Not a Monster, But a Community Othermother: Self-Realization in Alice Walker’s Meridian
Shu-Ling Chen(Department of English National Dong Hwa University)
Deeply concerned for the survival of her people, renowned African American writer, Alice Walker, whose works are both political and aesthetically beautiful, is committed to exploring the lives of black women. In Meridian, a novel about, among other things, the Civil Rights Movement, feminism, and matrilineal heritage, Walker depicts the impact of black motherhood, a fundamentally contradictory institution, on black women. This paper attempts to discuss the title character Meridian’s journey to self-realization and its effect on her community. It will analyze how she refuses play the part of the idealized, selfless, and self-sacrificing black mother, redefines motherhood, and takes on the role of the empowering community othermother, striving for the physical and spiritual survival of her people and mothering the mind of both children and adults to achieve self-realization. It proposes that Meridian stimulates the black community to contemplate critically the restrictive institution of black motherhood and redefine it through a womanist perspective; it also contends that her self-realization inspires Truman to face his own limitations and contradictions, leading him to change.
This paper is divided into five sections. It begins with a brief introduction on Walker and her ideas concerning the womanist perspective. It then probes the meanings of motherhood and black motherhood, focusing on the theories of Adrienne Rich, Patricia Hill Collins, and Barbara Christian. The third section follows the transformation of Meridian from being trapped in gender roles, especially in motherhood, to a self-fulfilling individual. It will also incorporate her relationships with her mother and the community. The fourth section analyzes Meridian’s influence on the black community, especially Truman. It concludes with some thoughts on how we can learn from Meridian’s solution and vision of self-realization, and create a better society.
Alice Walker, Meridian, black motherhood, community othermother, womanist, self-realization