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Literature Study GuidesMeridianPart 1 Section 2 Summary

Meridian | Study Guide

Alice Walker

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Meridian | Part 1, Section 2 : Meridian (The Wild Child) | Summary



This short chapter is set at Saxon College, which is the school in Atlanta Meridian attends. (Most critics agree that Saxon is based on Spelman College, the school Walker attended in the Atlanta area.) But the focus is not on collegiate life; it is on the tragic life of a young teenager known by those living in the slums around Saxon as Wile Chile.

Wile Chile first appeared in the area with a young boy, who disappeared not long after. She lives on the streets, scavenging for food and clothing and cigarette butts in garbage cans. Until Meridian comes along, no one can get the girl to come near.

Appalled to see that Wile Chile is pregnant, Meridian gradually coaxes her to come to her rooms in the honor dormitory of the school. She bathes her—perhaps the first time the girl has been clean in her whole life—and takes her to the dining hall. But Wile Chile's cursing and awful behavior are deemed unsuitable by the house mother, and she tells Meridian the girl must go. As Meridian fruitlessly tries to find safe housing for Wile Chile, the girl runs away. As she darts across a busy street, she is struck by a car and killed.


It is not by chance that Saxon College is surrounded by slums inhabited by African Americans. Readers will find out later that the college was originally a plantation. Walker seems to be asking how life has actually changed for the African Americans since then. They are enslaved by poverty, kept away from the luxury of white establishments.

Already Meridian is active in trying to change that. She sees Wile Chile while canvassing the slums to try to get African Americans to register to vote. When she sees Wile Chile's condition, she takes action to help her. Unfortunately, she cannot save Wile Chile. Her dead body and the dead body of her fetus are two more tragic examples of brutality.

As Meridian figures out what to do about Wile Chile after first becoming aware of the girl's situation, she enters a state of paralysis. She seems to be a corpse herself, just as she did after the tank incident in the first chapter. These spells, during which Meridian appears to take on the burdens of the world, will happen to her repeatedly. When she comes out of it, she literally comes back to life, feeling inspired to try to continue to make a difference. That it takes a toll on her is obvious.

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