his family but oh my god? Is this possible? Can someone confirm this? I am a champion eater but I can't eat more than two bowls of stew and that's when I'm hungry as heck.
This is getting long, so I'm going back to summarizing. Meg asks her mother if she's upset, and Mrs Murry honestly answers that she is. She says she's still "quite a young woman" (age note: Mrs Murry has two doctorates and Mr Murry has "several" and they have a daughter of ~12 years old. How old are they? Show your work. No fractions.) and that she is in love with her husband and misses him a lot. It's a very sweet conversation and I like it a lot--I like the trust she's putting in Meg, by speaking with her as an adult.
Again Mrs. Murry paused. She held her hands out and looked at them. They were long and strong and beautiful. She touched with the fingers of her right hand the broad gold band on the third finger of her left hand. “I’m still quite a young woman, you know,” she said finally, “though I realize that that’s difficult for you children to conceive. And I’m still very much in love with your father. I miss him quite dreadfully.”
“And you think all this has something to do with Father?”
“I think it must have.”
“That I don’t know. But it seems the only explanation.”
“Do you think things always have an explanation?”
“Yes. I believe that they do. But I think that with our human limitations we’re not always able to understand the explanations. But you see, Meg, just because we don’t understand doesn’t mean that the explanation doesn’t exist.”
And now I have to quote again because we're back to theology. Because the thing is, this conversation doesn't really make sense. Meg says "you think all this has something to do with father" but what does she mean by "all this"? Mrs Murry doesn't know they went to see Mrs Who today. She doesn't know about Calvin's compulsions. All she knows is that Mrs Whatsit said something about a tesseract (a think Meg has forgotten to ask her mother about, because the reader will get an explanation for it later) and... that's it. She had a normal day and then Meg brought a boyfriend home.
The reader knows that there is a lot of "all this" going on, because the reader has been with Meg all this time. But I think L'Engle allowed this lapse in character-knowledge in order to wax on her philosophy that things always have an explanation, even if our human limitations prevent the understanding of same. The world isn't random and inexplicable, and this is partly a Science! thing and partly L'Engle's personal brand of Episcopalian theology: everything happens for a reason. It isn't quite predestination--choice is still an option throughout--but there's always a cause behind every effect, and at a deeper level than just action and reaction. Everything has a reason, and I invite you to imagine that with a full capital-R. Reason.
This is getting long, so I'll wrap things up.
“I like to understand things,” Meg said.
“We all do. But it isn’t always possible.”
“Charles Wallace understands more than the rest of us, doesn’t he?”
“I suppose because he’s—well, because he’s different, Meg.”
“I’m not quite sure. You know yourself he’s not like anybody else.”
“No. And I wouldn’t want him to be,” Meg said defensively.
“Wanting doesn’t have anything to do with it. Charles Wallace is what he is. Different. New.”
“Yes. That’s what your father and I feel.”
[...] “But Charles Wallace doesn’t look different from anybody else.” “No, Meg, but people are more than just the way they look. Charles Wallace’s difference isn’t physical. It’s in essence.” [...] Her mother smiled again. “Maybe that’s why our visitor last night didn’t surprise me. Maybe that’s why I’m able to have a—a willing suspension of disbelief. Because of Charles Wallace.”
“Are you like Charles?” Meg asked.
“I? Heavens no. I’m blessed with more brains and opportunities than many people, but there’s nothing about me that breaks out of the ordinary mold.”
“Your looks do,” Meg said.
Mrs. Murry laughed. “You just haven’t had enough basis for comparison, Meg. I’m very ordinary, really.”
Calvin O’Keefe, coming in then, said, “Ha ha.”
I know, again, that this is supposed to be a cool understanding mom speaking only god's honest truth about a kid who really is magical and special, but holy hell does it seem kind of creepy to me now. This child is five-years-old, he's barely had time to show that he's different and new and magical. His differences that we've seen so far are largely explicable: he has a strong empathic connection to his mother and sister and he memorizes complicated words. And that latter one couldn't even be in play for what "your father and I feel", because Mr Murry disappeared before Charles Wallace began talking at four! (This is mentioned! By Meg! Elsewhere!)
So Mr Murry and Mrs Murry were raising a silent baby from birth to four-years-old and yet, despite his complete silence and apparently being largely non-interactive with the world around him because he was (I guess?) soaking up information in preparation for his verbal debut, they determined that he was a new evolutionary being with unprecedented understanding. In his essence. You guys. And they wax philosophically in front of him about no one is on his level or can understand him. I feel like this is a good way to mess a kid up for life, you guys.
“Charles all settled?” Mrs. Murry asked.
“What did you read to him?”
“Genesis. His choice. By the way, what kind of an experiment were you working on this afternoon, Mrs. Murry?”
Overt Religious Reference: 1. (Drink!)
Question #1: Why is the new boy we brought home today in charge of putting the five-year-old to bed? Points for gender-neutral nurturing, I suppose, and I would guess Calvin knows how to get a five-year-old into bed what with the 8 younger siblings at home (he's third from the top of 11 total), but I just... okay, fine.
Question #2: The Murry family isn't explicitly religious even though L'Engle herself was. Yes, it is supposed to seem perfectly natural that the son of Scientists! who value Science! would want as bedtime reading (alongside the Science! journals he also asks for) the book of Genesis. Why, you ask?
You are, of course, aware that it is a very pretty collection of myths and stories, but this is a family that places no real value on literature, history, mythology, geography, or other cultures. You are right, of course, both about the book and the Murry family. But, my dear readers, Genesis in particular and the Bible is general is Science! in this world and that is why Charles Wallace cherishes it as much as his cutting edge journals from England.
All will be revealed in time my friends!