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Meridian | Study Guide

Alice Walker

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Meridian | Quotes


I seen rights come and I seen 'em go.

Sweeper, Part 1, Section 1

The cynicism about change expressed by the elderly sweeper in Chicokema whom Truman meets mirrors the attitude of many African Americans who are still discriminated against even after the height of the civil rights movement. This attitude is why Meridian and Truman continue in trying to get African Americans interested in voting so they can gain a voice in their country.


If a person is hit hard enough, even if she stands, she falls.

Meridian Hill, Part 1, Section 1

Meridian quotes this saying of the people of Chicokema to Truman about the way she continues to experience paralysis and weakness as a result of her activism. She is reminding him that she is actually very strong even though her body's response to things she finds terrible would seem to contradict that.


It was for stealing her mother's serenity, for shattering her mother's emerging self, that Meridian felt guilty from the very first.

Narrator, Part 1, Section 4

Meridian's mother makes no secret of the fact that she feels repressed by marriage and motherhood. This theme of the lost promise experienced by many women who become pregnant is prominent throughout the novel.


I never said either side was innocent or guilty, just ignorant.

Mr. Hill, Part 1, Section 6

Even though he is a poor African American, held down by his ethnicity, Meridian's father is extremely wise in his view of the world. He makes this statement when he is arguing with his wife about the rights of Native Americans. By saying it he gets to the essence of all prejudice and racism: ignorance, which leads to fear.


The voice urging her on—the voice that said terrible things about her lack of value—was her own voice.

Narrator, Part 1, Section 12

The narrator is describing the voice that Meridian regularly hears in her head after giving up her son for adoption. This voice constantly tells her that she should kill herself, that she is a miserable failure who does not deserve to live.


You walk with your head down. It should be up. Proud and free.

Truman Held, Part 1, Section 14

Truman says this to Meridian when she runs into him after months of not seeing him. His words are full of situational irony. Part of the shame she feels—and he seems to instinctively notice—has been brought about by the way he has treated her and spurned her love in favor of chasing white exchange students.


It never occurred to her that her mother's and her grandmother's extreme purity of life was compelled by necessity.

Narrator, Part 1, Section 15

Whenever Meridian thinks about her family history, she is in awe of how righteous the women have been. She feels sure she can never live up to their ability to do the right thing. However, what she doesn't understand is that they had no choice but to live the way they did.


They did not see her as a human being, but as some kind of large, mysterious doll.

Narrator, Part 2, Section 17

This statement describes how the African Americans in the civil rights movement in Mississippi view Lynne at first. They fear her because they know that white women can get black men killed with nothing more than an accusation. It takes a while for them to learn to trust and like her—to see her as a fellow human being.


All saints should walk away. Do their bit, then—just walk away.

Meridian Hill, Part 2, Section 19

Meridian dreams repeatedly that she is a character in a novel that can only result in her death. She is finally able with this thought to break free of the idea that she must become a martyr in order to matter.


She could bear the hatred of her own father and mother, but not the hatred of black men.

Narrator, Part 2, Section 22

This statement is made about Lynne, who allows the African Americans in the civil rights movement in Mississippi to have sex with her after Tommy Odds rapes her. She wants them to care about her instead of hating her the way Tommy does. Her mother and father reject her for marrying Truman, but she cannot stand for those in the movement she loves to reject her.


The last thing that held us together is safely buried.

Lynne Rabinowitz, Part 2, Section 24

Lynne makes this statement to Meridian in reference to the death of Camara, her daughter with Truman. She thanks Meridian for coming to her during this time of grief. Meridian's response to her thanks is to say that Lynne would have had Truman if she had not been there, and this is how Lynne refutes it.


He saved me from a fate worse than death.

Lynne Rabinowitz, Part 2, Section 25

A year after Camara's death, when a despondent Lynne comes to Meridian and admits that she still loves Truman, she gives this statement as the reason for her inability to let him go. For Lynne, existing in the world of her strict Jewish upbringing, unaware of the rest of the world, would have been worse than anything Truman has done to her.


Meridian laughed, the stubborn ambivalence of her nature at last amusing her.

Narrator, Part 3, Section 27

This observation gets to the crux of one of the main issues in Meridian's life as an activist—her ambivalence about using violence to achieve civil rights goals instead of passive resistance. It comes after her usual argument with Truman about this issue.


I've always had trouble telling the "correct" thing from the "right" thing.

Meridian Hill, Part 3, Section 27

After making this statement to Truman, Meridian goes on to clarify her stance. She says that the right thing is "never to kill," whereas the correct thing is "to kill when killing is necessary."


It is the song of the people, transformed by the experiences of each generation, that holds them together.

Meridian Hill, Part 3, Section 28

This sudden awareness by Meridian after attending the church service in Atlanta speaks to the importance of nurturing the African American community throughout the generations. It is the turning point in her thinking about herself and her role in society and represents the climax of the novel.

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