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Madeleine L’Engle’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ deals with some complex topics and themes. In order to have a clearer understanding of the language L’Engle uses, this lesson will take a look at some of the more challenging vocabulary words in her novel.

Word for the Day

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel through time and space? Madeleine L’Engle explores that possibility in A Wrinkle in Time with the adventures of the extraordinary Murry family. Perhaps the most extraordinary is five-year-old Charles Wallace.

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One of the things that makes Charles Wallace so extraordinary is his high intelligence. He may only be five, but he has a larger vocabulary than many adults. One of the reasons he has such an extensive vocabulary is that he works on it through adding a ”new word for the day.”Like Charles Wallace, L’Engle uses some advanced vocabulary words in her book – far too many to list all of them here! In this lesson, we will take a look at the definitions for a group of those vocabulary words. Maybe some of them will become your ”new word for the day.

Vocabulary Terms

Frenzied – wildly excited or uncontrolled. Meg cannot sleep at the beginning of the novel and is watching the trees move in the stormy winds. The wind is blowing so wildly that the trees seem frenzied.Uncanny – strange or mysterious in an unsettling way. Meg feels Charles Wallace’s ability to know when she is ”awake and unhappy” is uncanny. She later finds out it is because he has the ability to understand what people are thinking.Serene – calm, peaceful, and without trouble.

Mrs. Murry often has a serene expression because she hides her emotions to protect her children. Later in the novel, Aunt Beast is a serene presence because Meg needs to feel calm and relaxed while she is healing.Shrill – a high pitched and piercing sound or cry. Meg is afraid and nervous during the storm when her mother decides to see what is making their dog stare at the door. Because she is nervous, her voice becomes shrill when she insists she will go with her mother.

Indignant – feeling or showing anger or annoyance at something perceived to be wrong or unfair. Calvin shows indignation when he first meets Charles Wallace and Meg in the woods and Charles Wallace demands to know what he is doing there as though he has no right to be there.Belligerent – hostile, angry, and aggressive; eager to fight. Meg gets angry quickly when she feels someone is saying something bad about her family. Her principal says she is the most ”belligerent, uncooperative child in school.” IT accuses her of being belligerent, too, when she refuses to eat the artificial food and throws Charles Wallace’s plate on the floor.Corporeal – having a body; relating to a person’s body rather than spirit.

While tessering, Meg feels as though her body is missing, or that the ”corporeal Meg simply was not.” As difficult as it is for Meg to imagine existing outside of her body, it is equally difficult for creatures such as Mrs. Which, who are not used to having a body, to ”think in a corporeal way.”Ineffable – too great or amazing to be expressed in words. After the confusing feeling of tessering, the ineffable peacefulness and beauty of Uriel is so great that Meg cannot put the feeling into words.Tangible – something you can perceive by touch. During her first experience tessering, Meg feels nothingness.

Not nothingness like darkness, which she thinks still ”has a tangible quality; it can be moved through and felt,” but absolute nothingness. Later, when she and her father escape the column where he has been imprisoned, the movement of the rearranging atoms is almost tangible for Meg.Ephemeral – lasting for a very short time. On Uriel, Mrs. Which plays a joke and appears with a broomstick and witch’s hat. These props are ephemeral because they do not stay visible for long.Myopic – physically nearsighted or shortsighted, or lacking in imagination, foresight, or intellectual insight.

Not only does Meg believe she is myopic because she believes she is not smart and awkward, but she also wears glasses because her eyes are myopic.Bravado – acting or showing boldness in order to impress or intimidate. Though Charles Wallace seems confident while speaking with the man in the CENTRAL Central Intelligence Building, his arrogance is really just a show of bravado.Emanate – something that is abstract but perceptible when it is given out or omitted. While possessed by IT, Charles Wallace seems to emanate ”scorn and disapproval.

” When trying to explain to Aunt Beast and the other creatures on Ixchel, Meg thinks they sometimes understand, but for th most past they emanate a feeling of puzzlement.Atrophied – a decline in effectiveness due to neglect or lack of use. IT is so used to being able to take, and keep, control of a person’s mind that it does not know anymore how to respond when someone does stand up to it. Mr. Murry explains to Calvin that this is one of the parts of IT that has become atrophied due to lack of use.

Fallible – capable of making mistakes or being wrong. Meg has a difficult time coming to terms with the fact that her father is not perfect, nor can he fix everything immediately. Instead, he is human and fallible.Trepidation – feeling fear about something that may be about to happen. When Meg, Calvin, and Mr. Murry first arrive on Ixchel, one of the beasts shows trepidation that they might be from a dark planet.

Distraught – deeply upset and agitated. Meg is distraught when she thinks her father has just left Charles Wallace behind with IT and has not gone back for him yet.

Lesson Summary

Throughout her novel, L’Engle deals with some weighty topics, all the way from physics to feeling like an outcast. Knowing the meanings of her vocabulary words draws the reader more into the story. Now that you know some of these words, why not see if you can be like Charles Wallace and add them to your vocabulary?

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