Meridian (novel)

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Meridian by Alice Walker - first edition
First edition
AuthorAlice Walker
CountryUnited States
PublisherHarcourt Brace Jovanovich
Publication date
May 1976
Media typePrint

Meridian is a 1976 novel by American author Alice Walker. It has been described as Walker's "meditation on the modern civil rights movement."[1] Meridian is about Meridian Hill, a young black woman in the late 1960s who is attending college as she embraces the civil rights movement at a time when the movement becomes violent. The story follows her life into the 1970s through a relationship that ultimately fails, and her continued efforts to support the movement.

Plot summary[edit]

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. They have a turbulent on-and-off relationship, during which she becomes pregnant by him.

After Meridian has an abortion, Truman becomes far more attached to her and longs for them 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 passes, 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[edit]

Walker wrote the novel at a time when many young black people were shifting away from supporting the practice of nonviolence and civil disobedience that had characterized the early years of the movement and had begun to take on more militant and extreme positions thereby alienating some supporters.[2] Several literary critics believe that the novel is a critique of the Civil Rights Movement from that period. They interpreted Walker's work as suggesting that the revolution never addressed the suffering of women; rather it perpetuated destructive and often chauvinistic values.[3]

Some critics thought that Walker used Meridian to showcase her womanist (as opposed to feminist) attitudes.[4] 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. Walker argues that personal struggles are an unavoidable part of life. She believes this is how individuals overcome obstacles and, ultimately, define their characters. Meridian features earlier examples of strong female role models.


  1. ^ "Alice Walker Literary Society". Retrieved 2015-05-08.
  2. ^ Hendrickson, Roberta M. (1999-10-01). "Remembering the Dream: Alice Walker, Meridian and the Civil Rights Movement". MELUS. 24 (3): 111–128. doi:10.2307/468042. JSTOR 468042.
  3. ^ Stein, Karen F. (1986-04-01). "Meridian: Alice Walker's Critique of Revolution". Black American Literature Forum. 20 (1/2): 129–141. doi:10.2307/2904556. JSTOR 2904556.
  4. ^ Pifer, Lynn (1992-04-01). "Coming to Voice in Alice Walker's Meridian: Speaking Out for the Revolution". African American Review. 26 (1): 77–88. doi:10.2307/3042078. JSTOR 3042078.