African American Literature, M Essay

1469 words - 6 pages

Many comparisons can be drawn between the novels Meridian, by Alice Walker, and Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston. The protagonists of both books are African-American females searching in a confused, bewildered world. Meridian is the story of the title character?s life from childhood to the Civil Rights Movement while Eyes chronicle Janie?s ever-evolving character from life with a white family in the Deep South to her return ?home? to Eatonville. Meridian and Janie?s constant need to identify and connect with their community while maintaining a sense of self-actualization drives main character development and catalyzes many important events in both works.An important key in the cultural heritage and upbringing of both women were their respective maternal figures. Janie?s Nanny and Meridian?s mother were the key figures in their early cultural and self awareness. These two women attempted to mold Janie and Meridian in their own images; the only images they knew.Meridian?s mother was a product of the southern culture around the time Janie would have lived. She lived as a schoolteacher in her young adult years. She simply fell into the cultural trap of love and marriage. Walker describes the ?love? Meridian?s mother felt as ?toleration for his (Meridian?s father?s) habits ?(50). This woman had no want of children. She was completely unprepared for what they would mean to her life. Children shattered Meridian?s mother. Meridian would have loved for her mother to break the bonds of society like her great-grandmother Feather Mae, who ?loved walking nude about the yard and worshipped only the sun.? But, her mother fell into the southern rut. This rut included never talking about sex. Meridian, believing the subject taboo, never spoke of it either. Just as in Eyes, it was one of those things that everyone did, but no one spoke of. Meridian, being an impressionable young woman, began to have sex. She, perhaps like many other young women of her time, struggled with ?doing something with such frequency that she did not enjoy? (61). She was torn, even at such an early age, between fitting in to her culture and limiting her actions based on her own beliefs. Having to identify with her culture and be a normal black girl led to an unexpected and altogether unwelcome pregnancy.This pregnancy led to the first major event in Meridian?s young life, marriage. It would not have been proper for a girl to have a baby out of wedlock. Once again, she chose community over self and married Eddie. While married ?she read Sepia, Tan, True Confessions, Real Romances, and Jet. According to these magazines, Woman was a mindless body, a sex creature, something to hand false hair and nails on? (71). The culture of the 1950?s was telling her to be a plaything. This exact moment in time was when Meridian decided that her community, her life for the past 20 years, was not her. She became aware of the Civil Rights movement and of ?the past and present of a much...

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