chapter  4
teen Trials of Taste: Ideological “Food Fights” in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time
Pages 14

Written during the height of the Cold War, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time constructs individuality as an essentialized concept, one that enables life in a democratic society, lays the groundwork for artistic and scientifi c accomplishments, and stands against the rise of the modern totalitarian state. At the same time, however, L’Engle’s work is far more than a simple defense of mid-century American democracy. The text’s rich ambiguities result in part from the parallels that it draws between twentieth-century totalitarian governments and the excesses of capitalist consumerism. In L’Engle’s monitory parable of conformity and individual resistance, the monstrous brain known as “IT” aims to devour all living beings, fusing individual hearts and minds into a uniform, fl at, and textureless existence. Yet IT can only consume other beings if they are willing to become mindless “consumers” of the deceptive nourishment that IT generates and purveys. The rhetoric used to describe IT’s agenda evokes mid-century American fears about the “communist threat,” and the inhabitants of IT’s home planet of Camazotz live in a dystopian version of American suburbia, their bland, boxlike houses fronting tidy lawns edged with fl owers. Furthermore, in one of the novel’s central scenes, IT produces a quintessentially American feast, a parodic Thanksgiving dinner, for the novel’s young protagonist Meg Murry.