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Themes

The Difficulty of Idealism

Meridian is energized by a younger generation coming into its full power and raising its voice in dissent against the institutional racism that prevailed through the 1960s. Through occasionally violent protests and demonstrations, Meridian and other activists attempt to institute change and alter perceptions. Idealistic as they are, they ultimately find various degrees of satisfaction with the goals and ideals of the civil rights movement. Meridian feels that she will always stand on the fringes of the movement since she is unprepared to take her dissent to a radical, if not murderous, level. Lynne struggles with adapting and applying her own idealism to meaningful change in the lives of southern blacks. Truman eventually sours to the movement, having lost sight of its intentions in his self-absorption. In the end, Meridian realizes the fatuousness of dying or killing for the movement, concluding that the battle is won in small ways, such as getting blacks registered to vote and improving the lives of people victimized by the unchecked expression of racism.

The Interconnection of Past and Present

In Meridian, young activists attempt to break with tradition by bringing an end to the racism and segregation that had overshadowed black Americans for centuries. Walker shifts her focus from the present to the past to explore the lives of people who helped pave the way to the present moment. The experiences of Louvinie and Feather Mae, for example, frame the issues that Meridian and her father face. The serpent mound also evokes this powerful historical precedent, serving as a vital connection between Meridian, her father, and the ancestors who came before her. Throughout Meridian, Walker stresses the universality of the human experience and suggests that no one has cornered the market on suffering. Rather, many individuals from a variety of groups and backgrounds share a common history of exploitation, guilt, suffering, violence, and, ultimately, freedom, triumph, and acceptance.

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Meridian comes to believe that the battle for civil rights will be won ___.
In small ways
By violent means
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