Literature Study GuidesMeridianPart 3 Section 28 Summary

Meridian | Study Guide

Alice Walker

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Meridian | Part 3, Section 28 : Ending (Camara) | Summary

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Summary

The novel goes back in time with this chapter, to the spring after Meridian is in Atlanta for the funeral. She starts going to church, and the chapter focuses on one of those experiences when she goes to a "large white church (Baptist)." On the Sunday she attends this church, a man who is quite well known has come to speak. He talks, as always, about the loss of his son, "a slain martyr in the Civil Rights struggle."

Meridian is surprised by everything that goes on at the service and that the music is unfamiliar. The preacher seems to be purposefully trying to take on the role of Dr. King. She marvels about the stained-glass window that features a warrior rather than Jesus. Her overall sense is that the people in this church are saying, "We are fed up."

When the man gets up to speak, she remembers his story. When his son was killed, the man went crazy and was placed in a sanitarium. He remains mostly sedated, saying that his son's death makes no sense and speaking on occasion. On this day, however, he is unable to speak, still overwhelmed with grief.

Meridian mulls over all that she observes in this church service. She figures out what had been mysterious to her about the celebratory air of the funeral march for Dr. King. She sees that community is what holds African Americans together. The ceremony taking the place of the church she grew up in is designed to help the people know something vitally important to their well-being. They will stand by each other, protecting each other's lives with their own. They will be transformed by "the music, the form of worship that has always sustained us, the kind of ritual you share with us."

With this realization, Meridian feels a bursting in her chest. She understands she will continue to fight for what she believes in and that the fight does not have to take her own life. She decides she will walk "behind the real revolutionaries" and sing "the song of the people, transformed by the experiences of each generation, that holds them together."

Analysis

This chapter comes before the one in which she is continuing to share with Truman her doubts about killing for the movement. She has this profound moment of realization following the church service, but she is still far from convinced that violence is the correct route to change. What she realized in 1968 at that church service, is the same thing she thought years before when putting her repetitive dream to rest: she does not have to sacrifice herself in order to do what she feels is right.

The color motif is very strong in this chapter. Meridian notices all the bright colors people wear to church. She also notices the colored windows on the Baptist church she visits, perhaps a signal to readers that Meridian will never live in a black-and-white world, one in which things are crystal clear to her or she is sure what is right and wrong. At this important point in the novel, she notices the richness of color, the variety of it, in the world around her. Color prevents her from having to choose one way or another as her only route.

Perhaps the most important thing Meridian takes from her experience is recognizing her power. She sees herself as "a resolute and relatively fearless character." She says this character is "sufficient in its calm acceptance of its own purpose, could bring the mightiest country to its knees."

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