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A Wind in the Door is a young adult science fantasy novel by Madeleine L'Engle.[1] It is a companion book to A Wrinkle in Time, and part of the Time Quartet (and by extension the Time Quintet).

Plot summary

Meg Murry is worried about her brother Charles Wallace, a 6-year-old genius and telepath who is shunned and bullied at school by the other children. The new principal of the elementary school is the former high school principal, Mr. Jenkins, who often disciplined Meg, and who Meg is sure has a grudge against her whole family. Meg tries to enlist Jenkins's help in protecting her brother, but is unsuccessful. On top of this, Meg discovers that Charles Wallace has a progressive disease which is leaving him short of breath. Their mother, a microbiologist, suspects it may have something to do with his mitochondria and the (fictional) "farandolae" that live within them.

One afternoon, Charles Wallace tells Meg he saw a "drive of dragons" in the vegetable garden in their back yard. Meg goes out with him to investigate, but all they find is a pile of very odd feathers. Later, Meg has a frightening encounter with something that looks like Mr. Jenkins. Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O'Keefe discover that Charles Wallace's drive of dragons is a single creature named Proginoskes. Progo, as he is quickly nicknamed, insists on being called "a cherubim" instead of a cherub because he is "practically plural," having a multitude of wings and eyes. The children also encounter a tall robed being named Blajeny, who informs them that he is a Teacher, and that they and Proginoskes have all been called to his class. They also encounter a snake that lives in their wall, Louise the Larger, who is also a teacher.

Meg learns that the galaxy is threatened by beings called Echthroi, who seek to erase the entire universe by un-Naming things. She soon has to save Mr. Jenkins from this fate, by Naming him. Part of the task is to distinguish the real Mr. Jenkins from two Echthroi doubles, but it also means that she must look past her personal grudge, find the goodness in Mr. Jenkins, and let herself love him.

The characters then learn that Echthroi are destroying Charles Wallace's farandolae. They travel inside one of his mitochondria, which is named Yadah, and turn the tide by convincing a larval farandola to take root and accept its role as a mature fara, against the urgings of an Echthros. In the process, Meg is nearly "Xed," and Mr. Jenkins is invaded by his Echthros doubles. Proginoskes sacrifices himself to "fill in" the emptiness of the Echthroi, Charles Wallace's life is saved, and everything returns to normal.


Meg Murry is a high school student, a defensive misfit who gets along best with her family and her new friend Calvin O'Keefe. She wears glasses, has had dental braces and has "mouse-brown" hair, and initially considers herself "repulsive-looking" and "dumb", although she is quite good at math. By the time of A Wind in the Door, Meg is much happier in school than previously, in part because of her friendship with Calvin, but is deeply worried about Charles Wallace. In "Naming" Mr. Jenkins, Meg learns to love and appreciate someone she has always resented. In the course of the story Meg also learns to "kythe" with Calvin and others, communing with them essentially by telepathy.

Charles Wallace Murry is noted as being extremely intelligent, and a telepath as well. Self-described as a biological "sport" or mutation, he is something new and different, biologically and "in essence" according to his mother. He is usually the first to discover certain elements important to the books, including the singular cherubim Proginoskes. Charles Wallace is bullied by fellow children and misunderstood by adults outside his family. He recognizes that this is a problem he must solve himself; that like any new lifeform, he must learn to adapt successfully to his environment in order to survive. Charles has blue eyes, and is said to be small for his age.

Calvin O'Keefe is tall and skinny, with orange hair, freckles and blue eyes, and is a popular boy on the basketball team. As of A Wind in the Door, he is already a high school senior at the age of fifteen, and class president. However, he did not feel that anyone understands or cares about him until he became friends with the Murry family. He is the third eldest child of Paddy and Branwen O'Keefe, who have eleven children and seemingly neglect all of them. Calvin considers himself a biological "sport" and different from the rest of his family. Being poor, the O'Keefes are unable to afford new clothes to accommodate Calvin's growth spurts, and he often wears clothes that are too short for him. Calvin tells Meg that one point in seventh grade he had to make do with women's shoes that were much too small for him and consequently he cut off the toes of them along with the heels. The school principal, Mr. Jenkins, bought him new ones, carefully scuffing them first to make them appear used. Later Calvin earned enough money in summer jobs to buy his own shoes and other necessities.


The many eyes of Proginoskes

Mr. Jenkins, another character from Wrinkle, is further developed in Wind. Formerly the high school principal, Mr. Jenkins has become the principal of Charles Wallace's elementary school instead, an apparent demotion. He is described as having dandruff and smelling of "old hair cream," and Meg thinks of him as a failure and an obstacle.

Proginoskes, a new character, is a "singular cherubim" who seems to resemble a Seraph; he becomes a particular friend of Meg's. "Progo" has what seems like hundreds of constantly-moving wings, a great quantity and variety of eyes, and "jets of flame" and smoke. He does not always take material form, and even when he does, as he tells Meg, not everyone is able to see him. Like Meg, Proginoskes is a Namer, and once learned the names of all the stars. The character's own name means "foreknowledge". He teaches and helps Meg kythe, which is a form of telepathy.[2]

Major themes

Cosmic evil is connected with evil on a cellular level, and the children along with some new friends go within Charles Wallace in order to save his mitochondria (and the fictive entities living within them, the farandolae) from the un-namers—the Echthroi (which, incidentally, is the Koine Greek word for "enemy"). The Echthroi are powerful, evil creatures whose desire is to X (i.e. extinguish) creation. Author Calvin Miller writes that the Echthroi are "demonic spirits" that "are always stalking good, making the whole sick, the entire partial, the holy eroded by the contaminated."[3] The Echthroi reappear in A Swiftly Tilting Planet, trying to prevent Charles Wallace from reaching key moments in history in a bid to save the world from nuclear destruction.

Space and time hold little meaning within the Time Quartet series. In several instances, we find Meg and other characters frustrated with their new friends and confused about these concepts. However, according to the mythical creatures that are introduced, these concepts are limiting and unimportant. This is the key concept to understanding why Charles' sickness could be so important. His sickness, the ailment of his mitochondria is just as important as the fate of a planet elsewhere in the universe because each part of creation, great or small, is important.

Like all of L'Engle's books, the power of love is again a force to be reckoned with as it helps save several characters—not just Charles Wallace but also Meg and a farandola named Sporos. Meg learns to see beyond superficial impressions, and appreciate and embrace inner beauty and strength. Much of the communication between characters in this book involves a process called kything. This process is similar to telepathy and empathic abilities combined. Meg also learns that she is a Namer. Namers work in the universe to love and name parts of Creation, and help them to be themselves. This is the exact opposite of what Echthroi do in their Xing or un-naming.

The premise of naming and counting is inspired by passages in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke which say that God has numbered every hair on our heads and that God is aware of every sparrow that falls. In her book The Rock That Is Higher, L'Engle mentions this concept, and the interdependency that is at the heart of A Wind in the Door:

The secrets of the atom are not unlike Pandora's box, and what we must look for is not the destructive power but the vision of interrelatedness that is desperately needed on this fragmented planet. We are indeed part of a universe. We belong to each other; the fall of every sparrow is noted, every tear we shed is collected in the Creator's bottle.

—Madeleine L'Engle, The Rock That is Higher: Story as Truth, ISBN 0-87788-726-8

The title is based on a quote from Le Morte d'Arthur.

Story development

The novel grew out of a short story, "Intergalactic P.S. 3", first published as a pamphlet for Children's Book Week in 1970. In this early version of the narrative, Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who and Mrs Which from A Wrinkle in Time send Charles Wallace, Meg and Calvin to a school on another planet, where Proginoskes and a conifer seed version of Sporos are among their classmates. As in the novel, Meg must identify the real Mr. Jenkins among his two impostors. If she fails, it will be "a victory for the Dark Shadow" (i.e. the Black Thing).[4]

In Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, L'Engle states that at one stage in the writing of A Wind in the Door, she knew who most of the characters would be, including Progo, the snake and "the three Mr. Jenkinses." She had difficulty developing the story, however, until a physician friend gave her two articles about mitochondria. "And there was where the story wanted me to go," L'Engle writes, "away from the macrocosm and into the microcosm." Enlisting the help of her elder daughter, she proceeded to give herself "a crash course in cellular biology," which she found to be hard work, but also a lot of fun.[5]

Series notes

The characters Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin first appeared in A Wrinkle in Time (1962, ISBN 0-374-38613-7). Unlike some of the other books in the series, A Wind in the Door focuses on the same three protagonists. They and their families collectively appear in a total of eight books, four about the Murry family (the Time Quartet) and four about the eldest of the O'Keefe children a generation later. The Time Quartet plus the last of the O'Keefe books, An Acceptable Time, are marketed as the Time Quintet.

Audio adaptation

A Listening Library edition on four audio cassettes, unabridged and read by the author, was issued in 1994. ISBN 0-8072-7506-9


  1. L'Engle, Madeleine (1973). A Wind in the Door. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 9780374384432. OCLC 709787. 
  2. Wink, Walter (1998). "Evil in The Wind in the Door". In Shaw, Luci. The Swiftly Tilting Worlds of Madeleine L'Engle. Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw. ISBN 0-87788-483-8. .
  3. Miller, Calvin; Shaw, Luci, editor (1998). "In Favor of God", in The Swiftly Tilting Worlds of Madeleine L'Engle. Wheaton, Illinois: Harold Shaw Publishers. p. 194. ISBN 0-87788-483-8.  Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)
  4. Hettinga, Donald R. (1993). Presenting Madeleine L'Engle. New York: Twayne Publishers. pp. 32–33. ISBN 0-8057-8222-2. 
  5. L'Engle, Madeleine. Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, ISBN 0-86547-487-7.

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