Perhaps the best way to write this essay on symbolism is to focus on the archetypal aspects of trees and how Laurie Halse Anderson plays on your preconceived ideas about trees' symbolism in literature.
Throughout all of literature, trees play significant roles. In literature, the tree is almost always a symbol of life or growth, or something positive. The trees in The Giving Tree and the tree in To Kill a Mockingbird are two quick examples, but one of the first examples of trees in literature is the tree of knowledge from the Biblical Adam and Eve story. In all of these instances, the tree is something positive (even though Eve eats the apple).
However, at the beginning of Speak, Melinda paints her trees "that have been hit by lightning" and "are nearly dead, but not totally." As readers, the idea of a "nearly dead" tree should be an obvious symbol. But, to Melinda, the tree is much more than a symbol for her emotions. She goes through a process of making the trees practical stand-ins for her at one point asking, "Could I put my face in my tree, like a dryad from Greek mythology?"
As suspected, these trees grow as Melinda grows. When Melinda's healing is "stunted," her ability to progress on drawing a tree "is frozen." When she accepts what has happened to her, Melinda realizes "perfect trees don't exist. Nothing is perfect. Flaws are interesting. Be the tree." By the end of the book, after Melinda confronts her rapist and saves her friend, her tree is an "A+."
Overall, Anderson introduces a familiar symbol that should help the readers understand the depths of Melinda's depression. As Melinda grows, so do her trees.
Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson Essay
652 Words3 Pages
Speak is a cleaver and an ironic title for a story in which the main character chooses not to speak. The story is written in first-person narration from the point of view of protagonist, Melinda Sordino. Speak is written like an interior monologue in the mind of an introverted teenage girl, like excerpts from her personal diary during her miserable freshman year of high school. Instead of blending in and finding her way through high school. She withdraws and secludes herself from the other students. She calls herself an "outcast." Melinda is so desperate to hide from the world; she turns an old janitor's closet at the high school into her safe haven. She cuts classes to hide in her closet. How lonely could this teenage girl be? All…show more content…
And there is a clique of girls at the school who refer to their group as "the Marathas," that is the Martha Stewart wannabes. There doesn't seem to be a place where Melinda fits in. Where does a girl who has been sexually assaulted fit-in?
Melinda isn't speaking to anyone, and no one will talk to her, except the new girl, Heather, who moved from the state of Ohio. Realistically, Heather being the new girl just wants to make friends. Heather doesn't know what is really going on with Melinda because she just moved to town. Heather has no idea what happened the night when Melinda called the police, which busted a summer party. In fact, no one knows, except for Melinda, what happened to her at the party? She is convinced that because she is a victim, no one understands her. The whole world, including her world, is out to get her and so it is best for her to remain silent.
Ironically, the person Melinda finds as the outlet to help her express her feelings is her art teacher, Mr. Freeman. In a class assignment, Melinda is assigned to create an art project based on a tree. She begins to express her inner angst through this art project. At one point, she uses dried bones to sculpt a picture of a skeleton. Then she glues broken knives and forks to the project so that the bones look like the plastic utensils are stabbing them. It is a grim depiction of how Melinda feels, and is immediately praised by Mr. Freeman.