What is the symbolism of the Wild Child's funeral in Alice Walker's Meridian?
The Wild Child herself symbolises the possibility of a free, independent life. Such a life could be lived based on personal decisions, with full blame and responsibility on the individual--but the individual would also reap all of the benefits. The Child, like Meridian, is a social outcast. So her life represents an alternative lifestyle. In the end both women are 'punished' for their differences.
The funeral itself is symbolic of the Movement throughout the novel. It starts as the response to a tragedy--the community banding together, united in purpose. Administrators and bureaucracy then gets in the way, halting progress--in this case, literally halting the funeral procession.
The crowd then splits in two--those that
"appeared to melt away, slinking farther and farther back until they had vanished"
and those that take action against the 'injustice'. Ironically, the students start rioting. This is in direct contrast to their original mission--a peaceful funeral. Alarmingly, the only thing the students damage is The Sojourner.
The riots have only achieved self-harm and no overall positive action, just like the civil rights activists in the Movement.