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Margaret "Meg" Murry O'Keefe is the main character in Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet of science fantasy novels, the daughter of two scientists, the sister of twins Sandy and Dennys Murry and telepath Charles Wallace Murry, and the mother of Polly O'Keefe and others in the O'Keefe series of books. About fourteen years old when introduced in A Wrinkle in Time (1962), she is thirty-six and a mother of seven in her second published appearance, The Arm of the Starfish (1965). The adventures of Meg, her three brothers and her two eldest children take place over the course of eight books, written between 1959 and 1989. A further novel about Meg as an adult, begun in the 1990s, remains unfinished.
|Margaret Murry O'Keefe|
|First appearance||A Wrinkle in Time (1962)|
by publication: A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978);|
by chronology A House Like a Lotus (1989)
|Created by||Madeleine L'Engle|
Katie Stuart (2003 film) |
Storm Reid (2018 film)
|Occupation||Student, later mathematician|
Dr. Jack Murry (father) |
Dr. Kate Murry (mother)
Charles Wallace Murry (brother)
As Meg MurryEdit
In A Wrinkle in Time (1962), Meg longs for her father, who has mysteriously disappeared. She becomes friends with fellow student Calvin O'Keefe, who joins Meg and Charles Wallace in traveling by tesseract to other planets and provides Meg much-needed emotional support. Together they rescue Dr. Murry on the dark planet Camazotz. Meg ultimately rescues Charles Wallace from Camazotz as well, not through her own intelligence or strength but simply by loving him.
In A Wind in the Door (1973), Meg is much happier in school than previously, in part because of her friendship with Calvin. However, she is deeply worried about Charles Wallace, who has difficulty getting along with students and teachers and suffers from a mysterious illness involving his mitochondria. Meg tries to intervene on his behalf with Mr. Jenkins, the school principal, whom she still resents due to past conflicts. Meg learns to love and appreciate Jenkins, however, when she is given the task of "Naming" him and distinguishing between the principal and his Echthroi doppelgangers. Meg, Mr. Jenkins, Calvin, and a "singular cherubim" are then sent inside one of Charles Wallace's mitochondria to turn the tide against the Echthroi, the forces of Entropy and "Unnaming." Meg learns to appreciate the cosmic harmony and interdependency of macrocosm and microcosm. Meg also learns to "kythe" with Calvin and others, communing with them essentially by telepathy.
In Many Waters (1986), Meg is about nineteen years old, in college, and writing a paper titled "The Million Doller [sic] question: the chicken or the egg, amino acids or their polymers." She is said to have a "long commute" to school, but apparently does not mind this because she "likes to drive." At the dentist with her mother and Charles Wallace as the book begins, Meg appears only in the book's final two pages. Her brothers Sandy and Dennys spend most of the story in the time of Noah, but refer occasionally to Meg and Charles Wallace as the "special ones" in the family.
As Meg O'KeefeEdit
Meg marries Calvin between the events of Many Waters and those of A Swiftly Tilting Planet. She gives birth to her first child with Calvin, Polyhymnia (called Poly and eventually Polly) shortly after the later book. Although she has not earned a doctorate, she is a mathematician who helps Calvin with his work in marine biology. As of the later books about Polly, Meg is said to be "restless" and considers going back to school. Having outgrown her awkward "ugly duckling" adolescence, she is considered beautiful as an adult, with long chestnut hair and contact lenses.
In A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978), Meg is heavily pregnant and at her parents' house for Thanksgiving, along with Sandy and Dennys. Meg is living in a furnished apartment near the hospital where Calvin works, but it is said that they often visit Meg's parents on weekends. At the time of the book, Calvin is in London presenting a paper, but his mother, Branwen O'Keefe, reluctantly visits the Murrys. When Meg's father gets a phone call from the President of the United States about a threat of nuclear war, Mrs. O'Keefe recites a rune with which she expects Charles Wallace to prevent the end of the world. As Charles Wallace travels in time to change key events in the past, Meg supports his efforts by kything with him. Meg mourns the death of Fortinbras, the family dog mentioned in A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door, but welcomes a new dog, Ananda, into the family. She also receives a call from Calvin during the course of the book, during which he reassures her and tells her he loves her. In A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Meg is a stunningly beautiful young woman, and is pregnant with her daughter, Polly O'Keefe, although neither the baby's name nor gender is given.
In The Arm of the Starfish (1965), Meg now has seven children, the oldest of whom, Polyhymnia or Poly, is twelve years old. The others, in order of decreasing age, are Charles, Alexander (initially called Sandy, later nicknamed Xan), Dennys (Den), Peggy (presumably Margaret), Johnny, and Mary (nicknamed Rosy). Meg assists Calvin in his work with starfish, particularly in tasks involving mathematics. A friend of the family, Canon John Tallis, otherwise known as Father Tom, is said to be the person who gave Poly her unusual name. They live on the fictional island of Gaea off the coast of Portugal, which provides both specimens and privacy for Calvin's work. Meg now appears to be secure and confident and trusts Poly enough to let her travel without her parents in the company of Canon Tallis. During the book, Poly is kidnapped and then rescued, and her brother Charles shows signs of precognition.
In Dragons in the Waters (1976), Meg appears briefly as she and her younger children drop off Calvin, Poly and Charles for a voyage by freighter to South America, and shows kindness toward elderly Leonis Phair, whose great-nephew, Simon Renier, is on the same ship. It is established that the O'Keefes are now living on fictional Benne Seed Island, not too far from Charleston, South Carolina. Despite Poly's prior kidnapping, Meg is apparently secure enough about Poly's safety to allow her to travel with only her father and younger brother. Poly tells Simon that according to her father, her mother "could get a doctorate with both hands tied behind her back, but she just laughs and says she can't be bothered".
In A House Like a Lotus (1984), Meg is said by Maximiliana Horne, Polly's mentor, to be "restless" now that her children are growing older and less dependent. Polly writes that her mother intends to complete her Ph.D. once her youngest child, Rosy, is in school. Polly is aware that Meg does not want her eldest daughter to suffer the same difficult adolescence that Meg had in terms of peer relationships. Max suspects that Meg has been holding herself back professionally in order to avoid giving Polly an inferiority complex similar to the one Meg had in comparing herself with her beautiful, Nobel Prize-winning mother. Meg appears to be at a loss how to help seventeen-year-old Polly through a crisis that Polly refuses to discuss, but again trusts her daughter to travel to other countries without her parents. This time it is Sandy Murry who is to chaperon her for part of the trip. Meg is said to be strong and slender and still relatively young-looking, in part because she takes care of herself and swims every day. Max and Polly agree that Polly's parents have a strong marriage and love each other. Meg confesses to Polly, however, that on occasion she has had to weather false rumors about Calvin's relationships with some of his female colleagues.
In An Acceptable Time (1989), Polly is staying with Meg's parents in Charles Wallace's former room. Polly has a brief telephone conversation with her parents Calvin and Meg, although they are not physically present in this book.
Dating the booksEdit
The chronology of the Murry-O'Keefe books is problematic at best. This is most likely because the books about Meg and her various family members were written over a period of decades and L'Engle did not take care to create a coherent timeline. Any attempt to tie character events and ages to real world chronology results in discrepancies. The worst discrepancy is the first moon landing (1969) being mentioned in A Wind in the Door as taking place well before A Wrinkle in Time (1963). Another is when 14-year-old Polly O'Keefe makes reference, about 28 years after Wrinkle (in Dragons in the Waters), to the present as being the "end of the twentieth century". The Austin family book A Severed Wasp, which should take place over twenty years after Dragons based on character chronologies, makes the same end-of-century references. L'Engle refers to these stories as taking place in Kairos, which she defines in the front of the Many Waters hardback as "real time, pure numbers with no measurement" instead of "ordinary, wrist-watch, alarm-clock time." Nevertheless, it is possible to determine a plausible (albeit arbitrary) approximate date of 1970 for the events of A Wrinkle in Time. This would give Meg an approximate birth date of 1956. If Meg is 14 in A Wrinkle in Time (which is not definitively established in the book or elsewhere), then she is about 15 in A Wind in the Door, about 19 in Many Waters, about 24 in A Swiftly Tilting Planet, about 36 in The Arm of the Starfish, and about 42 as of An Acceptable Time. Reports about the unfinished book about Meg, The Eye Begins to See, place Meg as being in her forties or fifties.
A television adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time was broadcast on ABC in 2003. This Disney production starred Katie Stuart as Meg. The television version of the character is similar to the novel version in behavior and intelligence. However, the television Meg does not wear glasses, and has a troublesome encounter with a teacher that does not appear in the book.
A theatrical adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time was released on March 9, 2018, by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It stars Storm Reid as Meg. Her ethnicity is changed to biracial and she is picked on by her neighbor and classmate, Veronica. Near the end of the film, she learns to appreciate her own worth.