Literature Study GuidesMeridianPart 2 Section 19 Summary

Meridian | Study Guide

Alice Walker

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Meridian | Part 2, Section 19 : Truman Held (Visits) | Summary

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Summary

This chapter tells of a time Lynne, like Truman, visits Meridian. It has been a year since the two women have seen each other. Their last time together was the occasion of Camara's death when Meridian had gone to New York City to offer comfort to both Truman and Lynne. At this time, Meridian lives on the Georgia-Alabama border. She is still an activist in the civil rights movement. Her hair loss and physical frailty have begun to be quite obvious, yet she fits in with the poor people she serves.

Truman is visiting with Meridian and apparently called Lynne, who arrives at Meridian's door an absolute wreck. Meridian feeds her and reminds her that Truman is there but that "there's not the slightest thing between us." Lynne's response is caustic: "There'll always be something between you." She says, "What's between you is everything that could have happened and didn't, because you were both scared to death of each other." The rambling comments she makes after this reveal her cynicism about Truman and about the world in general. The grief at the murder of her daughter is still very palpable.

When Truman gets to Meridian's house, he and Lynne argue viciously in the yard. Meridian cannot help but hear them, although she tries to distract herself by doing exercises in the living room. Finally, she cannot take it anymore and she walks outside. She advises Lynne that she is going for a walk but Lynne should feel free to take a nap. Lynne and Truman keep up their disparaging remarks to each other until Meridian tells them she is locking the house. It is time for them to leave.

Later Meridian finds Lynne on her couch. She has climbed through a window to get back into the house. Lynne is no better than she was before, talking wildly and regularly using the word "nigger" until Meridian asks her to stop. Lynne piteously announces that "Truman was the only stable thing" in her life. Then she shares with Meridian some information about her parents. They are culturally traditional Jews, and they rejected Lynne when she dates and then marries Truman. When Lynne calls them to tell them Camara has died, her mother won't even talk to her. Her father's response is to say that their daughter (Lynne) is dead as well. When she goes on to try to tell Meridian about a time she was raped by a black man, Meridian cuts the conversation off and tells her to go to bed.

Analysis

It's obvious that Lynne is crazed with guilt and that her relationship with Truman has become truly toxic to both of them. The terrible things Lynne says to Meridian are just as bad. Meridian, as always, is caught between them and must do what she can to protect herself. Interestingly, when she goes for the long walk after locking her friends out of her house, Meridian reaches an important realization. It hearkens back to the recurring dream she had as described earlier, in which she must die at the end of a story she is in. She realizes that the deadly battle her friends are trying to get her to participate is not something she needs to be a part of. She understands such a battle could destroy her and that she must refuse this level of self-sacrifice. She realizes that "All saints should walk away. Do their bit, then—just walk away." It is an important shift in her. She finally sees that she can only help people so much. She must not continue to do so if it makes her less capable as a person and if it results in her own cynicism towards the things she truly believes in.

Lynne's need for the approval of black men has become pathological. She tells Meridian of the way she lives. She has been inviting every African American man who wants her into her home and letting them have sex with her. So when she wants to tell Meridian about a black man raping her, Meridian draws the line. "I know you're thinking about lynchings and the way white women have always lied about black men raping them. ... You wouldn't believe me either?" asks Lynne.

Meridian's response is backed by the realization she has had while walking. First, she says, "Can't you understand there are some things I don't want to know?" And then she says, "No" stated coldly in answer to Lynne's question.

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