Speak By Laurie Halse Anderson Summary and Analysis Fourth Marking Period, Gag Order"-"Advice from a Smart Mouth""

Summary

David Petrakis' lawyer meets with Mr. Neck and his lawyer; while Melinda isn't privy to the details of that meeting, she can tell David's lawyer has won. David is allowed to give long answers in history class, and Mr. Neck keeps himself under control. Mr. Neck even offers the class an opportunity to earn extra credit by writing a report about the turn of the century. Melinda chooses to write about the suffragettes and all they went through to earn equal rights for women. She is sure she has written a great report, but when she turns it in, Mr. Neck says she must do it as an oral report.

Melinda is horrified about having to make an oral presentation and turns to David for advice. They create a plan. On the day of her report, Melinda hangs a suffragette poster over a note she has written on the blackboard. When she stands up to give her speech, she tears off the poster, revealing a statement regarding her right to stand up, just as the suffragettes did, for what she believes. She believes she has the right to remain silent; David helps her pass out copies of her report to the class to read. Mr. Neck marches Melinda down to Principal Principal and she gets another in-school suspension.

After Melinda serves her suspension, David writes her a note sympathizing with her situation. They talk it over by her locker. He tells her that while she should not have been punished, she was wrong in that she was standing up for silence. He tells her that being silent lets the bad guys win. Melinda contemplates his comments and David says he would like to call her sometime.

Analysis

Melinda's research, her performance in history class, and her talk with David all reinforce Anderson's theme that silence is not a good solution to a problem. First, by researching the suffragettes, Melinda learns more about the rights for which women once fought. In doing so, she gains a greater respect for what those women suffered in order to be treated equally and admires their courage. Through Melinda's description of the suffragettes, Anderson demonstrates that Melinda, too, needs to be brave and stand up for herself.

When Mr. Neck forces Melinda to present her speech, she does so silently, as an act of protest. This act of protest is yet another step toward breaking her silence. Even though she is silent during her performance, Melinda applies at least part of what she learned from the suffragettes: that you have to stand up for yourself because no one else will.

Melinda's talk with David takes this lesson one step further because he shows her that it is an oxymoron for her to stand up for her right to remain silent. David tells her that he does not agree with Mr. Neck's punishment but that she was wrong to remain silent. He goes on to say that staying silent allows oppression to continue. David's thoughts strike a chord with Melinda, who struggles not only with the issue of telling others about being raped, but also with how to protect Rachel from Andy. Thus, through the discussion of her performance, Melinda hears what she has needed to hear all along: that her choice to remain silent is a choice to remain victimized.

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At the end of the novel, what is the final touch that Melinda adds to the picture of her tree?




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