A young civil rights worker and the protagonist of the novel. Thin
and slight, with deep brown skin, Meridian is a deeply sad and serious presence.
Bold, defiant, and courageous, Meridian seems older than she is. Cynical and
often pessimistic, she does not fill her life and perceptions with hope. Rather,
a stubborn ambivalence often prevails. Later, a serene, detached calm settles on
her life. Almost repulsed by sex and the physical aggressions of men, she
ultimately prefers her own company. As her illness progresses and her hair falls
out, she takes to wearing a knitted cap at all times.
in-depth analysis of Meridian Hill.
Meridian’s former lover and an active participant in the civil rights
movement. Truman is a handsome man whose intelligence borders on arrogance. His
air of pretension and his desire to impress set him apart. He often lapses into
French when he knows that the person he is addressing has little or no grasp of
the language. Passionate and emotionally volatile, he is unable to resist the
powerful pull of the women in his life. At the same time, he can be aloof and
distant, an emotional coward who would rather run away from a problem than
confront it directly.
in-depth analysis of Truman Held.
A white Jew from the North, and Truman’s eventual wife. Lynne is an
argumentative, slightly aggressive woman who is seduced by ideology and her own
heightened sense of self-importance, but she is also a selfless and dedicated
worker in the movement. Her involvement is rooted partially in guilt and an
exaggerated sense of her own complicity in racial injustice and the racism meted
out by legions of American whites. Later, her idealism turns to regret, defeat,
and a steely resignation as she is plagued with jealousy—of Meridian, in
particular—and dissatisfaction of the course her life has taken.
in-depth analysis of Lynne Rabinowitz.
Meridian’s friend at Saxon College and a radical member of the civil
rights movement. Anne-Marion is judgmental, opinionated, and easily angered, and
she has a strong desire to succeed. She is also radical and rebellious, and she
brings an intensity to her contributions to the civil rights movement. She cuts
off her hair and openly disavows any belief in the Christian faith. At her
worst, she is self-centered and incapable of true friendship or emotional
vulnerability in any form.
Meridian’s mother. A former teacher, Gertrude is deeply religious and
has a rigid and unyielding sense of morality and propriety. Despite her deep
reserves of faith, she is a fragile spirit who is not up to the tasks and
demands of being a wife and mother. At times bitter and spiteful, she feels
trapped and short-changed by how her life has turned out and is resigned to
self-sacrifice. There is a sense of martyrdom in her acceptance of her status as
a second-class citizen. Her stalwart sense of self-denial and her single-minded
pursuit of virtue and rightness intimidate Meridian and those around her, making
them feel insufficient and weak.
A former history teacher and farmer. Dreamy, quiet, and unambitious,
Meridian’s father prefers mostly his own company. He has an abiding interest in
historical studies, and he feels a profound connection to the Native Americans
who lived on and worked the land before him. Although he is a practicing
Baptist, he acknowledges the credence and viability of Native American
spirituality as an alternative to the deep Christian faith his wife subscribes
A friend of Truman’s who works on voter-registration drives in
Mississippi. Tommy is dedicated and charismatic, and he is successful at getting
more southern blacks to register and vote. Later, his less appealing qualities
emerge, as his anger and resentment over losing part of his arm boil over into
rape and other violence. His desire for revenge and his wish to blame Lynne for
his troubles blind him to reason and mute his otherwise kind and generous
Meridian’s husband and the father of her son. Eddie is Meridian’s
high school boyfriend, a stereotypical high school sports hero who never
outgrows the popularity and glory he achieved via his athletic prowess and
charm. Eddie is smart and hardworking but lacks the ambition and the ability to
pull himself and his family out of their current station. His immaturity is
evident through his infidelity and lack of serious commitment to his new
The Wild Child
A pregnant orphan who lives in the slums surrounding Saxon College.
Believed to be about thirteen, the Wild Child is a tough survivor who lives in
an abandoned building and survives through scavenging. Uncouth and untouched by
any civilizing influences, she has smoked and cursed since an early age. She is
also elusive and wary of other people until Meridian seizes her.
A West-African slave girl on the Saxon plantation. Louvinie has a
jutting chin and is commonly thought to be so unattractive that she is relegated
to working in the kitchen garden. Louvinie always wears black headrags, and many
people believe she is incapable of smiling. Children are drawn to her and her
ability to tell frightening tales of the supernatural.
A music professor at Saxon College. Sallow, with bulging black eyes
and a blue wig, Miss Winters is worldly and learned and one of only three black
instructors at the college. She teaches whatever she pleases and always manages
to skirt the disapproval or control of the administration. A kindly maternal
presence, she offers Meridian the warmth and forgiveness that Meridian’s own
mother cannot give her.
A professor at Saxon College and Meridian’s employer. Mr. Reynolds is
tall and bony, with short white hair, a drooping left eyelid, mostly false
teeth, and sour breath. He is a predator who offers Meridian money and food in
exchange for sexual favors.