Study Guide

Mr. and Mrs. Hill in Meridian

By Alice Walker

Mr. and Mrs. Hill

Parents just don't understand. Although those words were first spoken by the one and only Fresh Prince, we could just as easily see them coming from Meridian Hill's mouth.

Her dad is a lovable yet depressed man, obsessed with the horrors of history. Her mom is a bitter and sometimes cruel woman—but after a life like hers, who can blame her? Despite her beef with both, Meridian is very much a product of these two wildly different people

Mr. Hill

Mr. Hill has some odd hobbies. You're a lot more likely to find him "poring over [...] an old map [...] that showed the ancient settlements of Indians in North America" than sipping a cold one and watching the game, for example (1.6.1). You're also likely to find him crying while reading that map. Mr. Hill is an intelligent and sensitive man, and, like many intelligent and sensitive men, he is overwhelmed by the harsh realities of life.

This leads to an obsession with death that he'll share with Meridian. Although Meridian doesn't have many fond memories of going to church as a kid, she never forgets how her father would sing so "beautifully, heartbreakingly" (1.1.122). Meridian attributes this to his relationship with death. Later, Meridian will experience her own death-like trance while standing in the center of the Sacred Serpent. Now that's what you call father-daughter bonding.

Mrs. Hill

Meridian's relationship with her mom is a lot more complicated. Basically, Meridian resents her mom for not giving her "the information she needed to know to get through her adolescence" (1.12.34). Mrs. Hill could have warned her about the reality of men, of sex, of growing up. She could've saved her daughter from a lot of pain and suffering. Isn't that what moms are supposed to do?

Like most daughters (sorry girls), Meridian just doesn't see the full picture. Mrs. Hill was once like Meridian: a proudly independent young woman on the cusp of adulthood. After becoming a teacher, she became intrigued by the "state of euphoria" on the faces of her students' mothers (1.4.3). What could it mean? Well, as she later learns, that state of euphoria is simply the "knowledge that they were dead, living just for their children" (1.4.6). Talk about a buzzkill.

Break the Walls Down

In truth, Mrs. Hill is upset about how her life turned out. Once a girl with the whole world ahead of her, she now works her butt off just to support her family. Meridian eventually realizes this and understands that her mom "had not lived in an age of choice" like she does (1.15.41). Would Mrs. Hill have done things differently if she was born a few decades later? Quite possibly. This helps Meridian realize that her mother's ignorance is a defense mechanism—a way to protect herself from the reality that she is forced to inhabit.

See, Mr. Hill was never able to build up those defense mechanisms. Mrs. Hill doesn't have that luxury—she has a family to care for. Although Meridian relates to her father much more than her mother, it's not until she makes peace with her mom that Meridian truly becomes herself.