A Wrinkle in Time

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Mrs. Who Character Analysis

A plump old woman with huge spectacles, Mrs. Who's unique trait is that she speaks mostly in quotations, since she can't communicate so well on her own. Shakesepeare, Dante, and above all Scripture feature prominently in her speech. Her glasses allow Meg to free her father from the transparent column in which he is stuck by rearranging the atoms of the wall.

Mrs. Who Quotes in A Wrinkle in Time

The A Wrinkle in Time quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Who or refer to Mrs. Who. 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 4 Quotes

"Should I change, too?" Mrs. Who asked. "Oh, but I've had fun in these clothes. But I'll have to admit Mrs. Whatsit is the best at it. Das Werk lobt den Meister. German. The work proves the craftsman. Shall I transform now, too?

Related Characters: Mrs. Who (speaker), Mrs. Whatsit
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

This is a very concrete instance in which the book is addressing the conflict between appearance and reality. While Meg had initially assumed that the three Mrs. W's were all vaguely distasteful because of their appearances, she is here being shown quite literally that their appearances have nothing to do with what they actually are. Furthermore, this changing of appearances comes off as a game. Meg takes appearances seriously enough to base character judgments on them, while these women engage in whimsical transformations of themselves at will. They clearly have no attachment to any one appearance except in the ways in which appearances can be put on for fun. 

This is also a scene in which language, like appearance, is shown to be disconnected from reality. Mrs. Which is dressed up like a witch. This is a pun on her name, but it also suggests a deeper truth, which is that language – like superficial appearance – sometimes only masks what is true. It also shows that language can be a game, like appearance, that can be tried on and cast aside.


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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 6 Quotes

From somewhere Mrs. Who's glasses glimmered and they heard her voice. "Calvin," she said, "a hint. For you a hint. Listen well:
For that he was a spirit too delicate
To act their earthy and abhorr'd commands,
Refusing their grand hests, they did confine him
By help of their most potent ministers,
And in their most unmitigable rage,
Into a cloven pine; within which rift
Imprisoned, he didst painfully remain
Shakespeare. The Tempest."

Related Characters: Mrs. Who (speaker)
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:

In this section, the Mrs. W's are about to leave Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace on Camazotz to try to save Mr. Murry by themselves. As parting gifts, the women provide mostly just words to aid the characters on their journey. This is further confirmation that, for Madeleine L'Engle, the power of words and ideas is equal to or better than the power of material objects. It's also important that these characters are given gifts that they do not know how to use; each of the gifts is fairly meaningless until its meaning is clarified by a situation they are in. This echoes the book's concern with the importance of trusting in mysteries and not dismissing that which you don't understand. 

This specific passage, too, is relevant because it speaks beautifully to the nonconformity that the book espouses. The quote from The Tempest that is given to Calvin is one about the human ability to resist the pressure of others, despite the consequences. While this advice proves specifically helpful on Camazotz, it is also advice that is broadly applicable across all parts of the book.

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.

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Mrs. Who Character Timeline in A Wrinkle in Time

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Who 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
...approach the haunted house and don't find Mrs. Whatsit, but instead a friend of hers, Mrs. Who , inside. Mrs. Who is a plump, cheerful little woman with enormous glasses, sewing away... (full context)
Language and Knowing Theme Icon
...doesn't know quite what's going 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... (full context)
Chapter 3
Deceptive Appearances Theme Icon
...them that the time has come for them to find Mr. Murry. Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who suddenly appear out of nowhere, and the children then meet their third companion, Mrs. Which,... (full context)
Chapter 4
Deceptive Appearances Theme Icon
Language and Knowing Theme Icon
...autumn in the Murry's village) with a tall mountain in the background. Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who materialize nearby, and Mrs. Which appears as a shimmery witch, which Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs.... (full context)
Chapter 5
Christian References Theme Icon
...of the best fighters for the good have come from Earth. When Charles asks who, Mrs. Who smilingly quotes from the Gospel of John, "And the light shineth in darkness; and the... (full context)
Chapter 6
Language and Knowing Theme Icon
...Calvin, his unusual ability to communicate, to Meg, her faults, and to Charles, his childhood. Mrs. Who , who, like Mrs. Which, wasn't able to materialize fully on Camazotz, gives Calvin a... (full context)
Chapter 8
Deceptive Appearances Theme Icon
...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. He is colder, crueler, and stronger, and tells... (full context)
Chapter 9
Language and Knowing Theme Icon
...get Charles back: staring into his eyes, he quotes the passage from The Tempest that Mrs. Who gave him about Ariel in the cloven pine, and nearly manages to get through to... (full context)
Deceptive Appearances Theme Icon
Suddenly, Meg has an intuition, and puts on Mrs. Who 's glasses. With the glasses on, she's able to rearrange the atoms of the cell... (full context)
Chapter 11
Language and Knowing Theme Icon
Christian References Theme Icon
...in a rush. She tells them all sulkily that their only hope is to call the Mrs. W's . When the beasts ask her to explain who the Mrs. W's are, Meg is... (full context)
Chapter 12
The Value of Love Theme Icon
As in previous times when they've appeared, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who , and Mrs. Which cannot fully materialize on the beasts' planet. Meg begins complaining to... (full context)
The Value of Love Theme Icon
Language and Knowing Theme Icon
Christian References Theme Icon
...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 gives Meg her love,... (full context)