5. He . . . wondered if Meridian knew that the sentence of bearing the conflict in her own soul which she had imposed on herself—and lived through—must now be borne in terror by all the rest of them.
This is the final sentence in the novel. Meridian, like a phoenix, has emerged whole and restored after facing various trials, and her transformation is quiet yet triumphant. Now Meridian packs her meager belongings and moves on to the next town and the next challenge, armed with her newfound strength and resolve. In her stead, Truman is struck with her mysterious illness, falling to the ground after reading the words of Meridian’s poem in which she finally forgives him. The poem goes on to say that she loves him and that their innocence and purity have given way to wisdom and healing. Regaining consciousness after his spell, Truman wakes to find his cheek resting on Meridian’s cap, the covering she no longer needs since her hair has grown back in. She can now expose herself to the world, no longer oppressed by her shame and guilt. In her absence, Truman becomes Meridian’s surrogate. She has gone before the others and paved the way to self-acceptance and self-knowledge. At the conclusion of the novel, it is Truman’s turn to embark on a similar, albeit difficult, journey toward the same goal.