Visual Markers: Art and Mass Media in Alice Walker's Meridian

by Deborah E. Barker
Visual Markers: Art and Mass Media in Alice Walker's Meridian
Deborah E. Barker
African American Review
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Visual Markers: Art and Mass Media in Alice

Walker's Meridian

The most powerful form of media representation is that which creates not just an obtainable demand for a particular product or style, but one that creates an unobtainable desire in the audience, a sense that there is something missing in one's life that can only be found in the represented image. Alice Walker de- scribes just this phenomenon in "The Civil Rights Movement: What Good Was It?" an essay which is directly relevant to the intersection between the media and the Civil Rights Movement. There Walker explains her mother's fascination with the soap operas that she watched as a maid:

She placed herself in every scene she saw, with her braided hair turned blond, her two hundred pounds compressed into a sleek size-seven dress, her rough dark skin smooth and white. Her husband became "dark and handsome," talented, witty, urbane, charming. And when she turned to look at my father sitting near her in his sweat shirt with his smelly feet raised on the bed to "air," there was always a tragic look of surprise on her face. Then she would sigh and go out to the kitchen looking lost and unsure of herself. (123)

The soap operas are a form of escape, but they also help to per- petuate the image of a glamorous white world. As Walker explains her mother's situation, "Nothing could satisfy her on days when she did not work but a continuation of her 'stories,' " and she "subordinated her soul to theirs and became a faithful and timid supporter of the 'Beautiful White People' " (122-23).

To say that we are all profoundly marked by the media in our most immediate understanding of racial and sexual identity is by now almost a commonplace, but the exact nature of this marking is much more difficult to assess. In Meridian Alice Walker enacts a literary analysis of the interaction between the media and the public as dramatized through the character of Meridian Hill, who, as a young black woman participating in the Civil Rights Movement, represents an intersection between race and gender as it was being culturally redefined during the political upheaval of the sixties and seventies1 Meridian not only confronts the image of "Beautiful White People" promoted by an objectifying white- dominated mass media, but, more importantly, she sorts through the often uncomfortable interaction between mass media images and self-generated representations of racial and gender identity in African-American art and culture, including the legacy of black motherho~d.~

Through this confrontation, Meridian learns how to "see" herself.

While much critical attention has been focused on the interac- tion between music and language in African-American culture, the visual arts, as Michelle Wallace asserts, have been under-rep- resented and under-analyzed. This an especially egregious over-

Deborah E. Barker is Assistant Professor of English and Women's Studies at the University of Mississippi. She has published articles on Chopin and Faulkner, and co-edited Shakespeare and Gendec A History (Verso, 1995). She is currently completing a book-length study of the representation of the female visual artist in American literature. Professor Barker would like to thank Susan Donaldson, Doreen Fowler, Linda Frost, Ivo Kamps, Valerie Smith, and Jay Watson for helping her to write and revise this essay; their insights and suggestions were invaluable.

African American Review, Volume 31, Number 3 O 1997 Deborah E. Barker

rGe is inexorably linked to racial iden- tity: "How one is seen (as black), and, therefore, what one sees (in a white world), is always already crucial to one's existence as an Afro-American. The very markers that reveal you to the rest of the world, your dark skin and your kinky/curly hair, are visual" (Wallace207).This corporeal recogni- tion of race, Wallace maintains, allows white Americans to "overlook" African Americans, while assuming that blacks cannot "see" that they are being treated as invisible. The result produces a mutually dependent cultural invisi- bility and blindness based on the visual markers of race. In Meridian, movies, magazines, television, and the visual arts play a vital role in this process because they reinforce and reproduce on a mass scale certain cultural images of ourselves that are virtually impossi- ble to ignore.

As Walker shrewdly demonstrates, the force of any given cultural repre- sentation is, in part, related to the power of the medium in which it is dis- played, and therefore it is also subject to the economic and ideological under- pinning of that medium. Noam Chomsky explains that

the major media-particularly, the elite media that set the agenda that others generally follow-are corporations "selling" privileged audiences to other businesses. It would hardly come as a surprise if the picture of the world they present were to reflect the per- spectives and interests of the sellers, the buyers, and the product. Concentration of ownership of the media is high and increasing. (8)

Walker, however, does not depict the media as a monolithic structure that simply shapes a passive audience. She brings to the novel what an analysis of the media alone cannot: Individual reactions to the media images in turn become events which shape the images of the media, and this is most power- fully demonstrated in a fictional for- mat, especially one set during the Civil Rights Movement, a time when images


To illustrate the rich and complex history of representations of African- American women, I will highlight vari- ous forms of this representation that help to contextualize Walker's analysis of the impact of the media on our per- ceptions of race and gender. These examples will cover a wide terrain both historically and generically, but I have chosen them because they reveal the pervasive logic behind the cultural construction of racial and gender iden- tity in America. It is important to keep in mind, however, in examining Meridian's opposition to the cultural depictions of African-American women that, although black women have been historically marginalized or "erased" in the mass media, they do not stand outside the culture; they do play and always have played an inte- gral role in shaping culture. Regardless of the prevalent segregation of our society, ultimately it is impossible to segregate mass culture; its influence is too pervasive and, at the same time, too subtle. In the novel there is no sin- gle effect of the media just as there is no single reaction to the media.3 The characters-male and female, black and white, old and young-use media images as a touchstone for their under- standing and analysis of the world around them. They variously reject, emulate, parody, valorize, destroy, interpret, romanticize, and/or revolu- tionize the images they encounter. The mass media, therefore, provide an intersection between the cultural repre- sentations of the past and the present, between black and white culture, and between high art and popular culture.

Movies: A White Dream World

In Meridian it is the Hollywood movies that serve as the site of unobtainable desire. The movies are not only white-dominated, but are largely controlled by a few major stu- dios that have the financial backing to produce and distribute large-budget, major-release films. Hollywood repre- sents a white dream world which is based on the viewers' identification with the valorization of white culture over that of people of color: "Movies: Rory Calhoun, Ava Gardner, Bette Davis, Slim Pickens. Blondes against brunettes and cowboys against Indians, good men against bad, darker men" (Meridian 75).Not onlv do the movies transmit an implicit iacist mes- sage, but they also create a seductive and unattainable dream of glamour, a glamour that is particularlyattractive to young schoolgirls. For Meridian the movies provide the dream world she moves through as a girl to alleviate the boredom and limitations of her own life. Her identification with the movie images is so powerful that in her mem- ory they actually replace the events of her own life:

. . . she could herself recall nothing of those years, beyond the Saturday after- noons and evenings in the picture show. For it was the picture show that more than anything else filled those bantering, galloping years. . . . This fantasy world made the other world of school-with its monotony and tedi- um-bearable. (75)

The movies are satisfying only if the viewer can completely identify with that world, but any actual com- parison between the images of every- day life and the movie images creates the "tragic look of surprise" and a sense of discontentment. As Meridian sits alone all day looking out the win- dow after the break-up of her mar- riage, she understands the young girls that go by on their way home from school and their lack of awareness of the world around them:

They simply did not know they were living their own lives-between twelve and fifteen-but assumed they lived someone else's. They tried to live the lives of their movie idols; and those lives were fantasy. Not even the white people they watched and tried to become-the actors-lived them. So they moved, did the young girls out- side her window, in the dream of happy endings: of women who had everything, of men who ran the world. So had she. (75)

For Meridian, a seventeen-year-old high school dropout, divorcee, and unenthusiastic mother, the discrepan- cies between her own life and that of the movie idols, or even the other young girls, are too extreme; the reali- ties of her life are unavoidable.

Magazines: The Ideology Of
Enforced Motherhood

As a young wife and mother Meridian turns away from the movies and turns to magazines that target young black women. She reads Sepia, Tan, True Confessions, Real Romance, and Jet, but these do not pro- vide an attractive alternative to the dream world of the movies. Meridian's assessment is that, "according to these magazines, Woman was a mindless body, a sex creature, something to hang false hair and nails on. Still, they helped her know for sure her marriage was breaking up" (71)and that she is not ready for motherhood. Instead of instilling an ideology of femininity based on marriage and motherhood, the magazines serve as a yardstick by which Meridian measures her own alienation. The magazines cannot pro- vide an escape for Meridian because it is her own story that is repeatedly pre- sented in the articles, yet she resists their version of the "happy ending." The articles illustrate the reification of the "legacy of black motherhood" from which Meridian feels excluded because of her decision to give up her child. Motherhood is defined in such strict parameters in the magazines that they espouse an ideology of enforced moth- erhood, an ideology that stresses lady- like behavior and depicts a sacrificial motherhood which is incongruous with individual ambition or political participation.

To understand Meridian's reaction to images of motherhood it is necessary to bring to light those forms of the media (black teen magazines) which have not been given the same critical attention as more widely circulating magazines such as Look or Life,but which have had, perhaps, an even cles describe it, in the white communi- ty a pregnancy is generally kept quiet; the young woman goes away for a time and gives her baby up for adoption, resuming her former life as if nothing had happened. In the black community adoption is not so acceptable an option, and a pregnant teen is more likely to

greater influence on their


target audience, young African-American women. A content analysis of the stories and advertisements from Tan (December 1959 and January to April 1960, roughly the time period when Meridian is reading the magazine) can help to

elucidate both the connec- tion and conflict between Meridian's own stories and

the narratives she reads in the magazines. Tan in par- ticular is appropriate because, as a confessional romance magazine direct- ed at a young black female audience, it shares the

qualities of all the abovementioned magazines, and it provides the greatest concentration of representations of young black women aimed precisely at this group.

On one level these magazines are an antidote to the glamorous myth of Hollywood romance because they explore the everyday details of married life.4 The romantic allure of sex is undercut in articles such as "What Makes a Girl Bad," "Married at Seventeen," and "I Can't Have Your Baby," which depict women, like Meridian, who find themselves preg- nant before they are ready to assume that responsibility. Meridian's decision to give her child up for adoption vio- lates the norms of the black community as they are presented in Tan. "I Was a Victim of the Beat Generation" and "No Fathers for Their Babies," which combine personal confessions with a kind of sociological analysis, warn of the double or triple standard applied to black women regarding premarital sex and illegitimate children. As the arti-

Meridian finds

a Way to See

the ,,itural images of African-American women in a new critical

context which

no longer obscures her vision.

assume the resvonsibilities of motherhood: ~lth~~~h

the magszines warn against being "fast," the unmarried mothers in the stories are not condemned; they gen- erally return to their fami- lies and, by the end of the story, marriage is suggest-

ed as a future reward. The real condemnation and most severe consequences are accorded not to

women with illegitimate children but to women like Meridian who reject their own mothers and/or reject becoming mothers them- selves. In "Married at

Seventeen" and "I Can't Have Your Baby," the two articles most directly applicable to Meridian's story, both women are married to respectable black men with good jobs; the problem is that these women, like Meridian, have rejected their mothers' advice and in doing so have cut themselves off from the "legacy of black mother- hood." Their desire for individual autonomy is presented as the source of their problems, problems that ultimate- ly endanger their unborn children.

Any discussion of the legacy of black motherhood must, of course, include the problematic position of the slave mother and the complex repre- sentations associated with black moth- erhood. As Meridian is well aware, a slave mother would not have had the choice to keep her own child, while Meridian is choosing to give hers away (91). According to Claudia Tate, nine- teenth-century African-American women writers reconstructed the norms of true womanhood "to inscribe moral indignation at the sexual and


maternal abuses associated with slav- ery" and "to designate black female subjectivity as a most potent force in the advancement of the race" (107). In other words, a narrative of a former slave who marries and raises her own children constituted a sign of personal and social liberation, of civic enfran- chisement and social responsibility. Tate persuasively argues that it is inap- propriate to read nineteenth-century African-American women's fiction against "modernist allegories of desire" which "characterize marriage and freedom as antithetical." However, in following this reconstruction of womanhood and refuting the ante-bel- lum representation of black women as sexualized breeders, the twentieth-cen- tury romance magazines that Meridian reads (while still retaining some aspects of the "discourse of racial liber- ation" by encouraging fidelity and respect for the family and community) have taken on a more conservative and limiting view of female subjectivity. While Tate can argue that in the post- bellum period black female subjectivity as depicted in women's sentimental novels was a "most potent force in the advancement of the race" (107), in 1960 the magazine narratives encouraged a maternal devotion that precluded political involvement.

In "Married at Seventeen," Shirley's decision to quit school and to get married against her mother's wish- es leads not only to her estrangement from her parents but ultimately to her attempted suicide, which results in the loss of her unborn baby. The story's "happy ending" is Shirley's reunion with her parents in her hospital room and the doctor's assurance that she will have other children. The story ends with Shirley's confession and her prayer that she will be worthy of her "wonderful children" and her "hus- band's love." Her confession, however, is not just an acknowledgment of wrongdoing, or bad judgment, but a confirmation that there is only one set of standards and one role that is acceptable:

My parents had been right. Marriage was a mistake for me. A mistake because I was not an adult, not a mature enough person to face the problems of life. I had wrapped my future in rosy dreams of romance and the first time the bubble broke, I did not know where to turn. Or when I did know-that my parents would have helped-I made a martyr of myself by refusing their aid. It takes a real person to stoop with dignity. My heart was heavy with the bitter price I had to pay, the loss of my baby. It wasn't just the attempted suicide and lack of oxy- gen but the run down condition I had let myself get into from improper diet and lack of exercise.

"I guess I'm not fit to be a mother." (53)

Ironically, although Shirley's confes- sion is that she is not ready for mar- riage or motherhood, the solution to her problem is to have more children. As long as she can be recuperated into the ideology of enforced motherhood, she can be forgiven for the attempted suicide that caused the death of her baby, but it is seemingly unthinkable that she might have had the child and given it away. Meridian has clearly internalized this message. As the novel indicates, Meridian "might not have given [her son] away to the people who wanted him. She might have mur- dered him instead. Then killed herself. They would all have understood this in time" (90). Unlike adoption or abor- tion, suicide, while considered tragic, can be forgiven because, rather than violating enforced motherhood, it rein- forces the concept by making death a woman's only alternative to mother- hood, and it has the added conse- quence of getting rid of women who are "monsters," the way in which Meridian's mother characterizes any woman who would give away her child.

Meridian feels that she has lost her mother's love and that she is cut off from the legacy of black motherhood. As in Walker's "In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens," Meridian too has a legacy of artistic/creative ancestors who created out of the materials and circumstances available to them. Most prominent is her great-grandmother, who decorated barns and who earned the money to buy her own freedom and that of her children and her hus- band. Meridian's great-grandmother represents the positive image of the strong African-American mother/artist (pro)creator who through her own work and sweat was able to free and protect her children from slavery, but who was also a creative artist whose work survived after her.

Mrs. Hill, however, no longer embodies the positive elements of motherhood or the artist; she is another example of the negative ramifications of enforced motherhood. While Meridian sees her mother as "Black Motherhood personified" and as "wor- thy of [her] maternal history," the nar- rator states that Mrs. Hill "was not a woman who should have had children. She was capable of thought and growth and action only if unfettered by the needs of dependents, or the demands, requirements, of a husband" (49). She raised her children though she never wanted them, and she refused her own creativity as a form of protest for the role she had to adopt as a mother. Mrs. Hill's garden is not a living garden but a cluster of "fake" flowers made of paper and wire, and her walls are covered with pho- tographs of other people's children- not her own. For Mrs. Hill to accept Meridian would challenge her own definitions of the proper role of women and would challenge the necessity of her own sacrifice of motherhood and question even the desirability of hav- ing raised six children "though I never wanted any." Rather than bringing mothers and daughters together, the legacy, when viewed as a requirement rather than a right, keeps them apart and condemns any woman who cannot live up to its standards while also lim- iting all women to only one role in life.

Becoming a real woman, according to the magazines, seems to involve a masochistic selflessness which cannot brook anger or resentment. "I Can't Have Your Baby" presents the most direct attack on the duties of a daugh- ter and the value of motherhood. ~Gra, who as a girl was responsible for her brothers and sisters, admits that she resented and at times even hated her mother, whose "only purpose in life was to bear babies with disgusting reg- ularity" (27). Like Meridian, Lora's desire for independence leads to a rift between her and her mother. She leaves home, gets a job, and eventually marries her boss. When she finds out that she is pregnant, her first thought is to have an abortion. Although ulti- mately she decides to have the baby, she pretends that it isn't really happen- ing to her. Like Shirley, she does not take proper care of herself and ends up in the hospital needing a transfusion from her youngest brother, the very brother whose birth she had resented because she had to stay home to help raise him. For Lora the happy ending comes with the birth of her daughter. The "awful pain of birth seemed to have purged my heart of the hatred and resentment I felt toward my fami- ly," and she was at last "well on the way to becoming a real woman, just as Mom said" (62). Pain therefore has a cathartic effect which rids women of individual desires and turns them into "real" women.

The twentieth-century magazines do, of course, offer some very sound advice: It is helpful to have familial support during pregnancy, and it is important to take care of yourself men- tally and physically. But the proper role of the mother as portrayed in the articles goes beyond such good advice. The article "Devil Child" best exempli- fies the stringent requirements of the "good-enough" mother. Elfreda, who tells her own story, commits none of the transgressions of the other women (she is not pregnant before she marries, nor does she take improper care of her- self during pregnancy), yet her trans- gression produces the most tragic out- come: She murders her son to prevent him from raping her.

Elfreda, who marries a hard-work- ing, honest young black man, still


enjoys going out with her friends after the birth of her first child, Leonard. Elfreda has an understanding and sym- pathetic mother and a loving grand- mother (named Grandma Hill)who agree to look after her son on the evenings she goes out with her friends. Five years later, when her second child is born, Elfreda is older and ready to settle down. The extra attention her daughter receives makes her son jeal- ous, and, despite his parents' increased attention over the years, the damage cannot be repaired. Leonard goes from bad to worse, hurting his sister and attacking her friend. It is this assault, which his mother breaks up, that caus- es Leonard to turn on her and leads to his death. The lesson here as explained directly in the narrative is that Leonard's death is ultimately attribut- able to his mother's desire to have fun when she was young. Despite the fact that "he got lots of attention from his relatives," he did not get enough from his parents. The implied lesson is that any deviation from total devotion to one's children can lead to the most dire consequences, and ultimately it is the mother's fault.

The Art of Advertising

Ironically (and despite the fact that their titles invoke the visual recog- nition of color-Tan, Sepia, Jet), these magazines downplay the Hollywood version of romantic love by dramatiz- ing the realities of "giving in" to pas- sion, even as they depict acceptable forms of sexuality (those associated with marriage) by invoking the visual tropes of whiteness: long hair and light skin. The article "How to Keep Your Husband Happy," for example, advis- es women to "look feminine" and con- cludes that "most men associate femi- ninity with longish softly waved hair" (66). The ads in particular associate romance and marriageability with light skin and long hair. An ad for Nadinola Bleaching Cream shows a woman smil- ing brightly while the man behind her holds up her left hand to reveal her engagement ring; the copy reads "Give romance a chance! Don't let a dull, dark complexion deprive you of popu- larity." An ad for Raveen shows only the heads of a woman and a man, who is smiling intently at her. The woman's head is turned so that her face is seen only in a limited profile while her long hair dominates the picture and is three times the size of her face. The caption reads, "Men love women with lovely, lustrous, thrilling hair appearance!" For Meridian this association of mar- riage and acceptable sexuality with the visual symbols of whiteness is particu- larly unappealing. As a girl she had accepted her mother's view that white women were "frivolous, helpless crea- tures, lazy and without ingenuity" (108)whose only notable asset might be "a length of hair, if it swung long and particularly fine. But that was all. And hair was dead matter that contin- ued--only if oiled-to shine" (109).

Walker parodies the "dead matter" of long hair as a trope of white female sexuality in her depiction of Marilene O'Shay, the "mummy woman" whose husband drags her "preserved" body across the country in a circus wagon that is inscribed in red letters: "Obedient Daughter, Devoted Wife, Adoring Mother, Gone Wrong." In the opening chapter of the novel Meridian challenges the power of the myth of the white woman as a means of marginal- izing blacks by exposing the mummy woman as fake. The artificially creat- ed/preserved corpse of Mrs. O'Shay brilliantly embodies the contradictory representations of race and gender in American culture by alluding to the historical representations of these cate- gories and how they have been used to shape and define each other.5

In the pamphlet which he distrib- utes to those who pay to see his wife, Mr. O'Shay assures his audience that his wife is indeed white and that the darkening of her skin (which his attempts to whitewash have not con- cealed) has been caused by exposure to salt and "only reflects her sinfulness" and not her race. The mummy woman exemplifies Hazel Carby's assertion that the nineteenth-century ideology of the cult of true womanhood with its attendant features of purity, delicacy, and sexlessness not only excluded black female sexuality but was depen- dent on it to define acceptable white female behavior. "Black womanhood was polarized against white woman- hood in the structure of the metaphoric system of female sexuality, particularly through the association of black women with overt sexuality and taboo sexual practices" (32). White women, however, retained the status of "true womanhood" only so long as they con- formed to the sexual limits associated with that status. White women, like Marilene O'Shay, who are sexually transgressive are represented as being visually recognizable because they take on the attributes of racial difference. As Mary Ann Doane describes the rela- tionship between nineteenth-century representations of race and sexuality, "The hyperbolic sexualization of black- ness is presented within a visual frame- work; it is a function of 'seeing' as an epistemological guarantee" (214). Marilene's representation as the dark- skinned mummy woman therefore reinforces the "epistemological guaran- tee" of purity or the lack of it; the salt has preserved her both as a sign of past sinfulness and as a reminder that death is the ultimate form of control over female sexuality.6

Carby's and Doane's analyses of nineteenth-century sexual and racial politics are particularly appropriate for understanding the significance of the mummy woman because of its own nineteenth-century antecedents. Mr. O'Shay's touring side show and his promotion of the mummy woman embody the sensationalistic use of sex- uality and race that marks the concur- rent development of art and advertis- ing in an emerging mass culture, par- ticularly as manifest in the nineteenth- century freak show and the traveling

(before completion of the transcontinental rail- way or the mass availability of photog- raphy, television, or the movies), one of the most effective ways to reach the masses was literally to take your show on the road. Two such touring shows, which on the face of it seem to have nothing in common, have particular relevance to the presentation of the mummy woman: P. T. Barnum's noto- rious "Fejee Mermaid" (1843) and Hiram Powers' The Greek Slave (1844). Powers' Slave is an example of ideal sculpture, the epitome of American high culture, while Barnum's freak show is associated with the worst aspects of popular culture-fraud and sensationalism. However, like the mummy woman, both The Greek Slave and the "Fejee Mermaid" were careful- ly promoted through the use of visual images interpreted by supporting texts that were predicated upon the polar- ization of black and white female sexu- ality.

In 1843 Barnum sent his uncle, Alanson Taylor, on a Southern tour to exhibit the "Fejee Mermaid," one of Barnum's most notorious frauds. Although the "mermaid" ultimately was declared to be simply the body of a fish sewn onto the head of a monkey, Barnum used a publicity strategy of combining drawings of an exotic mer- maid accompanied by pamphlets which supported the mermaid's a~thenticit~.~

The image of the mer- maid has long been associated with irresistible female sexuality. Bamum was able to heighten the erotic associa- tion of the mermaid by coupling it with the Fiji Islands, a location which was often the site of the exotic adventures chronicled in the popular sea narra- tives of the nineteenth century, but the "Fejee Mermaid" also played on the image of the sensual black woman. Although the Fijian mermaid is, of course, not African, many white Americans' propensity to associate all dark-skinned people is evidenced by the fact that Bamum was able, in his later exhibition of Fijian cannibals, to


include an African-American woman from Virginia. In Charleston the con- troversy over the mermaid's authentic- ity as a new species was set amid the backdrop of the growing scientific debate over "polygenesis," a theory promoted by Dr. Josiah C. Nott, who used his hypothesis that African Americans were a separate and inferior species to support his proslavery posi- tion (Fredrickson 78-80). Reverend John Bachman, a critic of Nott, declared the mermaid a hoax and began the scientific debate that was played out in the newspapers. Despite the free publicity, the public controver- sy ultimately backfired and the mer- maid, like the mummy woman, was declared a hoax, and the tour was can- celed (Harris 62-67).

Despite the mermaid's ultimate demise in the South, Barnum made record profits in New York, and he cer- tainly proved the power of manipulat- ing racial and sexual representations for promotional purposes. The lesson was not lost on the art world. Four years after the American tour of the "Fejee Mermaid," Hiram Powers, an American sculptor, began a traveling exhibition of his most famous work, The Greek Slave. In promoting his tour of The Greek Slave Powers' problem was the opposite of ~arnum's.~

Powers needed to downplay the erotic conno- tation of his nude statue and disassoci- ate it from the American slave trade. The touring show of The Greek Slave, like that of the mummy woman, was accompanied by a pamphlet. However, in the case of The Greek Slave the pam- phlet stressed her modesty and purity and included testimony from ministers who attested to the morality of the work. The Greek Slave employs the visual markers of whiteness and Christianity to present a woman under attack by the barbarian Turks, thus reversing the racial politics of slavery and presenting a victimized white (marble) woman:

Visual details carefully informed the audience that the subject was a pious, faithful woman: a locket and a cross hanging on her abandoned clothing suggest a lost love and a sustaining Christian faith. Stripped naked, dis- played for sale in the marketplace, her hands chained, the Greek slave, unlike Eve, was absolved from responsibility for her own downfall. (Kasson 49)

Supporters of The Greek Slave claimed that she was "clothed all over with sen- timent; sheltered, protected by it from every profane eye " (Kasson 58). The accompanying narrative was apparent- ly quite effective; viewers wept and wrote poetic tributes to the victimized Greek slave, and the tour was also a financial success.

The rationale behind the purity of The Greek Slave is that she "civilizes" the baser instincts of her viewers, thereby controlling how they "see" her. The black woman is also assumed to be in control of how she is seen. The corol- lary to white female purity, as Carby explains, was the belief that black women by definition were not pure and therefore could not possibly be victims of male desire, but were instead the instigators (27). The black slave woman is therefore "seen" as responsible for inciting male desire, on the one hand, and for not eliciting pity, on the other. The difference between the mummy woman and The Greek Slave revolves around the issue of sex- ual desire and sexual autonomy. The Greek Slave retains her "epistemologi- cal guarantee" of purity by demon- strating her lack of desire in the face of sexual transgression. Marilene 0' Shay, who goes "outside the home to seek her pleasuring," revokes her status as a white woman, as a symbol of restrained and contained sexuality, and takes on the visual markers of racial difference.

In the context of the mummy woman and its nineteenth-century antecedents, the artistic productions of Truman Held, Meridian's former lover and fellow Civil Rights Worker, are equally suspect. Truman has turned the stereotype of the strong, fecund black woman into a marketable aes- thetic object, and potentially the money he makes through the sale of his work

will provide him with the means for not dealing with black women in his future-by marrying another white woman. As Truman works "night and day on the century's definitive African- American masterpieces," he still has not come to terms with his own ambivalent feelings about black women. " 'Black women let themselves go,' he said, even as he painted them as magnificent giants, breeding forth the warriors of the new universe. 'They are so fat,' he would say, even as he sculpt- ed a 'Big Bessie Smith' in solid marble, caressing her monstrous and lovely flanks with an admiring hand" (168). Truman can appreciate black women only as art. Lynne, Truman's white ex- wife (who has her own problems with viewing black women as art9), assumes that Truman's art will have an impact on his own life, that "having fought through his art to the reality of his own mother, aunts, sister, lovers, to their beauty, their greatness, [he] would nat- urally seek them again in the flesh" (169)and that she is magnanimously giving him back to Meridian. Yet when she comes to his apartment she meets his new "tiny blonde" girlfriend who explains, " 'We've been livin' together for two months. Truman says soon as he sells some more of his paintings we're goin' to be married' " (171).

Truman's art becomes his substi- tute for dealing with the black women in his past. He can paint and sculpt Meridian over and over, but he cannot fully accept her as a lover and a friend. Truman's art does not challenge his own stereotypes about black women, nor does it prompt him to "seek them again in the flesh." It is precisely their flesh that Truman finds threatening. His objection to large women is clearly not on aesthetic grounds because in his art he can admiringly caress the large flanks of Bessie Smith. It is the flesh itself, the reality of actual black women, that he cannot come to terms with. Seeking black women "in the flesh" also carries a sexual connotation and is directly connected to Truman's avoidance. While he can control the flesh/sexual representation of black women in his art, he fears that real black women do not control their flesh; they "let themselves go." Truman has incorporated the cultural representa- tion of black women as sexuallv wan- ton to such a degree that he now fears them in the flesh. Ultimately Truman's definitive American masterpiece is, like Mr. O'Shay's mummy woman, the only way he can control and limit female sexuality. When Truman sees the circus wagon of Marilene O'Shay with its description of her preservation and her dutiful nature as daughter, wife, and mother, he immediately declares, " 'That's got to be a rip-off' " (19). Yet these are the same attributes that he has required of his own wife and which prevent him from accepting Meridian as she is (110). Rather than zhallenging media images of African- American women, Truman is depicted as someone who too quickly embraces and imitates media images, incorporat- ing them into his own artistic creations 2f black women.

A sign of Truman's complicity with the media is that, while Meridian sses women's magazines as a measure 3f her alienation and her unwillingness :o comply with the gender codes, rruman uses popular magazines as a ~lueprintfor his ever-changing per- sona. When Truman ponders the issues ~f his own life he repeatedly turns to :he mass media for his cue. Ironically, human ex~lains to Meridian that he iates ~vnie and the other white .xchanie students because they read :he New York Times. The exchange students, therefore, symbolically link rruman to the white. Eastern media. 4nd it is again the mass media that nfluences Truman's decision whether )r not to stay married to Lynne, since it s no longer fashionable to have a ~hitewife:

He had read in a magazine just the day before that Lamumba Katurim had gotten rid of his. She was his wife, true, but apparently she was even in that disguise perceived as evil, a castoff. And people admired Lamumba for his perception. It proved his love of his


own people, they said. But he was not sure. Perhaps it proved only that Lamumba was fickle. That he'd married this bitch in the first dace for shal- low reasons. (135)

Although Truman is able to question the motives and sincerity of the celebri- ties he reads about, he still does not fully question his own motives and his need to be politically and publicly cor- rect.

As the new revolutionary artist of the '70s, Truman explains that the rev- olution of the '60s was just a fad. " 'The leaders were killed, the restless young were bought off with anti-poverty jobs, and the clothing styles of the poor were copied by Seventh Avenue. And you know how many middle-class white girls from Brooklyn started wearing kinky hair' " (189). Truman's critique is, of course, equally applicable to his own dress and lifestyle. Like a cultural chameleon, each time Truman is described he has adopted a new, updated image.10

Television: Black Exposure

That Meridian would turn to the Civil Rights Movement after rejecting the magazine version of black womanhood is not surprising. It is a lesson that she would have learned from the magazines themselves. Although Tan and True Confessions dealt very little with politics, Jet, which aimed at a wider audience, dealt more extensively with current affairs and with the Civil Rights Movement in par- ticular. And it was only in connection with the Movement that women were accorded status independent of their role as "sex creatures." Jet, which was blatant in its depiction of black women as sexual objects, regularly featured photographs of women in bathing suits in 1960. Even when women were being lauded for intellectual or social distinc- tions in the magazine, the text was accompanied by a "cheesecake" photo.

For example a Chicago housewife who is promoting National Library Week is pictured in heels and a swimsuit read- ing a book; the caption accompanying the picture reads "Stacked High." A University of Chicago coed who is majoring in international relations is also depicted in a bathing suit, and the caption includes her measurements as well as her major. A "pinup" calendar, again depicting women in bathing suits, was another regular feature of the magazine. In fact, there are very few pictures of women which do not emphasize their bust line or show them wearing bathing suits. The one very noticeable exception to the rule is the cover of the April 21,1960, issue, which shows an unsmiling young woman who does not even look into the camera and whose bust-line is not visible in the photograph. She is stand- ing behind bars and the caption reads, "Sit-in Student Freedom Fighters." The Movement, therefore, afforded contem- porary African-American women an alternative form of representation in the mass media as serious participants in a political cause. At the same time that Meridian's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement has cut her off from her mother and the version of sacrificial motherhood put forth by the black women's magazine, it also marks her self-conscious participation in his- torv.


Walker demonstrates that the same media which propagate oppressive fantasies can also be a source of oppo- sition. In Walker's own life it was the presence of a black face on television bhich provided her with an alternative and ruptured the influence of the tele- vision images and white "stories":

The influence that my mother's soap operas might have had on me became impossible. The life of Dr. King, seem- ing bigger and more miraculous than the man himself, because of all he had done and suffered, offered a pattern of strength and sincerity I felt I could trust. . . . I saw in him the hero for whom I had waited so long. ("Civil Rights" 124)

Meridian's listless television watching is interrupted when she sees her own- neighborhood on the TV news. Through this event she is thrust into history and becomes "aware of the pasf and present of the larger world" (73). It is only through a televised press con- ference that she learns that a house nearby is a headquarters for a voter registration drive, and again it is through the TV news that she learns that the house has been bombed.

Meridian is stunned, not only that such things could happen in her own neighborhood, but that the Civil Rights workers were already aware of the danger and had hired a guard. Meridian's reaction to this scene points to her own lack of knowledge of the larger world, but it also emphasizes the lack of representation of blacks on tele- vision. As Meridian indicates, blacks are not usually on the news "unless of course they had shot their mothers or raped their bosses' grandparent-and a black person or persons giving a news conference was unheard of" (72). By calling a press conference, the Civil Rights workers use the media as a form of resistance to represent their own goals, rather than being depicted as reflections of the white community's fears. (Access is still limited, however; it is the white newscaster who controls the handkerchief-covered microphone as if to filter the words of blacks or to protect himself from contamination.) Still, the power of television works two ways: The black youths have made themselves heard, but they have also made themselves and their whereab- outs public knowledge, and have sub- sequently been the victims of a bomb- ing. Like Louvinie, the slave who was silenced because of the terrifying power of her stories, which literally scared her young, white master to death, the black youths have also been silenced by death for challenging racial segregation.

Meridian also scrutinizes the less dramatic effects of black access to the media. Again, there is no single reac- tion to resistance. As Foucault explains, "Focuses of resistance are spread over time and space at varying densities, at times mobilizing groups or individuals in a definitive way, inflaming certain points of the body, certain moments in life, certain types of behavior" (96). Walker demonstrates the ripple effect of the media coverage. The TV depiction of the brutality used against marching Civil Rights workers indi- rectly influences Meridian's ability to

go to college. As her high school princi- pal states, ". . . a generous (and

wealthy) white family in Connecticut- who wished to help some of the poor, courageous blacks they saw marching and getting their heads whipped night-

ly on TV-had decided, as a gesture of

their liberality and concern, to send a smart black girl to Saxon College in Atlanta, a school this family had endowed for three generations" (86). Although at face value this would seem to be a positive effect of TV cov- erage, the narrator's ironic tone serves as an implicit critique. The word wealthy, in parentheses, mediates the generosity of the white family by indi- :ating that this was no financial sacri- fice for them. And the sincerity of their action is undermined by its being jescribed as "a gesture of their liberali-

ty and concern"; its real import is to

2nhance their own "positive" image as liberals. Television brings the violence 3f the marches into their Connecticut nome, but the family's reaction of sending a smart black girl to a school :hat is segregated by race and sex does ~erylittle to combat racism and sex- .sm, as is indicted by the fact that the family for three generations has been ~ivingmoney to Saxon, a school which ?nforces middle-class standards of .ady-like decorum and does not con- lone involvement in the Civil Rights Vlovement.

shotography: Through a Different ,ens

f, as suggested earlier, movies

provide some of the most limiting


and limited forms of media representa- tions, photography is one of the most widely accessible and varied forms, and it serves as an important symbol of self-representation in Meridian. The family photo album became an impor- tant means of documenting the major events and activities of the family, and with the advent of affordable cameras photography became a popularly accessible art form. (For Lynne and Meridian one of the signs of their alien- ation from their families is the fact that Lynne has no photos of her parents and Meridian's mother has photos of other people's children, not her own.) The history of photography is one associated not only with recording the lives of the wealthy and famous but also one of capturing everyday people and places. Photography, more than any other visual medium, has been used to record the lives of the Door and


the disenfranchised.ll

Walker, of course, does not con- done all aspects of photography. She is well aware of its objectifying potential and the history of the visual depiction of black women as the exotic Other. As Mary Ann Doane explains, "Within a photographic discourse which brought the dark continent home to Europeans, the exotic and the erotic were welded together, situating the African woman as the signifier of an excessive, incom- mensurable sexuality" (213). Walker demonstrates this with the example of the white exchange student at Saxon who takes "photographs of the girls straightening their hair and also of them coming out of the shower" as if they were natives in the National Geographic.The exchange student is informed by the Saxon students that " 'this here ain't New Guinea' " (103). The camera, however, in its most posi- tive aspect facilitates a link between the object and the subject. Truman, through his art, is able to create Meridian as a profitable and silent object that cannot question or challenge his motives or his art. However, when he uses the camera to take a picture of Lynne surrounded by black children, who take turns combing her hair, he finds he cannot take the picture. The camera forces him to see (though not fully acknowledge) the contradictions in his life. He cannot aestheticize his ambivalent relationship with Lynne. "What stops him he will not, for the moment, have to acknowledge: It is a sinking, hopeless feeling about oppo- sites, and what they do to each other" (129).

For Meridian the camera serves as a symbol of her ability to see her world through a different lens. While at col- lege Meridian begins to develop her own representation of the world through her photographs (she "deco- rate[~]the ceiling, walls, backs of doors and the adjoining toilet with large pho- tographs of trees and rocks and tall hills and floating clouds, which she claim[s] she knew" [38]).Her pho- tographs of nature, while soothing, cannot insulate her from the harsh external realities that she encounters in her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, nor from the repressive rules of Saxon's code of lady-like behavior. At the end of the novel, how- ever, the metaphor of the camera and two key photographs (a picture of a slain Civil Rights worker and the reju- venated Sojourner tree) help her to recontextualize the stifling aspects of religion, as represented by her mother, and the unrelenting aspects of revolu- tionary politics, as represented by her friend Anne-Marion. Meridian's insight occurs during a visit to a reformed church:

She was aware of the intense heat that closed around the church and the peo- ple moving slowly, almost grandly up the steps, as if into an ageless photo- graph. And she, standing across the street, was not part of it. Rather, she sensed herself an outsider, as a single eye behind a camera that was aimed from a corner of her youth, attached now only because she watched. If she were not there watching, the scene would be exactly the same, the "pic- ture" itself never noticing that the cam- era was missing. (193-94)

In using the metaphor of the camera, Meridian does not disturb or appropri- ate the past (the ageless photograph); it is independent of her gaze and has its own importance and autonomy, but simultaneously the camera gives her a perspective from which to view the scene. This is an important passage because it holds the key to Meridian's struggle to define herself as a woman and an activist within the black com- munity. In the past she has resisted both the conservative elements of the church and the radical and potentially violent aspects of the black power movement. Meridian's return to the reformed church allows her to embrace those things in her past that have sepa- rated her from her friends and family, but she does it on her own terms and not on theirs.

The church which Meridian attends is changed from the inside out. The building itself is different; the preacher is not only understandable but he is blatantly political, attacking Nixon, forbidding young men to par- ticipate in the Vietnam War, and men- tioning God only "as a reference." The music and the icons of the church have been transformed from passive signs of conformity to signs of active resistance (198). But the most radicalizing ele- ment of this new-old church is the inclusion of a photograph of a young man killed for his revolutionary beliefs. The impact of hearing his father's story and the congregation's reaction brings Meridian to the realization that "she wouldkill, before she allowed anyone to murder his son again" (200). It was her refusal to kill in the name of the revolution which marked her break with the radical movement and her friend Anne-Marion. The photograph allows Meridian to reconcile her ambivalent feelings both toward the church and to the revolutionary groups of her past. By combining the radical and the righteous Meridian can accept what formerly was unacceptable: "Only in a church surrounded by the righteous guardians of the people's memories could she even approach the concept of retaliatory murder. Only among the pious could this idea both comfort and uplift" (200).

The final photograph of the novel, that of the new branch on the Sojourner tree (which Meridian hangs next to her own poems and Anne- Marion's letters), serves as a visual sign of the reintegration of Meridian's cul- tural, political, and artistic interests. The fact that Anne-Marion has sent her the picture confirms Meridian's recon- ciliation with the ideas of the revolu- tionary groups of her past. And the new sprout signals her return to health and her return to writing poetry. (Walker has described her own early poems as "new leaves sprouting from an old tree" [Gardens2491.) The Sojourner, which was destroyed in the Saxon student riot, links Meridian to her African heritage, to music, sexuali- ty, and resistance. The Saxon slaves believed the tree had magical powers, could talk and make music, and "pos- sessed the power to obscure vision. Once in its branches, a hiding slave could not be seen" (44). The Saxon stu- dents, including Meridian, believing the tale, used the tree to shelter their lovemaking.

The "obscured vision" fostered by the Sojourner's leaves seems benevo- lent in comparison to Wallace's con- cept of cultural invisibility, yet it is necessitated by the oppression of slav- ery in the past and the repression of female sexuality in the present. Such invisibility can be enabling, but it is not a solution. The solution for Meridian is not simply to reject the cultural images of African-American women, nor to sacrifice herself to them as a revolu- tionary martyr. She finds a way to see them in a new critical context which no longer obscures her vision. In the final chapter of the book, Truman has taken Meridian's place, implying that he is now going to see the world from her perspective and to see her within a new critical context which no longer obscures his vision.


  1. Barbara Christian, in her thorough reading of Meridian, discusses the importance of the c~rcular Notes structure of the novel in connecting Meridian's personal history with her cultural milieu and with the development of the Civil Rights Movement (Women 204-34).
  2. As Barbara Christian observes of Walker's writing in general, "Walker's peculiar sound, the spe- cific mode through which her deepening of self-knowledge and self-love comes, seems to have much to do with her contrariness, her willingness at all turns to challenge the fashionable belief of the day, to reexamine it in the light of her own experiences and of dearly won principles that she has previ- ously challenged and absorbed" (Feminist 82-83).
  3. As Foucault explains, "Resistance is never in a position of exteriority in relation to power. . . . These points of resistance are present everywhere in the power network. Hence there is no single locus of great Refusal, no soul of revolt, source of all rebellions, or pure law of revolution. Instead there is a plurality of resistances, each of them a special case: resistances that are possible, neces- sary, improbable; others that are spontaneous, savage, solitary, concerted, rampant, or violent; still others that are quick to compromise, interested, or sacrificial; by definition, they can only exist in the strategic field of power relations" (96).
  4. The article "Is Love Really Necessary," for example, undercuts the glamour of romance by stressing the difference between the romance of dating and the reality of marriage. The author agrees that love in marriage is preferable, but lists six areas of compatibility that are equally impor- tant: sexual relations, money matters, social and entertainment activities, relations with in-laws, reli- gion, and mutual friends.
  5. Critics have expressed various, but interrelated, interpretations of the importance of the mummy woman. According to Barbara Christian the opening scene "satirizes the lavish trademarks of the South-the white woman protected, indeed mummified, by the sanctimonious rhetoric of her society, but losing even these questionable privileges when she exercises any sexual freedom" (Women 207- 08). For Deborah McDowell "the mummy woman is a metaphor for the preservation of dead, no longer viable traditions and institutions" (264). Picking up on McDowell's statement, Alan Nadel asserts that the scene "makes clear the connection between Meridian's body and the body politic." Her paralysis links her to the mummy woman at the same time that her activism "suggests an alter- native to the untenable roles of womanhood produced by white and male culture and replicated in the mummy-woman's alleged history" (60). Karen Stein, Martha McGowan (31), and Peter Erickson (89), view Meridian's encounter with the mummy woman as an ironic depiction of the decline of the Civil Rights Movement. According to Stein, "Walker suggests that a primary reason for the Movement's failure was its lack of a sustained sociopolitical critique" (131).
  6. The pattern of death and violence (intentional, accidental, or even self-induced) as a means to silence andlor punish women who have abrogated their traditional duties as daughters, wives, or mothers (especially mothers) is repeated throughout the novel in the stories of Wild Child (who observes no social conventions and whose only language is obscenities and farts), Louvinie (who was silenced because of the force and power of her speech), Fast Mary (who killed her illegitimate child and then herself), and Lynne (who is dead in the eyes of her family because of her interracial marriage). The silencing of these women is also directly connected to the death of a child, often their own. Each of these women represents the devastating consequences of going outside prescribed limits and serves as a warning to Meridian, whose own struggles correspond to those of the silenced women: Wild Child, the violation of lady-like behavior imposed at Saxon; Louvinie, the ability to speak out in the Civil Rights Movement, Fast Mary, the decision to have an abortion; and Lynne, estrange- ment from the family, especially from the mother. Hence, Meridian, as a twentieth-century black woman, is not excluded from the cult of true womanhood, but instead suffers from the severity of its behavioral codes. The artificial preservation of the mummy woman and the fundamental question of her authenticity characterize the basic inadequacy of the cult of true womanhood as a realistic or desirable model of conduct for a twentieth-century woman.
  7. However, even Barnum had his limits. He was persuaded to cancel the eighteen-foot-long ban- ner of a mermaid which he planned to fly outside his New York museum (Werner 56-63).
  8. Powers' earlier nude, Eve Tempted, was considered too indiscreet by an American buyer who canceled his order. Other art tours that featured nudes had also received unfavorable press in America (Kasson 48-49).
  9. Lynne reifies the life of poor, Southern blacks through a romantic, artistic perspective that under- mines the principles of her participation in the Civil Rights Movement and her attempt to change the South: "To Lynne, the black people of the South were Art. This she begged forgiveness for and tried to hide, but it was no use . . . 'I will pay for this,' she often warned herself. And yet, she would stand perfectly still and the sight of a fat black woman singing to herself in a tattered yellow dress, her voice rich and full of yearning, was always-God forgive her, black folks forgive her-the same weepy mir-


acle that Art always had for her" (130). Lynne "pays for" her objectified view of blacks by living out the negative ramifications of the stereotype that she has romanticized. Living in poverty on the Lower East Side, Lynne dramatically represents that there is nothing romantic or artistic about her plight. The real dangers of poverty, inadequate housing, and poor living conditions are graphically brought home to Lynne by the brutal death of her daughter Camara (174). Lynne exemplifies Walker's criti- cism that white women have not included black women under the heading of "women" because that would mean having to deal with the implication of poverty for black women as mothers (Gardens 373).

  1. Truman is first the "preppie," French-speaking, jeans-and-polo-shirt-clad, clean-cut young man of the early Civil Rights Movement. His affinities are with Western culture (especially anything French) and the middle class. Meridian notes that he has the face of an Ethiopian warrior that you see in magazines, and when we next see him he has picked up on the increased emphasis on African culture: He wears a "flowing Ethiopian robe of extravagantly embroidered white, his brown eyes aglow with excitement" (100). As the New York artist, Truman smokes little cigars and has his hair in two dozen small braids. When he returns to the South to find Meridian, he has adopted yet another persona-the "revolutionary artist." Meridian notes ironically that he looks like Che Guevara, "not by accident I'm sure," in his "tan cotton jacket of the type worn by Chairman Mao" (24).
  2. While Hollywood responded to the Depression with big-budget musicals, documentary photog- raphers traveled the South and Southwest recording the devastating effects of the drought and Depression. Richard Wright's Twelve Million Black Voices, which recorded the movement of blacks from the rural South to the urban North, relied on the Farm Service Administration's archives for its photos.

Works Carby, Hazel V. Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Cited Novelist. New York: Oxford UP, 1987. Chomsky, Noam. Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies. Boston: South End P, 1989. Christian, Barbara. Black Feminist Criticism: Perspectives on Black Women Writers. New York: Pergamon P, 1985. -. Black Women Novelists: The Development of a Tradition, 1892-1976. Westport: Greenwood,

1980. "Devil Child." Tan 10 (Apr. 1960): 32+. Doane, Mary Ann. Femmes Fatales: Feminism, Film Theory, Psychoanalysis. New York: Routledge,

1991. Erickson, Peter. " 'Cast Out Alone ITo Heal IAnd Re-create I Ourselves': Family-Based Identity in the Work of Alice Walker." CLA Journal 23 (1979): 71-94. Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. Vol. 1. Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage, 1980. Fredrickson, George M. The Black Image in the White Mind: The Debate on Afro-American

Character and Destiny, 1817-1914.Middletown: Wesleyan UP, 1971. Harris, Neil. Humbug. Boston: Little, 1973. "I Can't Have Your Baby." Tan 10 (May 1960): 26+. "I Was a Victim of the Beat Generation." Tan 10 (Feb. 1960): 10-12. "Is Love Really Necessary?" Tan 10 (Jan. 1960): 16+. Kasson, Joy. Marble Queens and Captives: Women in Nineteenth-Century American Sculpture. New

Haven: Yale UP, 1990. "Married at Seventeen." Tan 10 (Apr. 1960): 15+. McDowell, Deborah. "The Self in Bloom." CLA Journal 24 (1981): 262-75. McGowan, Martha J. "Atonement and Release in Alice Walker's Meridian." Critique: Studies in

Modern Fiction 23.1 (1981): 25-36. Nadel, Alan. "Reading the Body: Alice Walker's Meridian and the Archeology of Self." Modern Fiction

Studies 34 (1 988): 55-68. "No Father For Their Babies." Tan 10 (Dec.1959): lo+. Perkins, Ann. "What Makes a Girl Bad?" Tan 10 (Mar.1960): 38+. Stein, Karen. "Alice Walker's Critique of Revolution." Black American Literature Forum 20 (1986):



Tate, Claudia. "Allegories of Black Female Desire; or, Reading Nineteenth-Century Sentimental Narrative of Black Female Authority." Changing Our Own Words: Essays on Criticism, Theory, and Writing by Black Women. Ed. Cheryl A. Wall. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1989. 98-126.

Walker, Alice. In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens. San Diego: Harcourt, 1983.

-. Meridian. New York: Simon, 1976.

Wallace, Michele. "Modernism, Postmodernism, and the Problem of the Visual in Afro-American Culture." Aesthetics in Feminist Perspective. Ed. Hilde Hein and Carolyn Korsmeyer. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1993. 205-17.

Werner, M. R. Barnum. New York: Grosset 8Dunlap, 1923.

Wright, Richard. Twelve Million Black Voices. New York: Viking, 1941.

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