A Wrinkle in Time

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Calvin O'Keefe Character Analysis

Calvin, a fourteen-year-old boy who's so smart he's in eleventh grade and a talented athlete at that, enters the Murrys' lives in a most unexpected way at the beginning of the novel and is practically one of the family at the end (though he may mean something more to Meg). He has a talent for communication which comes in handy on other planets, and his warm love for Meg and Charles Wallace in addition to his courage sustains the group as they fight against the terrible Darkness.

Calvin O'Keefe Quotes in A Wrinkle in Time

The A Wrinkle in Time quotes below are all either spoken by Calvin O'Keefe or refer to Calvin O'Keefe. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Nonconformity Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Square Fish edition of A Wrinkle in Time published in 2007.
Chapter 2 Quotes

"…I'm a sport."
At that Charles Wallace grinned widely. "So ‘m I."
"I don't mean like in baseball," Calvin said.
"Neither do I."
"I mean like in biology," Calvin said suspiciously.
"A change in gene," Charles Wallace quoted, "resulting in the appearance in the offspring of a character which is not present in the parents but which is potentially transmissible to the its offspring."

Related Characters: Charles Wallace Murry (speaker), Calvin O'Keefe (speaker)
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we see the effects of the kind of appearance-based stereotyping that the book is committed to debunking. Calvin, who knows that everyone just sees him as an athletic popular kid who lacks anything interesting beyond those qualities, does not believe that Charles Wallace truly understands who he is. For this reason, Calvin is suspicious and over-explains what he means when he says he's a sport (he's actually using a technical term from biology). This shows how restrictive Calvin's popularity and public image has been to his inner life and individuality. Charles Wallace, on the other hand, is displaying his mysterious gift for understanding people – he seems to see straight past Calvin's appearance and reputation to his essence. He never seems to doubt that Calvin is the person he is claiming to be. 

This passage also directly addresses the question of difference. All three of these characters are seen as eccentric or different in some way, and here Charles Wallace and Calvin are acknowledging it for the first time in a way that seems positive (as opposed to the way Meg thinks about her differences as negative).

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"Lead on, moron," Calvin cried gaily. "I've never even seen your house, and I have the funniest feeling that for the first time in my life I'm going home!"

Related Characters: Calvin O'Keefe (speaker), Meg Murry
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

Nobody can explain why Calvin has so suddenly and completely hit it off with Charles Wallace and Meg, but the warmth between the three of them seems genuine. This is a theme throughout the book, that genuine love cannot be explained or accounted for, and its power is beyond that of reason. Calvin, having found others who are different in the way that he is (even though he has been hiding his differences in public) makes him suddenly feel a kind of familial connection that makes him feel that going to the Murry home is like going to his own home. That's a remarkable statement that shows how powerful the love between these characters is. 

It's worth noting that Calvin, unlike Meg, seems not at all perturbed by what he can't understand. He is not suspicious or dismissive of his feelings of love and joy that come from a mysterious place – he embraces them and allows them to make him happy. 

Chapter 3 Quotes

"But you're good at basketball and things," Meg protested. "You're good in school. Everybody likes you."
"For all the most unimportant reasons," Calvin said. "There hasn't been anybody, anybody in the world I could talk to. Sure, I can function on the same level as everybody else, I can hold myself down, but it isn't me."

Related Characters: Meg Murry (speaker), Calvin O'Keefe (speaker)
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

Of all the characters, it is perhaps Calvin who is most articulate about the ways in which conformity and difference affect people. Meg, for much of the book, is entrapped by the idea that she is somehow inferior because of her superficial differences from others, and Charles Wallace seems so above the notion of superficial difference that it wouldn't occur to him to talk about it this way.

Calvin, however, is a complicated character who respects and likes his own differences, but still hides them in order to fit in. Here, Meg is incredulous that Calvin could be someone other than the person he appears to be (a theme that will repeat throughout the book). Calvin lets her know that the popularity that he has attained (which she seems to crave) has come at a cost. It is significant that this cost, for Calvin, is communication--he hasn't had anyone he could talk to about the things he cares about. Something the book wants us to understand is that genuine individuality is what allows for communication and communication is what allows for love. 

Chapter 5 Quotes

"Who have our fighters been?" Calvin asked.
"Oh, you must know them, dear," Mrs. Whatsit said.
Mrs. Who's spectacles shone out at them triumphantly, "And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not."
"Jesus!" Charles Wallace said. "Why of course, Jesus!"
"Of course!" Mrs. Whatsit said. "Go on, Charles, love. There were others. All your great artists. They've been lights for us to see by."

Related Characters: Charles Wallace Murry (speaker), Calvin O'Keefe (speaker), Mrs. Whatsit (speaker), Mrs. Who (speaker)
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Mrs. Whatsit sheds some light on what the real forces for good in the world are. As expected, the people she names are all ones who have prioritized their individuality and brought their unique visions to the world. She names Jesus and a few artists/writers – these were all people who had the courage to have radical ideas. It's also important that each of these people grappled in their work with ideas that weren't quite comprehensible. This is what artists do, they try to make sense of the world through creating art rather than by trying to control the world or analyze it. In other words, artists tend not to have illusions of being in control of the world around them. As we've already seen, this book does not look favorably on those who are arrogant enough to believe that they understand everything and are therefore powerful. 

This section also clarifies the author's thoughts on the relevance of Christianity. While she certainly believes that Jesus is an exemplary force for good, she puts him alongside secular heroes like Shakespeare and Euclid. This shows that Christianity is, for this author, an important force in the world, but one that operates in conjunction with all different kinds of ideas. It is one way of capturing a positive way to live in the world, but not the only way.

Chapter 8 Quotes

"I'm different, and I like being different." Calvin's voice was unnaturally loud.
"Maybe I don't like being different," Meg said, "but I don't want to be like everybody else, either."

Related Characters: Meg Murry (speaker), Calvin O'Keefe (speaker)
Page Number: 155
Explanation and Analysis:

Meg was introduced in Chapter 1 as someone suffering from her differences. She did not appreciate her unique talents and personality because they separated her from her peers and she thought she would be happier if she were more popular. Calvin, who knows the loneliness of popularity that comes from stifling his individuality, has a more nuanced perspective on difference – all he wants is to find people who are able to relate to him as he is rather than accept him for who he isn't.

This scene is a turning point for Meg in which she is beginning to see that it's better for her to be who she is than try to be someone else. She's not yet willing to embrace that she is different – she says that maybe she doesn't "like being different" – but she is able to articulate for the first time that she doesn't want to be like everyone else. Seeing the extreme conformity on Camazotz has given her perspective on the blessings that she has been given, which she had initially seen as a curse.

Chapter 9 Quotes

Breathing quickly with excitement, Calvin continued to pin Charles Wallace with his stare. "You're like Ariel in the cloven pine, Charles. And I can let you out. Look at me, Charles. Come back to us."

Related Characters: Calvin O'Keefe (speaker), Charles Wallace Murry
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Calvin is trying to pull Charles Wallace back from the brink of submitting fully to IT. To do so, Calvin quotes from Shakespeare's play The Tempest, a passage that Mrs. Who gave him as her parting gift when she left them on Camazotz. The passage is directly relevant to the situation that the characters are in. It's about Ariel refusing to obey the commands of his master, and Calvin hopes that Ariel's courage will inspire Charles Wallace.

On a broader level, though, the Shakespeare passage almost succeeds in bringing Charles Wallace back from IT not simply because of its literal content, but because it is a work of art. L'Engle has repeatedly emphasized that art strikes out against conformity, because in order to create art the artist has to fully embrace his or her individuality. Art is an enemy on Camazotz because it celebrates individuality and encourages critical thought.

Chapter 11 Quotes

"Angels!" Calvin shouted suddenly from across the table. "Guardian angels!" There was a moment's silence, and he shouted again, his face tense with concentration, "Messengers! Messengers of God!"

Related Characters: Calvin O'Keefe (speaker), Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which
Page Number: 210
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Meg is trying to explain to the beasts who the Mrs. W's are. Again, Meg's dependence on rationally describing their appearance leads her astray. For one, the beasts lack sight so this description is meaningless to them. More important, as L'Engle has repeatedly emphasized, appearance has nothing to do with essence, so a description focused on appearance is a poor representation of who somebody actually is.

Calvin – somebody whose strength has always been communication, and whose personal experiences have led him to understand the gulf between appearance and essence – has more success by describing the Mrs. W's as embodiments of good, or angels. It's important that Calvin uses the word "angels" to describe them, since the reference is explicitly Christian. While Christianity has hovered around the edges of the book, L'Engle has generally been careful to frame the moral conflict of the book in more general terms ("The Black Thing" rather than "satan," for example). Here, she is explicitly using a Christian term to describe fighters for good. It's unclear whether she means this as a metaphor or whether the Mrs. W's are literally angels, but it certainly makes it clear that Christianity is the underlying idea in the cosmology of the book.

Chapter 12 Quotes

"You mean you're comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict form, but freedom within it?"
"Yes." Mrs. Whatsit said. "You're given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you."

Related Characters: Calvin O'Keefe (speaker), Mrs. Whatsit (speaker)
Page Number: 219
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Meg has gone to Camazotz to try to save Charles Wallace. Calvin, scared about what will happen to them, is struggling with what he perceives to be the incompatibility between the ideas of fate and free will. If something is fated in the universe, how can an individual still have free choice in the decisions he or she makes? Mrs. Whatsit, then, gives a lovely metaphor of sonnets – poems with a strict form and rhyme scheme. Despite the constraints of the form, individual sonnets have different words, ideas, and meanings within them. Human beings, Mrs. Whatsit seems to be saying, operate within a predetermined form, but we have choices about what to do within that form. This stands in opposition to the people of Camazotz, who live within a form, too, but who do not have choices within that form, since they must all be alike.

This is a lovely way to understand L'Engle's ideas of the relationship between the struggle of good vs. evil, and the importance of nonconformity. Sonnets would be neither interesting nor powerful if they were all alike – and people are the same. In order to further the good of the universe, a person must make individual choices, or else he or she gives up his or her innate power. Without this power, evil would reign like it does on Camazotz.

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Calvin O'Keefe Character Timeline in A Wrinkle in Time

The timeline below shows where the character Calvin O'Keefe appears in A Wrinkle in Time. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Nonconformity Theme Icon
Deceptive Appearances Theme Icon
Language and Knowing Theme Icon
...Whatsit's house, Meg and Charles are surprised to run into a boy from Meg's school: Calvin O'Keefe. Meg only knows him as a talented basketball player a few grades above her... (full context)
Nonconformity Theme Icon
Deceptive Appearances Theme Icon
Language and Knowing Theme Icon
...quoting great authors, frequently in different languages. When Charles asks Mrs. Who if she knows Calvin, she says, "He wasn't my idea, Charlsie, but I think he's a good one." Mrs.... (full context)
Language and Knowing Theme Icon
...on yet but says that he's sure Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who can be trusted. Calvin is happy, feeling as if he's going home for the first time in his life. (full context)
Chapter 3
The Value of Love Theme Icon
Meg and Calvin talk as they walk to the Murrys house, and it's clear that this is the... (full context)
Nonconformity Theme Icon
Deceptive Appearances Theme Icon
As they wait for dinner to be ready, Meg explains to Calvin a little bit about her father, and then astounds Calvin by helping him out with... (full context)
Nonconformity Theme Icon
Deceptive Appearances Theme Icon
Language and Knowing Theme Icon
After dinner, Calvin goes upstairs to read Charles a book before goes to bed (Charles requests the Book... (full context)
The Value of Love Theme Icon
Calvin comes downstairs and takes Meg for a walk outside. He asks her more about her... (full context)
Chapter 4
Language and Knowing Theme Icon
A moment ago, Meg was standing with Calvin and Charles in the backyard of their house. Now, all of sudden, she is whipped... (full context)
Deceptive Appearances Theme Icon
...old woman, but a magnificent winged horse more beautiful and noble than can be imagined. Calvin falls to his knees, but Mrs. Whatsit sternly commands him to rise. The three children... (full context)
Chapter 5
Language and Knowing Theme Icon
...space and time together and cross over from one to the other. When Charles and Calvin understand her explanation but Meg doesn't, Charles gives Meg a more mathematical explanation, likening the... (full context)
Christian References Theme Icon
When Calvin demands to know exactly what that dark shadow is, Mrs. Which tells him that it... (full context)
Chapter 6
The Value of Love Theme Icon
...to be not as happy a thing as she had thought, for when they see Calvin's mother, she is unkempt and beating one of Calvin's younger siblings, and Mrs. Murry is... (full context)
Language and Knowing Theme Icon
...Mr. Murry; they are on their own here. However, she gives them three "gifts": to Calvin, his unusual ability to communicate, to Meg, her faults, and to Charles, his childhood. Mrs.... (full context)
Nonconformity Theme Icon
Deceptive Appearances Theme Icon
Language and Knowing Theme Icon
As Meg, Charles, and Calvin walk through the neighborhood on the outskirts, they notice that every house is exactly the... (full context)
Deceptive Appearances Theme Icon
Language and Knowing Theme Icon
...won't recognize his father after not seeing him for a year, but Meg reassures him. Calvin says he's having another one of his intuitions, another compulsion (like the one he had... (full context)
Chapter 7
Nonconformity Theme Icon
Meg, Charles, and Calvin enter the building. Inside, they ask a man how to see whoever's in charge, and... (full context)
Nonconformity Theme Icon
Language and Knowing Theme Icon
The man with red eyes seems to have been expecting Meg and Charles, but not Calvin (who is apparently an unpleasant surprise). Still, he doesn't seem too bothered, and is set... (full context)
Deceptive Appearances Theme Icon
...red eyes has a synthetic turkey dinner brought out, which tastes delicious to Meg and Calvin but like sand to Charles, because he's blocking the man entirely from accessing his mind.... (full context)
Chapter 8
Deceptive Appearances Theme Icon
...not his own. As he sits down and eats turkey dinner, he tells Meg and Calvin that they were wrong, that the Mrs. W's were their real enemies the whole time.... (full context)
Language and Knowing Theme Icon
The man with red eyes asks Charles to bring Meg and Calvin to Mr. Murry, and strangely, Charles now knows his way around the building. The three... (full context)
Nonconformity Theme Icon
Charles then lectures them that rather than search for Mr. Murry, Calvin and Meg should give in to IT. He notes how happy everyone is on Camazotz:... (full context)
Chapter 9
Language and Knowing Theme Icon
...going to allow them in, and advises them to give into IT, as he did. Calvin tries one more time to get Charles back: staring into his eyes, he quotes the... (full context)
Language and Knowing Theme Icon
...Charles Wallace under the control of IT awaits, displeased. Meg briefly introduces her father to Calvin. Mr. Murry then tries to talk Charles, but Charles behaves nastily towards him, and Mr.... (full context)
Nonconformity Theme Icon
Language and Knowing Theme Icon
Charles leads Meg, his father, and Calvin out of the CENTRAL Central Intelligence building, through nighttime streets, and into a dome-shaped building... (full context)
Nonconformity Theme Icon
Language and Knowing Theme Icon
...her father to keep out IT's rhythm, but IT is becoming too much for her. Calvin shouts for Mr. Murry to tesser them away, Mr. Murry grabs their wrists and does... (full context)
Chapter 10
Language and Knowing Theme Icon
...can't see, she can't feel, and she can just barely hear her father explaining to Calvin, as the two of them try to revive her, how he ended up on Camazotz.... (full context)
The Value of Love Theme Icon
Christian References Theme Icon
...She accuses him of not loving Charles and of being an incompetent father, even though Calvin and her father try to explain to her that if they'd tried to rip Charles... (full context)
Deceptive Appearances Theme Icon
...in the place of fingers, ears, and hair; Meg is utterly revolted by their appearance. Calvin begins to introduce themselves and explain their situation, when one of them touches Meg, which... (full context)
Chapter 11
Language and Knowing Theme Icon
Christian References Theme Icon
...fights against the Black Thing. Aunt Beast then takes Meg to an open hall, where Calvin and Mr. Murry and many others of the beasts are eating and waiting for her.... (full context)
Chapter 12
The Value of Love Theme Icon
...but Mrs. Which tells him that were he to go he would not be successful. Calvin then offers to go, since he almost got through to Charles those few times, but... (full context)
Nonconformity Theme Icon
The Value of Love Theme Icon
Mr. Murry and Calvin immediately protest Meg going back to Camazotz alone. But they are persuaded when Mrs. Whatsit... (full context)
The Value of Love Theme Icon
Language and Knowing Theme Icon
Christian References Theme Icon
...and Aunt Beast, embraces her father lovingly, and, to her surprise, receives a kiss from Calvin. Again, the Mrs. W's each give Meg a gift for her journey. Mrs. Whatsit simply... (full context)
The Value of Love Theme Icon
...feeling of a tesseract, they find themselves back home in the Murry's backyard, along with Calvin and Mr. Murry! The twins and Mrs. Murry come out at once to investigate the... (full context)