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Meridian | Study Guide

Alice Walker

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Meridian | Literary Devices


Significance of Character Names

Walker has named the important characters in Meridian carefully. She makes it apparent by including a page-long explanation at the beginning of the novel of her main character's name. Readers are given no such footnotes about other names, but they should be aware of their significance as they learn about the characters.

Truman Held has a name that is ironic. He is far from a "true man," nor is he held accountable by himself to anything. His devotion to the civil rights cause is hot and cold and could be seen as somewhat self-serving. He throws away Meridian's love for him after a single night of lovemaking, and then he turns his attention to the white exchange students at Saxon College. But he keeps returning to Meridian throughout the novel. He is seemingly coming as close as he ever can be to being "held" by his attraction to her. Similarly, he betrays Lynne in every way.

Lynne Rabinowitz bears a very common first name for American girls during her generation. But her Jewish last name, meaning "son of a rabbi," is very important. She does seem torn between her modern American instincts and her traditional Jewish upbringing. Perhaps this is most apparent when she expresses shock to Meridian at her father's flat statement to her upon Camara's death. Lynne tells Meridian that just as Lynne has lost her daughter, Lynne is considered "lost" to her parents because of her decision to marry Truman.

Readers never learn the first names of Mr. and Mrs. Rabinowitz, which stresses again the importance of their Jewishness. Similarly, readers never learn the first names of Mr. and Mrs. Hill (Meridian's parents). This emphasizes their constant battle to survive in a society that makes life an uphill battle for them because of their ethnicity and poverty.

Tommy Odds is indeed at odds with the whole world. After he loses half of his arm after a hate crime, he especially hates all white people. He takes it out on Lynne by raping her.

Calling Attention to the Importance of the Written Word

Even as Meridian divests herself of belongings more and more throughout the novel, she never lets go of her "wallpaper." These are the written words that matter to her. She understands the importance of every person's life story, and she reminds herself of her own by displaying words that help to memorialize it. These include poems she has written at key moments in life. When Truman asks her why she keeps on display Anne-Marion's disparaging letters to her, Meridian replies that it is important for her to remember her one-time friend's hateful voice. She remembers so that she can remain true to the cause as she has committed to it: a nonviolent, revolutionary one.

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