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Literature Study GuidesMeridianPart 1 Section 4 Summary

Meridian | Study Guide

Alice Walker

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Meridian | Part 1, Section 4 : Meridian ("Have You Stolen Anything?") | Summary



Chapter 4 gives information about Meridian's mother and father, helping readers to understand where she came from. Her mother did not want children, and throughout her adulthood she resents the loss of freedom and independence that accompanied her marriage and motherhood. Knowing this, Meridian grows up feeling guilty "for shattering her mother's emerging self."

Meridian's father is a "dreamy, unambitious person ... who walked over the earth unhurriedly." His kindness and gentleness are in stark contrast to his wife's tendency to wage "war against those to whom she could not express her anger."


The title of this chapter—"Have You Stolen Anything?"—is a question Meridian's mother is notorious for asking whenever her children seem troubled. Mostly filled with "abstraction" toward her children, Mrs. Hill does not like to be burdened by trying to understand how her children feel. So when Meridian tries to probe around about why she feels so guilty, her mother never responds with anything but this question. In fact, the question gets exactly to the root of the problem. Mrs. Hill feels that her children have stolen something—she believes they have stolen her life.

Women being burdened by children—especially by unwanted pregnancies—is something expressed repeatedly in the novel. Readers will see time and time again how motherhood limits the freedom of women—to work, to continue growing as people. This is part of one theme Walker explores in this book: the unacceptability of sexism as parallel to the unacceptability of racism.

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