Meridian is a richly drawn and fully developed character whose creation announced a major shift in black characters in African American literature. Walker created a woman who is part human and part saint and brought the two sides together in such a way that Meridian is always believable. At times, Meridian almost seems possessed in her determination to help black people. She makes a number of sacrifices of self and body as she devotes more time and energy to “her cause.”
The first indication that Meridian’s physical and spiritual sides are at war comes when she begins fainting after a grueling day of civil rights work, during which she is often beaten and arrested. She also begins to have episodes of loss of consciousness. The more she works for her people, the less she is concerned about earthly or material things. Meridian travels to New York City, where she encounters friends in the Black Power movement. Their rhetoric disturbs her. Anne-Marion, for example, asks Meridian, “Can you kill for the revolution?” Meridian returns to the South to be among the common folk, and once there she continues to help in any way needed. After her return, she begins to stop caring about personal hygiene and even about eating. She does not cook, but she gladly accepts the food the rural folks bring to her.
If a part of Walker’s intent in the novel is to show the toll that the Civil Rights movement took on some people, she achieves that intent most...
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