Alice Walker And Diana Wagman: Symbolism Essay, Alice Walker And Diana Wagman: Symbolism Diana Wagman and Alice Walker utilize symbols and metaphoric imagery throughout their writing in order to aid in the development of the themes. In Skin Deep, Wagmanimplements such imagery to display how the main character, Martha, struggles not only with herself in an attempt to find meaning in her own life, but also with the concept of beauty. Meridian, on the other hand, is centered around the racial segregation in southern society. The use of symbolic and metaphoric imagery display the physical segregation of the south and the effect it has on the main characters in the novel. In each novel, however, imagery and language play an important role in defining the characters. It is thus prevalent that these literary techniques play a vital role in the interpretation of the theme as well as in character development.
Before the reader opens the pages to Skin Deep, it is obvious that the color blue will be an important color throughout the novel. After Martha agrees to meet with Dr. Hamilton for "[t]hree nights a week, [t]hree hours a night' in order to discuss the facets of beauty, she comes to discover at their first appointment that her female form will be obscured by covering her body in blue clothing (Wagman 4, 27). Ironically, the blue suit masks Martha's identity from Dr. Hamilton, but it eventually leads her to the true definition of beauty and what it means to be beautiful.
Martha struggles throughout her life to find meaning, acceptance, and more importantly, beauty in its truest form. At many different points throughout the novel she assumes the role of many different variations of herself. Martha is in constant struggle to find her true self, accept it, and show it off to the world. By the end of the novel she achieves this and is thus able to literally and symbolically dispose of her blue covering. Martha's character is developed because of the existence of the blue suit and thus, it stands as an important symbol throughout the rest of the novel. Wagman makes use of metaphoric imagery in order to continue Martha's characterization.
Wagman, through Martha's thoughts, states, "Martha thought herself as a red apple. Generally utilitarian, not exceptional or exotic, but dependable, in season' (Wagman 155). Wagman compares Martha's characteristics and state of mind to that of an apple and in doing so, creates an image that the reader is easily able to associate with Martha. Martha also claims in her thoughts that "[s]he had never been anything.
She never would be anything. She was like a glass of milk. Boring, of dubious benefit, and white, white white' (Wagman 199). Wagman creatively depicts Martha's character and further depicts the negativity Martha has of her own self.
In one of the final scenes, Wagman creates a powerful symbol that helps aid in the full character development of Martha. Whiteness becomes a dominating color as Martha notices that "… she was [w]hite and pale, wintry, even the freckles on her arms were just a dimmer shade of eggshell. She was so white she had become a ghost' (Wagman 203). Through her own imagination, Martha drifts through Los Angeles attempting to escape the realms of the world that left her feeling so much pain. The metaphoric images of the whiteness and of Martha's desire to be a ghost contribute to Martha's continuing battle with her own world. It is not until the end of the novel that Martha becomes aware of herself.
Martha realizes that "… she was more than just a country, or even a continent. In a dark so dark that she couldn't see her own body, she became an entire universe. Unable to see anything at all, she finally felt like she could see herself' (Wagman 242). Wagman creatively incorporates both symbols and images in order to display Martha's own complication with her own life, the concept of beauty, and Martha's issues with her own personal beauty. The characterization of Martha through such literary devices further develops the notion of beauty as one of Skin Deep's major themes. Alice Walker also uses symbolic and metaphoric imagery in order to demonstrate social segregation as a major theme as well as to illustrate character development.
Meridian, as a dictionary word, is "the highest apparent point reached by a heavenly body in its course' (Walker 15). Meridian, not having an easy life herself, attempts to save others from the horror of racial segregation. She touches several lives and consequently, her name stands as a symbol, as it depicts her character. She passes through Saxon College and the Civil Rights Movement protesting her desire for equality. Meridian reaches meridian in the last few pages of the novel before she leaves Truman. It is before she leaves that she hands him her hat and she knows that she will "… return to the world cleansed of sickness (Walker 219).
Walker continues to develop Meridian's character through certain symbols. The Indians, for example, were said to have "constructed the coil in the Serpent's tail in order to give the living a sensation similar to that of dying: The body seemed to drop away, and only the spirit lived, set free in the world' (Walker 58). Because Meridian lives her life fighting for herself and for other minorities, her life will end much like the Serpent's tail and eventually, her spirit will be "set free in the world.' The gold that Meridian finds is also a symbol that is used to represent society as well as Meridian's desire to find the gold within society. The gold she finds is "… so thickly encrusted with dirt that even when she washes it the metal does not shine through' (Walker 52). Much like the gold, society is filled with hatred and divided over the issue of racial equality. However, even though society remains "dirty,' Meridian attempts to find the gold, the goodness, and most off all, the equality between the two races.
It is obvious how Walker incorporates some of her symbols and the use of metaphoric imagery in order to enhance the plot of racial segregation as well as to develop Meridian's character. In conclusion, Wagman and Walker are able to strengthen their narratives by utilizing symbolic and metaphoric imagery. In each novel, there was a different theme that was presented to the audience and each theme was able to be guided through certain symbols as well as through metaphoric language. Also, character development in Skin Deep as well as in Meridian became a process of looking at certain symbols and the language, rather than simply reading the facts.
Wagman and Walker used such symbols in order to generate expression and draw parallels between things in the universe, as simple as a glass of milk, to the characters in the novel. The authors creatively inserted imagery and thus, created novels that can be read and analyzed by a group of individuals, but can be interpreted in several different ways. Wagman and Walker each develop powerful novels that are left to the readers to run with and gain a certain understanding that may aid in perhaps their "rites of passage.'.