Speak Symbolism Essay

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Speak, written by Laurie Halse Anderson, is about a depressed victim of rape, who emotionally drowns in her first year of high school. As the victim, Melinda, withdraws from words, she creates of habit of badly chewing on her lips to the point where a student wonders if “she’s got a disease or something.” (pg. 45)Melinda’s lip-biting is symbolic of how much she wants to consume herself and be non-existent. Her lips are a manifestation of the overwhelming anxiety she feels. While Melinda takes her anxiety out on her lips, her art is symbolic of how she feels about herself after Andy Evans raped her. The trees she draws for Mr. Freeman depict her emotional state in the aftermath of a numbing, traumatic experience. Melinda’s lips are mentioned when she is extremely uncomfortable and wants to disappear. For example, when Rachel/Rachelle is called up to help Melinda with an algebra problem. In this passage, Anderson writes “I pull my lower lip all the way in between my teeth. If I try hard enough, maybe I can gobble my whole self this way...I didn’t try hard enough to swallow myself.” (pg.39) This is demonstrative of the anxiety Melinda feels about confronting her problems with Rachel/Rachelle. Melinda would sooner disappear or work with anyone else rather than remember that the party, at which she was raped, is the reason Rachelle hates her. Another example of this is when Melinda revisits the night of her rape and bites her lip so that it necessitates stitching. The shame she feels because of the rape causes her to become so anxious that she gets blood on the snow. The trees drawn by Melinda throughout her school year show her emotional progression after her rape. Her trees begin “nearly dead, but not totally.” (pg. 31) They continue to be drawn this way through the entirety of her school year, and Melinda gets frustrated by how she can’t put life into them. At the

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