Meridian Critical Context (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series) - Essay

Alice Walker

Critical Context (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series)

When first published, Meridian was largely ignored, partly because its author was a young writer with a limited public. (Walker’s very fine first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, 1970, attracted almost no recognition when it was published.) The critical realization that Meridian was an exceptional novel grew slowly during the 1970’s, as Walker began to establish herself not only as a novelist but also as a poet, short story writer, essayist, and feminist. By the mid-1980’s, Walker had achieved recognition as one of the foremost contemporary American writers, largely on the strength of her widely acclaimed novel The Color Purple (1982), which was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award for fiction.

Many critics regard Meridian as Walker’s fullest, most beautifully crafted novel. Its unusual structure reflects the novel’s revolutionary theme and spirit. Throughout her career, Walker has committed herself to exploring obstacles to human freedom, particularly as they apply to women. Because Meridian touches upon this theme of timeless relevance with consummate art, it continues to attract increasing numbers of readers as well as informed scholarly consideration.