(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Meridian’s internal fight for freedom reflects and mirrors the Civil Rights movement. She has grown up with a burden of guilt for which she is in no way responsible, yet she suffers an inward sickness that is symbolized by her loss of hair and the other external signs of illness. At the time she experiences her release, her hair begins to grow, and when she discards her cap, the soft wool of her newly grown hair frames her thin, resolute face. She reminds Truman of Lazarus, who was raised from the dead, and he realizes that she has raised herself and will return to the world cleansed of sickness.

The new part of her that has grown out of the old is also symbolized by the message on one of the sheets of paper that Meridian has tacked to her wall and that she leaves behind. There is a photograph of a gigantic tree stump with a tiny branch growing out of one side; beside it is a message from Meridian’s best friend at Saxon, Anne-Marion. It says, “Who would be happier than you that The Sojourner did not die?” The Sojourner was the huge magnolia tree in the center of the campus which had been cut down to the ground in the protest riots that followed the Saxon College administration’s rejection of the Wild Child. Meridian’s soul had been hacked to pieces and her inner confidence and sense of herself had been destroyed; the tree’s resurrection and rebirth are emblematic of Meridian’s. When Truman arrives for his last visit with Meridian, she is brought home like a corpse after she has defied an Army tank to protect the rights of children. She describes herself to him as a woman in the process of changing her mind.

Anne-Marion was part of the group of civil rights enthusiasts in New York nearly ten summers earlier who had accused Meridian of being a coward because she would not say that...

(The entire section is 743 words.)