Speak By Laurie Halse Anderson Summary and Analysis Second Marking Period, First Amendment"-"Wishbone""

Summary

Mr. Neck storms into history class one day and begins a debate on immigration because he feels his son is unable to get a job because of immigrants. As more students chime in, Mr. Neck sees that they do not agree with his premise that the United States should have closed its borders in 1900, and he shuts down the debate. David Petrakis stands up and challenges him, saying it is un-American to end the debate just because Mr. Neck doesn't like what he hears. Mr. Neck tells David to sit down or go to the principal's office, and David calmly leaves the classroom. Melinda admires David's bravery and makes a point of paying more attention to him.

Thanksgiving rolls around, and Melinda's mother is anxious and tense from the pressure she puts on herself and her clothing store to turn on a profit on Black Friday. Mom's stress causes her to forget to thaw the turkey, so she spends Thanksgiving morning boiling it before capitulating to work demands. She heads into the store for the day. Melinda's dad tries to hack the turkey into pieces in order to cook it quicker, but he ends up making a repulsive stew. Melinda and her dad order delivery-pizza for their dinner instead.

Melinda rescues the turkey bone from the trash and brings it into art class. Mr. Freeman encourages her creative experiment, and Melinda ends up gluing the turkey bones to a block of wood and putting a Barbie doll head with its mouth taped shut inside of the bones. Mr. Freeman provides Melinda some commentary on her piece but she leaves the class before he can ask her any questions about it.

Analysis

In these sections, Melinda finds a role model in David Petrakis, reveals more of her family problems, and takes a step closer to speaking up about her life through her artwork. Melinda's use of nicknames, her sarcastic tone, and her isolation suggest there are few people in her life she trusts let alone feels she can look up to or confide in. Thus, David's ability to stand up to Mr. Neck is a breath of fresh air for Melinda. Not only does she see in him a peer who is able to do the right thing, but through his example is able to start thinking about who she wants to become: someone who remains silent in the face of injustice or someone like David who chooses to speak up?

You also see how Melinda's family dynamics influence her decision to remain silent about her trauma. Both Melinda's parents have trouble connecting with her. For instance, both parents say very little to her over the course of Thanksgiving day except for instructions on how to help with dinner (Mom asks Melinda to peel potatoes; Dad asks Melinda to order pizza). Additionally, neither parent is warm to the other. These tense family dynamics contribute to Melinda's decision to remain silent because she does not feel particularly close to her parents.

Melinda, however, is able to channel the ruined Thanksgiving into her artwork by salvaging the turkey bones. The artwork she creates thus becomes a metaphor for her current situation. By placing a Barbie doll head inside the turkey's bones, Melinda creates a representation of her emotional state: She feels trapped inside her mind and unable to escape. Furthermore, by taping the doll's mouth shut, Melinda creates a metaphor for her own silence; she too, feels as if her mouth is taped shut and that she has no control over her silence. It is almost as if her silence controls her.

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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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