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Literature / An Acceptable Time

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A novel by Madeleine L'Engle, it is the fifth book in the Time Quintet series, but more a part of the O'Keefe family series. In this book, Polly O'Keefe, the daughter of Meg and Calvin O'Keefe, is being sent to her grandparents' house in Connecticut, where she, Zachary Gray, and retired bishop Nason Colubra are transported three thousand years into the past, where the People of the Wind, from A Swiftly Tilting Planet, are facing dangers, and Zachary's own fears drive him to selfish actions.

Preceded by Many Waters


Provides examples of:

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Averted. Zachary's amorous interest in Polly is largely one-sided, even before his Face–Heel Turn.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Considering the other adventures the Murrys, even Meg's parents, have been involved in, it seems odd that they initially reject the bishop's claims about time travel. Mr. Murry explains that it was more a matter of pride than anything else.
  • Artistic License – History: Three thousand years ago is said to be the time of Abraham, Gilgamesh, and the Pyramids, all of which took place, or were set, between four and five thousand years ago.
    • The story shows Native Americans growing wheat, herding cattle, and wearing sheepskin 3000 years ago. Wheat, cows, and sheep are all Old World species that were not introduced in North America until the Colonial era.
    • Meanwhile, the characters in the modern era think it strange that a domestic dog could have been in the Americas so early; domestic dogs were common all over the Americas going back at least ten thousand years.
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  • Badass Preacher: Bishop Colubra.
  • The Bible: The title of the book comes from Psalm 69:13. Also, there are allusions to the birth and crucifixion of Jesus.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The rescue of Polly, Anaral, and the Bishop by Tav, Karralys, and Louise the Larger. Also, the rescue of Polly by Karralys, Tav, the Bishop, and Louise the Larger in the end.
  • Blood Oath: The final treaty between the People of the Wind and the People Across the Lake involves one of these.
  • Buffy Speak: Zachary, occasionally.
  • Call-Back: Several, to each of the Time Quartet novels as well as the O'Keefe family novels, and even to A Ring of Endless Light.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Polly is established as a good swimmer early in the book. Near the end, she escapes her captors by swimming across a wide, freezing-cold lake, a feat that many of the locals hesitate to attempt even in the summer. And then she decides to return in order to help Zachary and retrieve the clothes she left behind.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Zachary despairs when he passes through the time gate, learning that the young healer of the People of the Wind is not yet experienced enough to help his heart. So Zachary goes to the People Across the Lake and brooks an arrangement that involves sacrificing Polly's life in exchange for healing his heart. Only later does Tav inform Polly that Karralys, the People of the Wind's druid, is the greatest healer of the two tribes, and is in fact teaching Cub, and could certainly heal Zachary.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Between modern day people and those of three thousand years ago, especially the People Across the Lake.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Tav, Zachary.
  • Dirty Coward: Zachary.
  • Easily Forgiven: Averted. Polly is willing to risk her life to save Zachary, and to heal him later because it's the right thing to do. However, she makes it clear that, even though she would do it again, their friendship is over.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The People Across the Lake are people who live across the lake from the People of the Wind.
  • Generation Xerox: Sort of. Polly has Meg's talents and some of the same issues with her looks, and her brother Charles is somewhat like Charles Wallace, though without the extraordinary abilities.
  • Giving Them the Strip: In order to escape captivity, Polly leaves behind all of her clothes except her bra and underpants so she can swim across the lake.
  • God Guise: The People Across the Lake think Polly is a goddess. This is not a good thing.
  • Happily Arranged Marriage: Klep and Anaral. It helps that they loved each other before this happened.
  • Healing Hands: Cub, Karralys, the healer from the People Across the Lake, Polly.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Zachary.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Tav, Tynak.
  • Heel Realization: Both Zachary and Tav experience this.
  • Honor Before Reason: Polly's reason for risking her life for Zachary.
  • Human Sacrifice: What Tynak and (initially) Tav intend for Polly.
  • Implausible Deniability: Zachary keeps denying that the People Across the Lake want to sacrifice Polly. He insists that they're going to treat her gently because they think she's a goddess. Polly figures out in five minutes the fact that they think she's a goddess is why they think she makes a great sacrifice. Zachary understands the transaction, but he's sufficiently desperate to delude himself that it will all be okay.
  • Jerkass: Zachary.
  • Literal Metaphor: When Tynak is about to sacrifice Polly, the People Across the Lake are literally shouting for blood.
  • Never My Fault: Zachary begs Polly to take him to the time gate, ultimately running toward the star-watching rock, making Polly follow. Later, he blames her for dragging him back to the past.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: The Bishop maintains this about so-called civilized society, with genocide and nuclear weapons, and the so-called savages of three thousand years ago, who practiced Human Sacrifice.
  • Reconstruction: A Swiftly Tilting Planet reveals the People of the Wind to have lived an idyllic life in Arcadia. This story shows the problems such a life involved and the work needed to be put into living in peace.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: In the story, three thousand years ago, the hills of Connecticut were massive mountains. In Real Life, it would take millions of years for mountains of that size to be eroded into hills.
  • Time Travel: Of course.
  • Title Drop: The title of the book is mentioned when Bishop Colubra is quoting from Psalm 69:13.
  • Translation Convention
  • Unnamed Parent: Averted. The Drs. Murry actually do have first names! They are finally revealed in the last book of the series as Kate and Alex.
  • Unwanted False Faith: Polly has good reason not to want to be a goddess.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Tynak. Tav, initially.