Open main menu

Calvin O'Keefe

Calvin O'Keefe is a major character in Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet series of books, and, as "Dr. Calvin O'Keefe", an important character in her O'Keefe series of young adult novels. In an interview released on the DVD of the TV adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, L'Engle describes Calvin as "the boy that we all, all us girls want to meet. Not all of us are lucky enough to meet a Calvin, but I was. And I married mine."[1]

Calvin O'Keefe
First appearanceA Wrinkle in Time (1962)
Last appearanceA House Like a Lotus (1984);
referred to in An Acceptable Time (1989)
Created byMadeleine L'Engle
Portrayed byGregory Smith (2003 film)
Levi Miller (2018 film)
NicknameCal (occasionally used by Meg)
TitleDr. (holds M.D. and Ph.D)
OccupationStudent, later marine biologist
SpouseMargaret Murry O'Keefe
ChildrenPolly, Charles, Xan, Den, Peggy, Johnny, Rosy
RelativesParents: Paddy and Branwen;
Siblings: Hinky and Whippy, and eight unnamed


Major traitsEdit

Calvin is tall and skinny, with red hair, freckles, and blue eyes, and is a popular boy on the basketball team as an adolescent. Being bright, he is already a high school junior at the age of fourteen. However, he does not feel that anyone understands or cares about him until he becomes close friends with the unpopular Meg Murry.

He is the third eldest child of Paddy and Branwen O'Keefe, who have eleven children and seemingly neglect all of them.[2] Calvin considers himself a biological "sport" (related to spurt) and different from the rest of his family. Meg agrees, and wonders in A Swiftly Tilting Planet how a family like that could have produced someone like Calvin. As Calvin says in A Wrinkle in Time: "I love them all, and they don't give a hoot about me." When invited to the Murry house, Calvin intuits that "For the first time in my life I'm going home!"

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 has told Meg that one point in seventh grade he had to make do with women's shoes that were much too small for him. 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.

Mrs. Whatsit says that Calvin's great gift is "to communicate with all kinds of people." Calvin communicates best with Meg, and is able to share a telepathic link with her, called "kything". Even as early as their first adventure together, they form a close attachment, according to L'Engle: "Meg couldn't have rescued herself if she hadn't had the love of Calvin behind her."[1]

As an adult, Calvin O'Keefe is a marine biologist, famous for his work on regeneration in starfish and other animals as well as his environmental work. He is married to Meg, and the father of seven children: Polyhymnia (better known as Poly or Polly), Charles, Alexander (initially called Sandy, later nicknamed Xan), Dennys (Den), Peggy (presumably short for Margaret), Johnny and Mary (nicknamed Rosy). Calvin is described as "a loving father but not over-protective", who "treats his children with respect." Calvin works on the remote fictional island of Gaea off the coast of Portugal for several years before moving the family to fictional Benne Seed Island off the coast of South Carolina.


A Wrinkle in Time (1962, ISBN 0-374-38613-7) — In his first appearance, Calvin travels to other planets such as Uriel with Meg and Charles Wallace Murry to help rescue Meg's father, Alex Murry, from IT on the planet Camazotz. He does his best to protect Meg and Charles Wallace, but is unable to keep them from harm. He uses his communication skills to talk with several people on Camazotz, and almost manages to talk Charles Wallace out of IT's mental domination. On the planet Ixchel, Aunt Beast and the other sightless, tentacled creatures are better able to communicate with Calvin than with Mr. Murry. Before Meg goes to save Charles Wallace, Calvin kisses her, much to her surprise and satisfaction.

A Wind in the Door (1973, ISBN 0-374-38443-6) — Calvin is described as a senior in high school and class president. He arrives at the wall behind Meg's house just when she is panicked and needs his comforting presence, and later helps Meg save Charles Wallace's life from the Echthroi in a mitochondrion called Yadah.

Many Waters (1986, ISBN 0-374-34796-4) — The third book in the series chronologically, the last title to be published in the original Time Quartet focuses on different characters. Calvin does not appear in the book, but is said to be in graduate school, at the approximate age of nineteen.

A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978, ISBN 0-374-37362-0) — Although he does not appear directly, much is revealed about Calvin and his family. He is absent from Meg's side at Thanksgiving, but she is married to him and pregnant with their first child, Polyhymnia. They live in a furnished apartment near the hospital where Calvin works, but frequently visit Meg's parents on weekends. Now both an M.D. and a Ph.D., Calvin is in London at the time of the novel, presenting a paper "on the immunological system of chordates." Sandy Murry calls this "a tremendous honor," but Meg is uneasy about not having Calvin around at a moment of crisis. Calvin does call the Murry home, however, and tells Meg that he loves her. When Charles Wallace travels in time, he learns that Calvin's mother, Branwen, was once a loving child called Beezie (full name Branwen Zillah Maddox). She became hardened and apathetic after her grandmother died and her brother, Chuck Maddox, was beaten to the point of brain damage while trying to protect his grandmother from their stepfather. Now old before her time, and with her heart giving out, "Mom" O'Keefe gives Charles Wallace the rune he uses to change history and prevent nuclear war.

The Arm of the Starfish (1965, ISBN 0-374-30396-7) — In the first of the O'Keefe novels, published concurrently with the Time Quartet, Dr. Calvin O'Keefe is a well-known marine biologist whose intern for the summer is Adam Eddington. Calvin has discovered a way to help mammals regenerate tissue the way starfish do, and is justifiably concerned that ruthless men such as Typhon Cutter are willing to go to great lengths—including kidnapping Poly and misleading Adam about Calvin's motives—to misuse and gain from his research.

A Ring of Endless Light (1980 ISBN 0-374-36299-8) — Although this book is part of the Austin family series, Dr. Calvin O'Keefe is mentioned several times by Adam Eddington, in the context of Adam's experiences with him the previous summer. Similarly, Dr. Austin mentions O'Keefe to Canon Tallis in the previous Austin book, The Young Unicorns (1968, ISBN 0-374-38778-8). However, Calvin himself does not appear in either book. The familiarity Dr. Austin and others display with Calvin O'Keefe's work indicates that he has developed a fairly substantial reputation in the scientific community.

Dragons in the Waters (1976, ISBN 0-374-31868-9) — As the focus of the series shifts to Calvin's eldest daughter, Calvin takes Poly and his eldest son Charles with him by freighter to Port of Dragons, Venezuela, there to study and help preserve the ecology of Dragonlake, home of the fictional Quiztano Indians, from exploitation for its oil reserves. En route he helps to look after 13-year-old Simon Renier, but doesn't quite realize at first that Poly and Charles are right to be concerned for Simon's safety. Calvin is reluctant to call in Canon Tallis to solve a murder, but is "relieved" when Mr. Theo does so.

A House Like a Lotus (1984, ISBN 0-374-33385-8) — In the first novel centered entirely on Polly (who has now added a second l to her name) Calvin (like Meg) is unable to get her to tell her parents about a traumatic experience she has evidently had involving her mentor, Maximiliana Horne. He nevertheless allows Polly to travel to Greece and Cyprus without them, although her Uncle Sandy is to be with her in Greece.

Film appearancesEdit

Television adaptationEdit

Gregory Smith played Calvin O'Keefe in the 2003 television adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time by Disney, directed by John Kent Harrison, with a teleplay by Susan Shilliday. The television Calvin is generally similar to Calvin in the book, except for a dark brown hair color and lack of freckles.

Theatrical adaptationEdit

Levi Miller played Calvin O'Keefe in the 2018 theatrical adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, also by Disney, and directed by Ava DuVernay with a screenplay by Jennifer Lee. Like the Calvin in the TV adaptation, his hair is not red and he lacks freckles.


  1. ^ a b L'Engle, Madeleine (2005). Interview: Madeleine L'Eng (DVD extra). Burbank, CA: Disney DVD.
  2. ^ Chase, Carole F. (1998). Suncatcher: A Study of Madeleine L'Engle And Her Writing. Philadelphia: Innisfree Press, Inc. p. 89. ISBN 1-880913-31-3.

External linksEdit