History as it pertains to literature

Chapter 4 of Moran’s Interdisciplinarity discusses the relationship between history and literature. Upon reading this, I could not think of anything but Meridian. History has been a central theme through all of our class discussions and individual readings from start to finish in this book. Everything from the setting to the dialogue between characters is rooted in historical context, and I felt that Meridian served as a prime example of the relationship that Moran explores in this chapter of his book.  

Everything about Meridian comes from its grounding in history. The book focuses on African-American’s and their relationship with their white peers, the revolution for equality, and general attitudes towards African-Americans from society as a whole. Taking place in the South in the 1960s, the book provides a lens through which to examine American society from the oppressed’s point of view. Walker writes of the growing up as a black American at this time, describing her coming to be a woman. It starts off by discussing her childhood, where she grew up in a house that her father believed was stolen from the Indian’s under a mother’s eye who was forever unimpressed with Meridian. It then moves on to Meridian as a school-age girl, and describes the course of action that took place for Meridian to become pregnant, and then the choice to give up her baby when the unimaginable opportunity for her to go to college arose. The historical context isn’t as prevalent in these beginning chapters of the novel as it is in the later ones, but throughout even these there is an underlying presence of society’s attitude toward African Americans.

Once Meridian is at college, the historical context really comes through. She becomes involved with a group on campus that is pro-active regarding the civil revolution, and there is a lot of discussion on the cruel treatment of revolutionists. She spends time in jail, is threatened with expulsion from school, and starts to gain her martyr-like reputation. She falls in love with a man, Truman, and the distinction between black and white females is depicted when Truman (a fellow black) leaves Meridian for white girls because, according to him, “they read the New York Times” (this emphasizes the ideas that white girls were more dignified or smarter, as those who read the paper were perceived as such). Meridian becomes even more involved with the revolution due to the involvement of her best friend, Anne, and the violence that was always a threat during the revolution is made clear through their disagreement over if Meridian would kill for the revolution, giving historical context into how bad times were for black Americans.

Toward the end of the book, the focus shifts to Truman and his white wife, Lynne, but the historical aspect does not change. The majority of the plot regarding the couple is focused on the fact that society does not accept their bi-racial relationship. Lynne is raped by a black man, one of Truman’s friends, in a rage-filled moment over the fact that he was shot for walking with Lynne since she is white and he is black. The sections of Meridian that focus on Truman and Lynne and their complicated relationship that only becomes more complex due to their contrasting races gives accurate historical insight into the attitude that races shouldn’t mix that was prevalent in America at this time.

The entirety of Meridian has its roots in history. The plot, in a whole, is the history of America and its views on African-American’s in the 1960s. Meridian serves as a prime example of the relationship that Moran discusses in his chapter of Interdisciplinarity regarding history and literature.


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