|Publisher||Harcourt Brace Jovanovich|
Set in the 1960s and 1970s, Meridian centers on Meridian Hill, a student at the fictitious Saxon College, who becomes active in the Civil Rights movement. She becomes romantically involved with another activist, Truman Held, and though he impregnates her, they have a turbulent on-and-off relationship. After Meridian has an abortion, Truman becomes far more attached to her and longs to start a life together. Later Truman becomes involved with a white woman, Lynne Rabinowitz, who is also active in the Civil Rights struggle, though perhaps for the wrong reasons. As time goes by, Truman attempts, unsuccessfully, to achieve personal and financial success while Meridian continues to stay involved in the movement and fight for issues she believes deeply in.
Themes and critiques
Walker wrote the novel at a time when many young black people were steering from the tenets of nonviolence and civil disobedience that had characterized the early years of the movement and took on more militant and extreme positions that alienated their supporters. Some literary critics believe that the novel is a critique of the path that the Civil Rights Movement had taken. They claimed that Walker felt that the revolution never addressed the suffering of women; rather it merely perpetuated destructive and often chauvinistic values. Many critics also felt that Walker used Meridian to showcase her womanist (as opposed to feminist) attitudes. A strong believer in the inherent power of the woman, Walker depicts her title character as an innately tough and resolute person, though not one without problems as well. In fact, Walker argues that personal struggles are an unavoidable part of life and yet this is how one overcomes one's obstacles and, ultimately, define their character. Meridian frequently turns to earlier examples of strong female role models, especially Walker doubts her own inner strength.
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