Although Meridian is told in a crazy Memento-like non-chronological structure, we're breaking things down into a straight-forward arc. Only because we love you!
The first major event is Meridian's teenage pregnancy. She gets knocked up by a dude named Eddie and they get married. Hurray? Not so fast. It isn't long before Eddie leaves her out of the blue. That same day, Meridian watches a news story about the firebombing of a house that held a voter registration drive. Oh no. This is actually a good thing though, because it gets Meridian involved in the Civil Rights Movement.
Although Meridian was kicked out of school after getting pregnant, she gets a second chance when she's offered a full ride to Saxon College. There, she meets Anne-Marion, who becomes a new BFF and fellow protester. She also gets closer to Truman, a good-looking (and smart) activist whom she met before moving to Saxon. Times are tough, but things are certainly looking up.
Then, almost as quickly, everything goes bad. First, Truman dumps Meridian so he can date white exchange students (how exotic). Then, the Sojourner (a legendary tree on campus) is destroyed, which bums Meridian out to no end. Finally, after Meridian falls deathly ill for several days, Anne-Marion announces that they can't be friends anymore. What a drama queen. Although Meridian sticks around for a few more years, she ultimately decides to go work among the people in the small, poor communities of the South.
Time passes. Truman marries one of the white exchange students named Lynne; they move down to Mississippi to do their part. Meanwhile, Truman continually visits Meridian, who is traveling between towns as her health worsens. After the death of Truman and Lynne's daughter, Camara, and the crumbling of their marriage, Meridian manages to bond with both spouses.
Suddenly, Truman is overcome by a change. After going on voter registration runs with Meridian, he decides to join her quest. Meridian's health is restored and she leaves to go to a new town. Truman remains and has a fainting spell—just as Meridian once did. In that state, he imagines that Anne-Marion will arrive someday to follow in his footsteps, just as he did with Meridian.
The Last Return
- The book begins, naturally, with Part I, called Meridian.
- Truman Held has just arrived "in the small town of Chicokema" from NYC (1.1.1). He stops at a gas station, where two attendants are chilling and drinking some Coke.
- Before they can conversate, a kid runs up in a huff, shouting about a cap-clad woman who's dueling it out with a tank. We're pretty sure we speak for everybody when we say "Huh?"
- The city bought the tank when the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing. To the people in charge, those pesky black people who fought for their rights were nothing more than "outside agitators" (1.1.12).
- Truman approaches the scene: there's a crowd gathered around a circus wagon, which is across the way from the aforementioned tank. Truman approaches an old street sweeper and asks what's going on.
- The sweeper explains that the wagon holds a traveling exhibit of a female mummy. Oh, good—that clears everything up. He also explains that Thursday (not for several days) is their day to view the exhibit.
- This annoys Truman—in a post-civil-rights-era world, black people should be allowed to look at mummies whenever they please. The old man laughs—the "they" he referred to are "po' folks" (1.1.20).
- Truman reads a pamphlet on the exhibit. Henry O'Shay was once a rich and happily married man and his wife, Marilene, "had been an ideal woman" (1.1.29). But now she's a mummy. Why?
- It turns out that Marilene cheated on her husband and then died. Her body was exposed to salt, which caused it to turn dark black. Truman rightfully assumes that this is all nonsense.
- A group poor kids form a line leading to the exhibit. The white townsfolk don't like this at all, as evidenced by the two dudes who climb into the tank. Talk about overkill.
- Suddenly, Truman sees the woman in the cap mentioned earlier. It's Meridian. Wait, who?
- The tank locks its sights on her. This is getting real. Fearlessly, she leads the line of children directly to the tank. Then, she simply strolls on by, "kicked open the door" of the exhibit, and led the kids inside (1.1.33). Whoa—is she a superhero?
- Later that day, Truman strolls into Meridian's house. Her walls are covered with writing: bible verses, poetry, and letters from someone named Anne-Marion. The rest of the house is a mess.
- Meridian had passed out after her tank battle. Luckily, four men from town carried her back home safe and sound, where Truman was already waiting. She wakes up and they exchange tense pleasantries.
- Truman is a little upset that she risked her health for a "meaningless action" like that (1.1.89). In truth, she did it to show the kids that the whole business was phony.
- Press rewind and don't take your finger off the button until you're ten years back, to a summer Meridian spent in New York City.
- Meridian is with a group of radical college intellectuals—Anne-Marion included. Everyone wants Meridian to say that she would "kill for the Revolution," but she just can't do it (1.1.113). Oddly, the thing holding her back is a memory of her parents singing in church.
- Finally, Meridian tells them that she's going to "go back to the people, live among them, like Civil Rights workers used to do" (1.1.159). And that's how she ended up in good old Chicokema.
- In fact, she's been traveling between towns for the past ten years, but Truman always manages to track her down. Each time he does, however, her living conditions are worse and worse.
- Meridian asks about Lynne, Truman's wife. Truman, eager to change the subject, mentions that he hasn't seen her much since Camara, their daughter, died. He changes the subject to Anne-Marion's letters.
- Anne-Marion and Meridian met at Saxon College. It was the day of John Kennedy's funeral, and Meridian was sitting alone in the dining hall, weeping. Perfect time to make a new bestie!
The Wild Child
- At Saxon College, there was a young homeless girl affectionately nicknamed "The Wild Child" who would hang around campus (1.2.1). She just showed up one day and made herself at home.
- For years, Wild Child spends her days picking scraps from the garbage and running away whenever anyone approaches. Then the neighborhood makes a shocking discovery—Wild Child is pregnant.
- Wanting to help the poor girl, Meridian manages to catch the Wild Child using "bits of cake and colored beads and unblemished cigarettes" (1.2.5). Tasty. Her trap sprung, she tosses the Wild Child into the bath and brings her to the dining hall.
- Wild Child escapes before Meridian can get her more help, however. The young girl runs into the street, gets hit by a car, and dies.
- Meridian and Anne-Marion are attempting to lead Wild Child's funeral procession to the campus chapel. Unfortunately, several guards are blocking entry.
- They're standing near the Sojourner, "the largest magnolia tree in the country" (1.3.28). This tree has one heck of a story—it begins with a slave named Louvinie.
- Louvinie was born in West Africa to a family of storytellers and soothsayers. After being kidnapped and brought to America, Louvinie used her family's scariest stories to entertain the slave master's kids.
- These stories are really scary. So scary, in fact, that they cause one of the owner's kids to have a heart attack and die. Whoops. Mr. Saxon (Louvinie's owner and namesake of the college) cuts out Louvinie's tongue in retribution.
- Louvinie performs a mystical ritual on the detached tongue, burying it "under a scrawny magnolia tree on the Saxon Plantation" (1.3.37). That little guy would someday become the mighty Sojourner.
- The Sojourner is legendary among the students. Some people say that the tree makes beautiful music; some say that it's a sanctuary for students worried about being pregnant; others say it's just a great spot to hook up with a local hunk.
- The funeral procession is still stalled at the chapel. By now, most of the non-students—working-class folks who lived near the Wild Child—have gone home embarrassed.
- Finally, after burying Wild Child in an off-campus, black-only cemetery, the students riot. Sadly, the only thing that is destroyed is "that might, ancient, sheltering music tree" called the Sojourner (1.3.55).
"Have You Stolen Anything?"
- As a kid, Meridian was always wracked with guilt, but whenever she talked to her mom about it about it, Mrs. Hill would simply ask her if she had "'stolen anything'" (1.4.1).
- Mrs. Hill was an independent woman—a schoolteacher—when she was younger. Although she loved her life, she slowly became intrigued by the thought of being a mother.
- She ends up marrying Meridian's father, a fellow school-teacher. Things go great at first, but pregnancy changes everything.
- To Mrs. Hill, children are "burdens" who'll suck the life out of you faster than Edward Cullen (1.4.7). Hmm... So what do you think Meridian stole from her?
- One day, Meridian finds a chunk of metal in the ground that turns out to be a "large heavy gold bar" (1.5.2). Score!
- To her surprise, nobody in her family seems interested. Meridian buries the gold underneath a magnolia tree in their yard and forgets about it.
Indians and Ecstasy
- Mr. Hill spends a lot of time in his toolshed. One day, Meridian walks in to find her father crying while reading old documents on the persecution of the Native American people.
- Later, Meridian overhears her parents arguing about an impending sale of some land—a large plot that contains "the Sacred Serpent," a "mound [...] full of dead Indians" (1.6.3). A fellow named Walter Longknife (claiming to be a Native American) recently arrived in town and requested the land.
- Walter spends the summer camping on the property. When he leaves, he returns the deed to Meridian's father.
- But Walter's trustworthiness is all for naught, because the government eventually seizes the land (for a paltry sum) and turns it into "Sacred Serpent Park" (1.6.28). Black people are denied entry, of course.
- Meridian's great-grandmother Feather Mae used to have crazy mystical visions while standing in the center of the serpent, where the snake's body coils into a pit. Later, Meridian goes on her own cosmic vibrational vision quest (far out, brah!) while standing in the same spot.
- Although black people would eventually be allowed into the park, Meridian would never be able to recreate these childhood experiences.
- As Meridian exits her puberty years, she feels increasingly abandoned by her mother—especially where boys are concerned. Meridian has more than her fair share of teenage romance, although she never actually enjoys the sex all that much.
- Surprise—Meridian gets pregnant. Her boyfriend Eddie had always promised to marry her "if things went wrong" like this, so the kid lives up to his promise (1.7.5). How romantic!
- Eddie's not so bad. He's clean and his clothes are always immaculately ironed and starched. He does pretty well at school and has a job at a restaurant. He's no Bruce Wayne, but he'll do for now.
- Although she was a stellar student, Meridian is forced out of high school after getting pregnant. She spends her days shuffling between her new home and Eddie's parents' house.
- As time goes on, the marriage deteriorates. It starts out small, with Eddie getting irritated that Meridian doesn't do the housework "nearly as well as his mother" (1.7.26). What are you, ten years old?
- Eddie also whines about Meridian not wanting sex, which eventually leads him to having affairs—but more on that later. However, it turns out that Meridian's distaste for sex isn't "as uncomplicated as he appeared to think" (1.7.36).
- Since she was twelve, Meridian would spend time at Daxter's Funeral Home, where Daxter would bribe her with candy and molest her.
- Daxter's assistant (nicknamed "The Voice") also sexually harassed Meridian, going as far as making love to a girl in front of her. Although she would let The Voice touch her, she never slept with either man and stopped coming to the funeral home soon after she met Eddie.
The Happy Mother
- Meridian gives birth to a son named Eddie Jr. Strangely, she begins "to dream each night [...] of ways to murder him" (1.8.1). These thoughts make her shameful and suicidal.
- Things are getting worse with Eddie, too—the dude is cheating like his name was Robin Thicke. Meridian has grown resentful of her husband—but more for the education that he takes for granted than his extra-marital nonsense.
- Then, it happens—Eddie leaves Meridian and the baby. That same day, Meridian walks past a house with a big hubbub going on. Although it's in a black neighborhood, there are white people there—a rare sight for Meridian.
- When she returns home, she turns on the TV and sees that the house is hosting a "voter registration drive" (1.8.13). Whatever that is.
- Tragedy strikes that night, however—the house is destroyed in the middle of the night by racists with fire bombs. Although the group had hired a guard, several children and adults are killed.
- This whole scene is a shock to Meridian—she has never been "aware of the past and present of the larger world" before this moment (1.8.16).
- Most days, Meridian brings Eddie Jr. to Eddie's mom's house.
- She spends her time in a daze, watching the schoolchildren walk to school imitating movie stars. Although Meridian is "still only seventeen," she feels very far from these kids' carefree lives (1.9.6).
The Attainment of Good
- Meridian's own mother "did not appear to understand much beyond what happened in her own family" (1.10.1).
- To be honest, though, she was probably too busy working to spend much time thinking about politics and whatnot.
- A month after the bombing, Meridian makes a big decision—she's going volunteer for a voter registration drive.
- A dude named Swinburn greets her and sets her to work as a typist. She also meets another man named Truman Held. Truman speaks almost exclusively in French and looks both "wonderfully noble" and "arrogant" (1.11.7). Ah, college.
- Mildly to severely swooning, Meridian gets to work typing copies of a petition.
- With that, Meridian is thrust headlong into the Civil Rights Movement.
- One night, while protesting the awful conditions inside the "black sections of the jail," her group is attacked by police and Truman is arrested (1.12.2). Although he's freed later that night, the police officers take the opportunity to arrest more protesters—Meridian included.
- Another time, she sees Truman get pulled off the street by an officer and driven away.
- Although she becomes more politically involved every day, Meridian is terrified to tell her mother. Eventually, she decides to come clean to Momma Hill with the help of her friends Nelda and Delores.
- But Meridian has another thing she needs to discuss with her mother—the fact that she has just been awarded a full scholarship to Saxon College in Atlanta. That's awesome! It also doesn't hurt that Truman attends a college near Saxon...
- Truman doesn't know about Meridian's kid and she wants to keep it that way. And that's the giant bombshell she needs to drop on her mom—that she's going to "give away her child" (1.12.24).
- This infuriates Mrs. Hill. Although mom fights against it, Meridian is determined to go to Saxon.
- Ironically, it's only now that Meridian starts to feel affection for Eddie Jr., whom she renames Rundi. Why, you ask? Heck if we know!
- Finally, Meridian arrives at Saxon College.
The Driven Snow
- Meridian has a great first year at school. Her favorite pastime is hanging out at the Sojourner, where she has a "profound sense of peace" that she hasn't felt since the Sacred Serpent (1.13.2).
- She makes friends with Anne-Marion. Despite their close relationship, Meridian never reveals the truth about her past.
- After getting great grades during her first year, Meridian (and Anne-Marion) joins the "Atlanta Movement" (1.13.5). While their fellow Saxon students are looking to score wealthy husbands, these two are doing jail stints and getting beaten by cops.
- The protesters are now faced with more violence than ever. Oddly, these moments of pure chaos are the only times when Meridian feels comfortable in her own skin.
- After Wild Child's death, Meridian moves from campus to the "ghetto" that surrounds it, paying for her rent by helping out a professor after class (1.13.13).
The Conquering Prince
- Truman has just arrived at Meridian's house in an "Ethiopian robe of extravagantly embroidered white" (1.14.1). The sexual tension between these two is thicker than Helga Pataki's unibrow.
- They're going to a party, but Meridian is so hot and bothered that she doesn't think they'll make it out the door. Finally, they manage to get themselves together and head out.
- On the drive over, Meridian tells him about three white students from up North who have recently joined the Movement.
- Meridian had registered voters with one of the girls named Lynne Rabinowitz. Lynne seemed a little obtuse, but good-natured.
- Finally, they arrive at the party. They separate early on, and Meridian is stuck dancing from a "plodding young man from Arkansas" (1.14.56).
- Later in the night, Meridian searches for Truman. She finds him sitting in the corner, shamelessly flirting with one of the white students. Truman and Meridian don't see each other for several months after this night.
- One day, Meridian and Truman run into each other while Meridian is walking home from her job with the old professor. Truman has been dating white girls in rapid succession since they saw each other last.
- Truman jokes about the professor being Meridian's "sugar daddy" (1.14.97). Although Meridian brushes this comment off, the truth is that the professor—Mr. Raymonds—does sexually harass Meridian before paying her.
- Truman follows her home. After a little chat, he kisses her, eager to rekindle their relationship. They make love and he falls asleep, Meridian's left unsatisfied yet again by a sexual encounter. Then she realizes that he wasn't wearing a condom...
- She goes into the bathroom and attempts to clean herself out. Truman is gone by the time she gets back. It's not long after that Meridian hears that he's dating Lynne.
- To her utter horror, Meridian gets pregnant once again. She doesn't tell Truman, instead going to the campus doctor for an abortion. She gets her tubes tied too—the doctor creepily says that he'll do it for free if she lets him in on her "extracurricular activity" (1.14.117).
- Soon after, Truman tries to get Meridian back once again. This time Meridian is having none of it, hitting him across the face and accidentally cutting his cheek.
The Recurring Dream
- Meridian is having a strange recurring nightmare—she's "a character in a novel" who can only solve things by dying (1.15.1).
- She starts taking chances by hanging out in all-white neighborhoods past dark and walking across roads without looking for cars. Meanwhile, a super-strong headache has begun bubbling beneath the surface…
- Then, a day before graduation, her vision takes on a blue hue. Huh? Two days later, she goes blind.
- She tries to avoid the campus doctor (who had been sexually suggestive toward her) but ends up in his care after passing out.
- She returns home, seemingly cured. Then, two days later, her legs stop moving—she's paralyzed. She stays in bed all day and is unable to eat.
- Anne-Marion has been caring for her friend. One day, she's joined by Miss Winter, an organist at Saxon who came from the same hometown as Meridian
- Once, when Meridian was a kid, Miss Winter watched her mess up a speech in front of the whole school. She had tried to comfort the young girl, but to little avail.
- Meridian's great-great-great grandmother "had been a slave whose two children were sold away from her" (1.15.33). Although she managed to keep them around, she died of malnourishment soon after.
- Her daughter (Meridian's great-great grandmother) was well-known for "painting decorations on barns" (1.15.35). Her work frequently featured a strange little face in the center as a sort of signature.
- Her grandmother married a decent man who also happened to beat his family on a regular basis. If he had had his way, Meridian's mom wouldn't have been allowed to go to school!
- Meridian finally wakes up. Anne-Marion is there waiting and tells Meridian that she "can not afford to love" Meridian anymore (1.15.46).
- Although they'll see each other again, this is the last time they will be close. Later, Anne-Marion will start tracking down Meridian and writing her letters—but, despite her good intentions at the onset, her letters always devolve into bitter insults. So much for being a good friend…
Truman and Lynne: Time in the South
- Here's the beginning of Part II: Truman Held.
- Truman is watching Lynne sit on a front porch while a group of black children comb her hair. He considers taking a picture of the scene, but shifts his lens to the house's "broken roof" (2.16.1).
- Lynne has come to think of "the black people of the South" as "Art" (2.16.3). What does that mean?
- Although Truman has lost his passion for the Civil Rights Movement, Lynne has not. Two years after the murder of several civil rights workers in 1964, they decide move down to the backwoods of Mississippi to do their part.
Of Bitches and Wives
- One night, a fellow civil rights worker named Tommy Odds is shot while leaving a church. Although Tommy survives, he ends up losing "the lower half of his arm" (2.17.2).
- Truman arrives at the hospital to cheer up his friend with a bottle of wine. When he gets to the room, Truman mentions Lynne and Tommy calls her a guilty "white bitch" (2.17.7).
- This throws Truman for a loop. Although he wants to defend his wife, Truman can't get Tommy's words out of his mind.
- Truman remembers how Tommy Odds would hang out at pool halls to gather support. Although it took him months to gain the locals' trust, he managed to register everyone from young pool hustlers to street prostitutes to devout old folks.
- After celebrating their success, Tommy, Truman, and Lynne found themselves being followed by a car. Luckily, Tommy's crew showed up and kept them safe. To Truman, this memory proves that Lynne is guilty of something—what exactly, he doesn't know.
- Caught in his thoughts, Truman drops the wine and it shatters. He leaves, telling Tommy that he'll return. Although Tommy never said it outright, Truman feels like his friend was telling him to dump Lynne.
- Truman considers marrying a black woman. This is actually a big thing in pop culture at the moment—Truman can think of several celebrities who exchanged their white ladies for a "shiny new black wife" (2.17.32).
- Many of the Mississippi locals were downright scared of Lynne when they first met her. They were so terrified of her that they "did not even see her as a human being but as some kind of large, mysterious doll" (2.17.39).
- Lynne was able to win them over with time. Despite this, she is no longer welcome in the Movement—she isn't even allowed to march anymore.
The New York Times
- Truman visits Meridian for the first time about three years after he gets married. Although he "begged her [...] to give him another chance," Meridian refuses him (2.18.1).
- Meridian tears him a new one, saying that he rejected her because he knew she wasn't a virgin and had a son. She claims that she was born too poor to have the "worldly experiences" he had so desired back then (2.18.22).
- In fact, this is all true. Truman could tell that she wasn't a virgin after they slept together. Later, he found out about her marriage and child.
- Although he now realizes that he built up a fake image of Meridian in his head, he can't help but visit her whenever possible.
- It's the summer before Meridian arrives in Chicokema, the small town where we find her at the start of the novel. Lynne has just arrived at Meridian's house.
- Lynne and Meridian haven't seen each other "since the death of Lynne and Truman's daughter, Camara, a year earlier" (2.19.1). Truman, of course, is already there.
- Meridian is getting sicker and sicker, although she hides it well. She's even started to wear a little cap after she begins to bald prematurely.
- Lynne is upset for a lot of reasons: she's broke, exhausted, and convinced that there is "something between" Truman and Meridian (2.19.16).
- Truman has just walked into the backyard, camera in hand. Lynne rushes outside to meet him. They get into a nasty argument, each mocking the other's racial biases. Meridian tries to leave, but gets caught up in the aftermath of their argument.
- That night, Lynne and Meridian are alone inside the house. Lynne is "crying into the pillows of the couch" and apologizing for freaking out (2.19.71).
- Things aren't going well for Lynne in New York. It seems like she's been getting into lots of drugs and sex.
- Lynne had called her parents after Camara's death—it was the first time they had talked in a long time. It didn't go well, to say the least.
- Then Lynne drops a bombshell—she claims that she was raped, and that Truman let it happen. Although Meridian tries to ignore her, Lynne starts telling her story anyway.
- Lynne was still living at home when she started dating Truman. They would secretly meet "in his mother's house" (2.20.2).
- Lynne's mother manages to track her to Truman's house one night. When she realizes that she's in a black neighborhood, she begins screaming and doesn't stop.
- Tommy Odds has "wanted to make love" to Lynne for a long time (2.21.5).
- At the moment, she's sitting with him and sewing the armband of his shirt on his missing arm.
- Tommy tries to guilt-trip Lynne into sleeping with him, begging her to be a "true woman" and satisfy his needs (2.22.1). She begs him to stop.
- Ignoring her, he starts to have sex with her. By now, Lynne has stopped resisting, out of both fear and a desire to ease his suffering. When he finishes, she kisses his stump and tells him that she forgives him.
- The next day, Tommy visits Lynne again with three mutual friends: Raymond, Altuna, and Hedge. Tommy is trying to prod his friends into sleeping with her.
- Suddenly, Lynne feels trapped in a "racist painting she had once seen in Esquire" that played on racial paranoia between white women and black men (2.22.18).
- The three friends don't move. Tommy claims that he didn't rape Lynne and that she wanted it. Tommy once again tells his friends to "have some of it" (2.22.36). Lynne is convinced that these men—her friends—are about to rape her.
- But Altuna takes exception with Tommy calling her an "it." Hedge tells her that he thought they were going to a party. Raymond quietly points out that he has a girlfriend. Although they're not quite convinced that Lynne was raped, they leave disgusted with Tommy.
- Tommy tries to rape her again but isn't able to stay erect. He spits in her face, pees on the floor, and leaves.
- Although she tries to keep it a secret, she eventually tells Truman what happens and begs him to leave Mississippi with her. He doesn't seem to believe her.
- Next, we're shown a scene that, presumably, Lynne doesn't know about—it's written in italics and separated from the rest of the action.
- Truman confronts Tommy, grabbing him "at the base of the throat" and berating him (2.22.55). Tommy tells Truman that Lynne is only with him because of his race. Again, Tommy's words cause Truman to walk away dejected.
- Lynne stays cooped up in the house, while Truman—devastated and confused by what happened—stays elsewhere. Her home quickly becomes a den of drugs, loud music, and promiscuous sex.
- This doesn't last long. Soon after, Lynne gets pregnant and moves to New York with Truman.
On Giving Him Back to His Own
- Lynne has just gotten off a New York subway and is rushing to Truman's apartment. She has something awful to tell him—Camara "has been hurt" (2.23.6).
- The pair has been separated for some time now. Lynne is resentful—she thinks Truman hates her because she has gotten fat. She thinks this is hypocritical because Truman has been making a ton of sculptures that celebrate the curvy bodies of black women recently.
- She rings the bell repeatedly—no answer. After a while, Truman opens the door. Before they can speak, Lynne hears a female voice calling from the bedroom. Truman quickly comes into the hallway and shuts the door.
- Convinced that the voice belongs to Meridian, Lynne begins acting like (in her words) a "silly bitch" (2.23.22). It's hard to blame her though—she still doesn't know how to tell him that their daughter was just attacked by a grown man, and is now in critical condition at the hospital.
- Finally, Lynne barges in the apartment. To her complete shock, she sees a "tiny blonde girl in a tiny, tiny slip" (2.23.28). Lynne breaks down into laughter.
- After Camara's death, Meridian comes up to New York to care for both Lynne and Truman.
- During her last evening with Lynne, the two women watch "one of those Southern epics" on TV (2.24.8). The movie makes them feel nostalgic for the South, and they rummage through the apartment looking for mementos from the region.
- Lynne has started abusing drugs and going a tad crazy. Eventually, she makes her way down South and has a mental breakdown.
- Lynne breaks into her old house in Tennessee, eager to reclaim whatever happiness she lost. She's eating some food ("oranges, three apples, a triangle of cheese") that she had bought at a nearby Jewish delicatessen (2.25.6).
- She used to visit the delicatessen frequently when she was with Truman. Back then, she could always feel the judging eyes of the Jewish shopkeepers who resented her for being friends with black people.
- Lynne wakes up and we're back where we started, with Meridian and Lynne sitting together in Meridian's small shack.
- Lynne tells Meridian that "Black folks aren't so special" (2.25.15). Meridian, jokingly, says that no one is perfect—except, of course, white women.
Free at Last
- Now for Part III: Ending.
- Meridian is walking in a funeral procession through Atlanta. Based on the date, this seems to be Martin Luther King Jr.'s funeral.
- Although the mood starts somber, the procession seems more like a parade—food vendors pop up along the route and people begin singing and laughing. A nearby kid says that this joviality in the face of death is a "black characteristic" (3.26.8).
- Truman and Meridian are in the heat of a political discussion on the ethics of "revolutionary killing" (3.27.5).
- Although Meridian is still unsure whether she could actually kill, she now believes that it's a question that anyone fighting for social justice must ask themselves.
- Truman doesn't care much—to him, the time for revolution has come and gone. Even so, Meridian can't answer the question to her own liking.
- In the community where Meridian lives, there's a large ditch called "the pool" (3.27.30). Whenever it rains, the pool fills up at a rapid rate and, if there are children swimming at the time (because the local swimming pool shut down after desegregation), they are often are caught up and drowned. It happens every year.
- This happens when Meridian is there too. She carries the dead child's "bloated figure" from the pool to the mayor's office, finally leaving the body in front of him and walking out (3.27.34). Afterwards, she collapses. She uses this to convince the boy's family to register to vote.
- In '68, Meridian starts going to church services, attending a different one each Sunday.
- On this day in particular, service begins with a man bringing "a large photograph of a slain martyr in the Civil Rights struggle" to the pulpit (3.28.4).
- Meridian is having a strange experience—although she recognizes all of the hymns' melodies, the words all seem different.
- After another song, the minister launches into a politically-charged sermon. To Meridian, he seems to be "deliberately imitating" Martin Luther King (3.28.10). The crowd eats it up.
- When the service is over, the minister introduces the man to the crowd. Meridian has heard of him—after learning of his activist son's murder, the man went temporarily insane. He still has good days and bad days, but medication seems to help.
- Nowadays, the man is often requested for speaking engagements at schools and churches. The speech always starts with the same three words—"My son died" (3.28.16).
- This whole experience rattles Meridian—she actually admires the church for proudly standing up for what is right. She admires its sense of community.
- In an amusing irony, this is when Meridian realizes that she could kill for a just cause.
- Meridian and Truman have arrived at a small, decrepit house. Inside is a family whose mother is lying in bed sick. Although she's dying, she seems to be in good spirits—so much so that she mostly just flirts with her husband Johnny.
- Johnny is in the corner, rolling up newspapers to sell "to folks with fireplaces" during the winter (3.29.16). The papers are gross—most of them have clearly been picked from the garbage.
- Meridian explains that they are here to register them to vote, but offers instead to help roll up papers. They sit and talk about the woman's feelings on death—she wants to die on Mother's Day.
- Johnny doesn't seem interested in voting when he shows them to the door. Although they walk away, they return a few minutes later with two bags of food.
- Then, "the Monday after Mother's Day," Johnny visits Truman and Meridian (3.29.34). He has a few rabbits, a handful of newspaper logs, and a voter registration form.
- Margaret Treasure's home is in the middle of a large cornfield. As Truman and Meridian approach, they see her carrying a canister of gasoline and setting the field on fire.
- Miss Treasure is trying to pull a large bed off the porch to add it to the flames. Meridian and Truman offer to help.
- Suddenly, a "younger woman, perhaps in her middle sixties," pops out the door (3.30.6). It's Margaret's sister Lucille, and she is not happy with her sister's little pyromaniacal spree.
- Margaret and Lucille have lived in isolation on their family's plantation for their entire lives. In recent years, however, they've been selling the land bit by bit.
- Their only human contact comes when they hire people to paint the house every few years. Something big happened last time, though—Margaret fell "in love with one of the painters," named Rims Mott (3.30.22).
- And that's how sixty-nine-year-old Margaret Treasure lost her virginity. Even more surprisingly, that's how she got pregnant.
- They push the bed off the porch, but Margaret's leg gets caught. Luckily, it doesn't seem too bad, but the fire has gone out by the time she's free.
- As she and Truman bandage up Margaret's leg, Meridian tells Margaret that she doesn't look pregnant. She suggests consulting the doctor when they bring her to get her leg checked out.
- Although "it had been years since she was off the plantation," Margaret reluctantly agrees (3.30.43). However, she's so overjoyed after hearing presumably good news that she seems ready and willing to sign up to vote.
- Next stop: the women's prison to meet "the child who murdered her child" (3.31.1). The girl had killed her own daughter, biting her cheek before strangling her.
- Meridian is, as usual, trying to register the girl to vote. But the girl is so angry and beaten down that they leave unsuccessful.
- This experience truly shakes Meridian—it hits emotional nerves related to her own child. She writes two poems about the experience, and Truman feels a strange, "intensely maternal" feeling toward her (3.31.14).
(Atonement: Later, in the Same Life)
- This scene seems to take place in the indeterminate future.
- Truman is telling Lynne that he stills loves her, but does not "desire" her anymore (3.32.7). He still wants to care for her—but as a sister.
- Truman and Meridian are lying in sleeping bags. He's begging her to love him the way she did "a long time ago" (3.33.3). Meridian, as usual, rebuffs him.
- Truman notices a new photograph on the wall of the Sojourner's stump. Amazingly, there's a small branch growing from the side. Even more amazingly, the photograph is from Anne-Marion.
- Meridian asks Truman if he remembers when a woman "attacked" her and "slammed the door" during a recent voter registration effort (3.33.11). He does.
- She explains that the woman did that because Meridian knows a secret about her family—that her husband fell in love with a dog. For real. The wife confronted him about it, but he sided with the dog. Naturally, she moved out.
- It wasn't long, however, before she came back—he was a decent guy, after all, besides this one huge thing. Her sole request is that he "promise to kill the dog" (3.33.15).
- Truman asks her if the husband actually killed the dog. To Meridian, that's not the point.
- Meridian is getting ready to leave her home. She removes her cap and tosses it to the ground, revealing "the soft wool of her newly grown hair" (3.34.1).
- Meridian and Truman embrace, and she leaves. Suddenly, Truman starts to feel dizzy and collapses to the floor—just like Meridian once did. He crawls into the sleeping bag and places Meridian's cap on his head.
- In this daze, he imagines Anne-Marion arriving here someday, just as he did with Meridian.