To be independent is to be without limitation and free of civilization, all the while, the thought of being free of civilization, without limitation is overwhelmingly wild. In the novel Meridian, by Alice Walker, the short presence of a character addressed as The Wild Child symbolizes the theme of self awareness and pursuing one’s life independently. Alice walker uses the short presence of The Wild Child as an influential factor when developing her main character Meridian.
The use of characters from Meridian’s ancestry, such as Feather Mae (Meridian’s great grandmother) and inanimate objects, such as The Sojourner (tree), further support the theme that The Wild Child represents. Notably, Alice Walker writes her Meridian through a series of flashbacks through third person omnicient narration. The novel opens with Truman Held arriving in Chicokema, Georgia, to meet up with Meridian, his former lover.
Meridian is seen escorting a group of children, who were mostly black and impoverished, to an attraction displaying a mummified woman in which they were not permitted to attend. A shift then occurs to a flashback in New York City where Meridian, ten years prior, had not been willing to proclaim that she would kill on behalf of an African American revolutionary organization. Another flashback then occurs to when Meridian had been a child who chose not to accept Jesus into her life despite her mother’s religious devotion, this urges Meridian’s mother to withdraw her love towards her daughter.
The novel continues to shift unravelling a countless number of memories that contributed to the reasoning behind why Meridian resulted to her introverted ways. Meridian seeks guidance and a sense of belonging that she never received from her mother, but finds that traditional paths in life do not provide her any comfort. Instead she cultivates a keen sense of dedication towards the civil rights movement, which gives her drive throughout her young adult years.
Meridian endures sexual misfortunes throughout life first as a child, when she becomes pregnant and marries due to her lack of knowledge about sex, and later with older men who take advantage of her low self esteem. Giving up her son, Eddie Jr. , Meridian seeks happiness within the campus of Saxon College where she intially struggles and finds refuge under The Sojourner, a rarely large magnolia tree. This is where she later encounters The Wild Child. The novel concludes with Truman asking Meridian to love him as she once did before he had married Lynn, a white activist for civil rights.
Meridian admits her love for Truman has changed and prepares to pick back up her life elsewhere; Truman realizes that he must now take up the internal struggle in which Meridian has finally escaped. Although Meridian began as a shattered individual who struggled throughout much of her life, this is what helps to mold and define the calm, determined person that she ultimately becomes; through the representation and comparison of The Wild Child to Meridian, Meridian’s growth is all the more apparent.
Alice Walker creates The Wild Child as almost an eidolon figure, for she is not even given a name. Occupants within the impoverished areas surrounding Saxon College, the school in which Meridian attends, know hardly anything of the mysterious young girl who searches for food in garbage cans and can barely speak any language besides the few swear words she has aquired over the years. Meridian attempts to help the poor child but fails to tame her, which in return plays a large role in The Wild Child’s death.
Meridian is much like The Wild Child in regards that she has always stripped her life of outside guidance, close relationships, and comforts (material, mental and physical comforts) as she moves from place to place. As an activist against racism and a person of whom secludes herself from others, Meridian lives as an outcast within society trying to avoid the judgement passed by people, just as The Wild Child does.
This shows both Meridian and The Wild Child’s sense of self identity and independence in the way that they realize that they would rather be separated from society and go about things in their own way, the only way that they know. Although The Wild Child makes only a brief appearance within the novel, Alice Walker makes her intentions of this character evident by supporting the theme of self awareness and independence that The Wild Child represents with other characters and objects.
Feather Mae, Meridian’s great- grandmother is made out to also be a person of free will, who is far reachinging and of an eccentric nature. Feather Mae is a woman whoabandons all religion not founded on physical ecstasy and later results to worshiping the sun while walking around naked. This is just as Meridian renounced religion at an early age in her life because she had not experienced any type of “ecstasy” in trying to become devoted to Jesus.
Just as The Wild Child lived content in her own ways of surviving, both of these exceptional women, Meridian and Feather Mae, endure life in their own idealistic way. Walker also emphasises the importance of the rather large mangolia tree, The Sojourner, in which Meridian takes refuge through hard times when she intially began college. The tree was rare in itself, being the largest in the country. The Sojourner not only signified the growth of African American people through times of oppression, but it also stood as a souvenir of the past.
Like the tree, Meridian is a character who has been around through difficult times and still continues to grow, but Meridian also carries with her guilt and saddness from her past. Although the destruction of The Sojourner later in the novel Walker symbolized the abrupt destruction of ties to racism and ways of the past, it also represented the destruction of Meridian, leaving room for a new part of her to grow and develop more as an individual who can be contempt with who she is in the present, rather that sulk in who she was in the past.
As has been noted, Meridian being a novel made up of flashbacks and recollections of the past allowed for Alice Walker to create a character that develops through the influences of her surroundings and other characters. Although The Wild Child plays only a small role in the writing of the novel, her presence is significant, for it shapes the entire meaning of who the main character, Meridian, becomes. The Wild Child also serves to enhance the sense of independence and self awareness that the author tries so strongly to get across.