The Novel Cure: Literary prescriptions for being brainwashed

If you need to to resist slogans, chants and despots, absorb Madeleine L'Engle's cult classic A Wrinkle in Time

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The Independent Culture

Ailment: Being brainwashed

Cure: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Your heartbeat is irresistibly tuning itself to the beat of the greater machine. Your thoughts begin to fall in sync. How simple it would be if you were to just let go! Resistance is so exhausting… "Give in, give in, give in," whispers something inside.

In Madeleine L'Engle's cult classic of 1963, Meg Murry is an awkward girl with a great gift for mathematics, while her younger brother, Charles Wallace, is so excessively intelligent that all but his family think he's an idiot. Their father, an eminent physicist at work on time and space, has disappeared, and rumours abound concerning his absence – though his wife, a fellow scientist, has faith that he will return.

When the mysterious Mrs Whatsit, a celestial being disguised as a mad old woman, turns up and discusses the existence of tesseracts (or, as Charles Wallace explains it, the fifth dimension), Mrs Murry remembers that this was a concept her husband was working on. And when Mrs Whatsit's friends, Mrs Who and Mrs Which, whisk off Meg, Charles Wallace and their friend, Calvin, on a quest through space to find their missing father, she doesn't stand in their way.

Their journey takes them through several dimensions and eventually to a planet where a monstrous, bodiless brain known as "It" has their father trapped in its thrall. Charles Wallace and Meg both pit their strength against It's dominating pulse in an attempt to save him. When they finally succeed, it is not Charles Wallace's superior intelligence that proves to be the key, but something Meg carries in her heart.

These days we're bombarded by the values of popular culture, with charismatic voices convincing the unprepared to submit to their self-serving missions. But absorb the revelation of A Wrinkle in Time into your heart and you, too, will be able to resist when others are succumbing to slogans, chants and despots.

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