Study Guide

Meridian

Meridian Introduction

On Shmoop's internal Authors That Will Probably Make You Wanna Cry list, Alice Walker is a perpetual top-ranker. Though her books are motivational, in a way, you generally have to go through some tough times to get there.

Meridian—Walker's second novel—is no exception. Although the 1976 novel would not reach the heights of popular success that The Color Purple would six years later (having Oprah make her film debut in the adaptation certainly doesn't hurt), Meridian touches on the same ideas that made that novel so famous. Think of it as an early album from your favorite indie rock band—it might not be as flashy or critically-acclaimed as their major label debut, but diehard fans know that this stuff is the real deal.

In the novel, we follow the life of Meridian Hill, an activist caught in the chaos of the Civil Rights Movement. Meridian has had a tough life: she was married with a child by seventeen and denied an education because of it, despite her prodigious intelligence. But due to a stroke of fate—and fearlessness on her own part—Meridian manages to retake her life and join the then-burgeoning Civil Rights Movement. Even then, though, things don't get much easier.

Ultimately, Meridian's story is one of perseverance and enlightenment. While so many of her peers slip by the wayside, forgoing political action in favor of chasing girls or getting rich, Meridian alone remains resolute. To her, not fighting injustice is the same as being an active participant in it. This Zen-like dedication to good turns her into the ultimate civil rights superhero, changing the world by facing down one tank at a time.

Wait... tanks?! She's even tougher than we thought!

What is Meridian About and Why Should I Care?

Everyone needs someone to look up to.

For some, those people are Batman and Superman and their superhero ilk. For other, it's actors and musicians: people who make art that moves the masses. For others still, it's politicians and world leaders.

As for the rest of you, it's surely us folks here at Shmoop, right?

No matter which way you swing, you've now just found your new role model/favorite superhero/cosplay idol: Meridian. Meridian's life is a testament to the power of determination, the importance of love and forgiveness, and the ability to become the best version of ourselves.

These aren't lessons learned from a self-help guide, though—Meridian is filled to the brim with truth. Sometimes that truth is painful. Sometimes it feels like a fresh breeze on a sticky summer day. But we need truth just like Batman needs his bat-gadgets and Johnny Deep needs his fedoras and scarves. Truth—found in books like Meridian—helps us become the best person that we can be.

Meridian Resources

Websites

Alice Walker's Garden
Want to learn more about Walker's other work and read blog posts direct from the author herself? Take a stroll with us in Alice Walker's Garden.

Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement
This site is a great resource for first-hand accounts of the Civil Rights Movement.

Articles and Interviews

A Talk with Yes Magazine
In this wide-reaching interview, Walker gives insight into the real-life experiences that inspired Meridian. Like Meridian, she once stood down a tank. For real.

An Interview with Alice Walker
Although this chat focuses on The Color Purple, Walker discusses many biographical details that might interest readers of Meridian.

Alice Walker Addresses Her Critics
Want to read a no-holds barred discussion on Walker's writing process? The click will set you free!

Video

Alice Walker Reads Sojourner Truth
Sojourner Truth was a ground-breaking civil rights activist and feminist, most know today for her famous speech "Ain't I a Woman?" Watch Alice Walker read it!

Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth
Ah—nothing like a classic PBS documentary to soothe the soul. It's like a bowl of chicken noodle soup on a rainy day.

Profile: Alice Walker
Looking for your daily dose of motivation? We've got you covered.

Audio

Alice Walker Pens Poems for Hard Times
In this brief chat with NPR, Walker discusses her approach to writing and goals for her work.

Castaway: Alice Walker
In this fun spin on the party game "Desert Island," Walker lists the books and music that she wouldn't be able to live without.

Images

The Serpent Mound
This massive man-made mound from Ohio looks similar to Walker's description of the "Sacred Serpent."

Andrew Goodman, James Earl Chaney, and Michael Schwerner
This is the Missing Person's Poster for three civil rights workers who were murdered in Mississippi in 1964. In Meridian, this event prompts Truman and Lynne to move to the state.