Literature Study GuidesMeridianPart 1 Section 13 Summary

Meridian | Study Guide

Alice Walker

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Meridian | Part 1, Section 13 : Meridian (The Driven Snow) | Summary

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Summary

This chapter opens with Meridian's musings about her first year at Saxon. She feels blessed by the opportunity to attend a school with such a fine reputation, even though she often has low spirits. In particular, she is comforted by the presence of The Sojourner during that year, which reminds her so much of the Sacred Serpent.

In her second year, Meridian makes friends with Anne-Marion, who she feels is "as sharp and bright as a blade of sunshine." The two girls are active participants in the Atlanta Movement. This keeps Meridian from feeling trapped in the climate of Saxon, which is in so many ways alien to her. A typical Saxon student attends this school to be "accepted as an equal because she knew and practiced all the proper social rules." Meridian, on the other hand, has moved off campus to the ghetto where she found Wile Chile. She is unable to buy into the world of manners and "should" this and that. Everything she sees in the movement and around her belies the idea that the world is acceptable as is. The chapter ends with Meridian's hair beginning to thin and to fall out and indications she has fallen in love with Truman.

Analysis

This chapter opens with the words of the Saxon school song, which reference the students as "chaste and pure as the driven snow." No one at the college knows that Meridian has been married and has had a child. The song represents how conflicted she is about being a part of this student body.

The black-and-white motif of the novel is clear in this chapter. It is emphasized by the Saxon motto that "you could do anything there, as long as you wore spotless white gloves." There is the awareness always present of "the larger, more deadly enemy, white racist society." Clearly, Meridian cannot exist in this climate, so her decision to move to the ghetto is a good one.

Interesting side notes in this chapter include the fact that Meridian seems to be always thinking about her mother. The narration explains that "she endured wave after wave of an almost primeval guilt." She thinks of her mother as "Black Mother personified," which meant "comprehending as she did the horror, the narrowing of perspective, for mother and for child."

This chapter begins Meridian's loss of hair and the increasing frailty of her health. She has severe headaches, feels her body "growing frailer every day," and "attend[s] to it less, because she hate[s] its obstruction." As Meridian becomes more active in the civil rights movement, she becomes increasingly detached from the physical world. She even welcomes the beatings she endures at the hands of police.

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