Strength in Weakness
A Comparative Analysis of Madeleine L’engle’s Wrinkle in Time and Chris Columbus’ House of Secrets
by Jahzeel Dionne V. Ybasco
I don’t plan what books I’m going to read in a month. I just read any I come across with—books I get from the store, online, or those given to me by friend. It is a coincidence that the books I have read for this month have the same theme: saving the world from evil by traveling through time to a different world or era.
Wrinkle in Time is about three kids, Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin, who travel through a ‘wrinkle’ of time with the initial goal of searching for Mr. Murphy, Meg and Charles’ father. However, along the way, the journey turns to be more serious as they have to fight the Shadow that threatens to conquer Earth.
House of Secrets on the other hand is also about three kids who uncover -surprise! – secrets of their new house. The children embark on various adventures as they literally go into the books written by another major character. They search for another mysterious book, Doom and Desire, to bring everything back to normal.
Similar these two may be, as in many novels and dramas following a specific plot, these novels have other similarities (e.g. theme) and differences (e.g. titles).
People have fantasized time traveling for a very long time. It is not surprising. Who wouldn’t like to go back to the past and try to change their future? However, this is not the concept of time traveling portrayed in both novels.
In Wrinkle in Time, time traveling means using a shortcut in a five-dimensional world to save the Earth from the threat of the “Shadow” or evil. This means, the characters in the story do not need to go back in time to correct misbehavior or change history. They have to defeat the enemy by traveling to a different world or planet through time and come back home within minutes.
Since the main characters of House of Secrets have magically gone into a book, the concept of time has been twisted in the novel. However, the children’s actions in the book may also affect their real world. In the end, the youngest sibling, Eleanor, cleverly asks for a wish to the magical book to bring them back to their real world and the book grants her wish. The siblings return, surprised that after all their exploits in the book, not even a second has passed by in their real world.
Both books have three major characters. Somehow, their profiles and behavior look very similar but with other distinct quality.
Calvin (WT) vs Brendan (HS) . This pair receives the best supporting actor award. They play significant roles in the novels but they don’t really move the stories. Calvin holds Meg’s hands in the cheesy parts of Wrinkle in Time but he doesn’t help defeating the Shadow. Brendan insults Cordelia most of the time but in the exciting parts of House of Secrets, he is knocked out cold. They may look promising as characters of a series, the problem with their characterization is they are easily forgettable and most readers may find themselves wondering whether the authors have plans to develop the characters in the sequels.
Charles Wallace (WT) vs Cordelia (HS) . This pair perhaps has the most similarities. They come out strong in both stories. They are Hermionishly know-it-alls with a thirst to prove themselves. Both are overcome by their haughtiness and think they have the solutions to their families’ problem. In the end, they realize it takes more than knowledge to defeat evil.
Charles Wallace, being a five-year old genius, looks more adorable than Cordelia. His knack for dishing out brutally frank assessments remind the readers of innocent toddlers who can’t help themselves but convey their feelings. Teenage Cordelia, on the other hand, is in the stage where she feels she has to prove herself. I suppose she can’t help being a brat, given her intelligence and hormones but it doesn’t stop me from hating her from time to time.
Meg (WT) vs Eleanor (HS) . Overshadowed by stronger characters Charles Wallace and Cordelia, Meg and Eleanor succeed in capturing my attention as the bringers of problems. They are stubborn in their own ways, impatient, and downright immature. They want things to go their ways. The difference is I have already expected Eleanor to overcome the Book of Doom and Desire. Although one can see Meg in all of the novels chapters, I have expected her Dad or Charles Wallace to come out as the star of the novel.
The Weak triumphs the Strong
Not all stories end with a moral since not all authors intend to write stories with morals. However, both novels highlight the importance of acknowledging one’s weakness and, in doing so, find his or her strength.
Meg, being the stubborn girl that she is, recognizes her faults and uses them against the Shadow. She does not stop until she saves Charles Wallace from IT.
Eleanor, as the youngest sibling in House of Secrets, overcomes Dyslexia and reverses the power of the Book of Doom and Desire.
Good vs Evil
I suppose that as in any Children’s Literature, endings ought to be happy and both novels have ended on a positive note. As usual, Good people win over the bad. Trials pervade the novels but they help shape the characters.
Wrinkle in Time ends with Meg beating the incessant beckoning of the Shadow by focusing on her love for her family. Not only she has been able to retrieve Charles Wallace, but also she has found their way back to Earth and their own time. Meanwhile, House of Secrets ends with Eleanor finding a way to get back to her own world–Earth, not a surprise there– and go back to the time when her parents still live.
It is amusing to note that these novels have been written in different years yet they hold many similarities. I like to think that deep down, people still love fairy tales. Though the novels don’t have a charming Knight-in-Shining-Armor, nor damsel in distress, it still has the basic concept of fairy tales that I love: nobody can put a good man (or woman) down.