Meridian Essay - Critical Evaluation

Alice Walker

Critical Evaluation

Alice Walker, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the novel The Color Purple (1982), draws on some of her own personal experiences, such as registering black voters, to create a realistic and heartrending account of the subtle but intense layers of social hierarchies of the American South during the years of the Civil Rights movement. The novel’s gritty scenes and dialogues confront readers with the physical and psychological effects resulting from the intense social changes of the time.

One primary theme of the novel is how the fight for social justice takes its toll on those working toward that end. It becomes clear in the novel that although a character may participate in a struggle for equality, this overarching, idealistic goal does not preclude selfish and chaotic behavior on the part of individuals working in the struggle.

Meridian is a character-driven novel, rather than one driven by plot, highlighting the feelings of fear and failure of its principal characters. The novel is structured into three main parts that roughly follow Meridian’s experiences from college to her independent but isolated self as a caring person who is unattached and free to love without the burdens of sex, abuse, and institutional baggage. Structurally, it is possible to regard Meridian’s development, her movement from naïveté to understanding, as an innovation of the classic bildungsroman.

The novel contains many historical references, realistically conveying the context of the American Civil Rights movement. Walker alludes to figures such as activist Medgar...

(The entire section is 656 words.)