Literature Study GuidesMeridianPart 1 Section 15 Summary

Meridian | Study Guide

Alice Walker

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Meridian | Part 1, Section 15 : Meridian (The Recurring Dream) | Summary

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Summary

This final chapter in Meridian's section of the novel begins with a paragraph that is repeated three times. It describes a recurring dream she has in which she is "a character in a novel." The narrator says that "her existence present[s] an insoluble problem, one that [can] be solved only by her death at the end." During this period of time, Meridian begins to feel physically ill and to "take chances with her life."

The day before she graduates from college, Meridian begins to see the world through a blue haze. Soon she loses her sight completely and begins having fainting spells. When she awakens after her eyesight is restored, she finds herself in the office of the doctor who performed her abortion. He takes the "payment" he wants for tying her tubes in the form of performing a long pelvic and breast exam. Obviously none of her symptoms warrant this attention, and he says he wants to do more of it.

Meridian keeps getting sicker and weaker. Anne-Marion finally calls upon Miss Winter from Saxon College for help. She is a Hill family friend who comforts her.

The narrative is then interrupted by Meridian's sharing of her mother's history. Her mother's great-great-grandmother was a slave who fought valiantly to keep her children with her. Mrs. Hill's great-grandmother was also enslaved, but she became known as a fine artist who painted decorations on barns. Her owner let her keep the money she earned, so she was able to buy her family's freedom. Mrs. Hill's mother married a man who was handsome and a good provider, but he was an adulterer who beat his wife and child. Mrs. Hill's mother stood up for her daughter, however, and worked hard to be sure she received the education she desired to be a teacher. As a child, Meridian often wept when hearing about her mother's difficult childhood.

When the narrative returns to Miss Winter sitting by Meridian's bedside, Meridian is dreaming again. This dream is of her on a ship with her mother. Her mother holds her over the railing, "about to drop her into the sea." "Let me go," Meridian tells her mother, but she refuses to let her daughter go. Miss Winter cannot see Meridian's dream, of course, but her instinct tells her to say, "I forgive you." These words begin Meridian's recovery.

As Anne-Marion watches Meridian struggle to regain her strength, she decides she will end their friendship. "Meridian, I cannot afford to love you," she says. "Like the idea of suffering itself, you are obsolete."

Analysis

When Meridian keeps having the same dream and begins to take risks with her life, it is as if she wants to die. Yet, even in the midst of her illness, she clings to her knowledge of the strength of women in her family. She has her own kind of strength, and it will become more apparent as the novel continues. Hers is strength of character and conviction. Anne-Marion wants African Americans "to have the same opportunity to make as much money as the richest white people." Unlike Anne-Marion, Meridian knows that she could never "enjoy owning things others could not have." This realization occurs when Meridian is in the middle of giving a high school speech in an oratorical competition. It is a speech chosen by her coach for her. Meridian doesn't believe a word of what she is saying, so she has no choice but to stop in the middle of it.

Miss Winter was present when Meridian had that high school experience and was able to help Meridian through it. She says, "It's the same [speech] they made me learn when I was here ... and it's no more true now than it was then." It is not by chance that Miss Winter is the one who can help Meridian recover. She is the type of strong woman Meridian understands. She is a teacher at the college; she endures the things she finds distasteful about it and regularly "fights with the president and the college dean." When Miss Winter says to Meridian, "I forgive you," Meridian believes she has finally won her mother's approval. It is a significant moment, as Meridian is always haunted by the guilt her "overburdened" mother puts on her.

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