Speak By Laurie Halse Anderson Summary and Analysis Second Marking Period, Go______ (Fill in the Blank)!"-"Job Day""

Summary

The Ecology Club's campaign against having a tiger as the school mascot succeeds, and the school holds an assembly to come up with new suggestions. The students vote on one of four options.

Melinda's parents are making her stay after school to get extra help from her teachers because her grades are so bad. Melinda, however, uses the time after school to tidy up and decorate her janitor's closet with a poster of Maya Angelou. Increasingly, Melinda is finding it difficult to speak; in addition to her sore and bitten lips, her throat constantly hurts.

In Spanish class, her teacher instructs the class to translate and conjugate five verbs. Melinda chooses traducir, fracasar, esconder, escaper, olvidar.

On Job Day, Melinda and the rest of her classmates take a test to see what field they should go into. Melinda's test indicates she should go into forestry, firefighting, communications, or mortuary science. Heather's test indicates she should be a nurse. Heather is thrilled by this news and begins to plan her first steps toward achieving this goal. Melinda cannot fathom planning out the next ten years of her life, let alone plan beyond surviving ninth grade.

Analysis

Several repeating images in these sections illustrate Melinda's despair as does a comparison and contrast between her and Heather. First, Melinda's sore throat, when combined with her habit of biting her lips, shows that her internal turmoil and stress is expressing itself physically. By providing Melinda with physical indicators of her mental state, Anderson is able to support one of the novel's major themes: Silence is not a solution to a problem.

Secondly, Melinda's repeated description of her secret as being an animal or beast lodged in her gut suggests that she feels preyed upon by her silence. By turning her secret into an animal prowling around inside her, Melinda distances herself from the secret and relinquishes control over it. The secret is its own creature, and thus she is not responsible for dealing with it. This avoidance is also shown in the Spanish words she chooses to conjugate: She avoids school work and thus is at risk of failing (fracasar), and all she wants to do is hide (esconder), and forget (olvidar) what happened.

Finally, Heather serves as a significant character to whom Melinda can be compared and contrasted. While both Heather and Melinda suffer from being social outcasts, Heather is continually trying to rectify the situation whereas Melinda simply tries to ignore the pain it causes her. Also, Heather and Melinda contrast in the ways they deal with their futures. Heather embraces the Job Day test results, which indicate she should be a nurse, because she longs for a sense of purpose and belonging and will accept anything that helps her achieve these goals. Melinda, however, is more complex. Not only does the test indicate a wide variety of potential careers she could pursue, she feels no deep affinity with any of them, unable to see beyond her current state of despair and depression.

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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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