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Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson Plot and Analysis

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The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network says that people aged 12-34 are at the highest risk for rape and sexual assault. The disputed issue of rape has gained awareness over the past year with victims coming forward with their trauma. Additionally, symbols are representations of things that are found in everyday life. For instance, spring is associated with new life or new beginnings. Furthermore, in Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson tells the story of Melinda Sordino, a freshman girl who becomes mute after she was raped that summer at a party. Anderson uses symbolism to demonstrate the challenges Melinda faces afterward. Throughout the story, Anderson provides three important symbols of Melinda’s bedroom, birds, and the tree that foreshadow Melinda’s changes throughout the story.

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Melinda’s bedroom represents her loss of innocence. When she is at home, she starts wishing her room matched who she was on the inside.“My room belongs to an alien. It is a postcard of who I was in fifth grade”. The reason Melinda feels out of place in her room is that her childhood was lost when she was raped. She despises her room mostly because she knows she is not a child anymore.

Melinda’s bedroom also represents her growth when she finally dares to ask her mom to redo her room. “I’m on a roll. I’m rocking. I don’t know what it is; standing up to Heather, planting marigold seeds, or maybe the look on my Mom’s face when I asked if she would let me redecorate my room”. This is a sign of Melinda’s growth because it shows she is maturing and moving on. Now that she wants to redo her room it shows she is admitting what had happened to her.

The bird is a symbolism of Melinda’s feelings of wanting freedom. When constructing a tree using leftover bones, she adds a doll head on top. “I place a piece of tape over barbie’s mouth”. The piece of the tape shows that she feels trapped. It also shows her dilemma of wanting to speak out. The sculpture reflects the feelings of pain she feels inside. But, the bird also shows Melinda’s understanding of the rape.

When Melinda is completing her final tree, she adds birds around it. “I draw them without thinking-fight, flight, feather, wing”. The rape had stunted Melinda’s personal growth so now that she has accepted her rape, it shows she has regained her freedom. This also represents her ability to turn her nightmare into a beautiful work of art.

The tree symbolizes Melinda’s growth throughout the story. When she is given the assignment of the tree, she criticizes the drawing each time. “Maybe some thick branches, a bunch of thinner branches, and plenty of leaves to hide the mistakes”. She disparages the tree because she sees it as a reflection of herself. She wants it to be perfect, which is the opposite of herself. The rape makes her feel nasty, ashamed, and imperfect.

When Melinda is drawing her final piece, she finally begins to accept everything. “My tree is definitely breathing; little shallow breaths like it just shot up through the ground this morning”. In the first marking period, she drew her trees as if they were struck by lightning and she believed her life stopped after the rape. Her acceptance of the tree shows that she finally forgives herself and will let her life change. She knows that she’ll always have that trauma, but her wounds will eventually heal.

Melinda changes throughout the story with the symbols of her bedroom, birds, and trees. Melinda’s bedroom represents her change from child to woman, birds show her lack of freedom, and the tree symbolizes her acceptance of the rape throughout the story. By using these symbols, Melinda overcame her silence. Millions of people relate to Melinda. They don’t know what to do about their situation or how to hide from it. Like Melinda, others should speak up because in the end, concealing that secret won’t change how hurt they are.

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