Speak By Laurie Halse Anderson Summary and Analysis Second Marking Period, Winter Break"-"Hard Labor""

Summary

Two days before Christmas, Melinda digs the Christmas tree out of the garage, dusts it off, and sets it up. She thinks that Christmas needs little kids around to add to the festive spirit. Now, she feels that she and her parents are just going through the motions of celebrating the holiday and that her parents would be divorced if she hadn't been born. Melinda goes outside and makes a snow angel, recalling a time when she was a young child and her parents were happier with their work lives and with each other.

On Christmas day, Melinda's parents give her some charcoal pencils and a sketch pad because they had noticed her interest in drawing. Melinda is touched by the fact that they actually noticed something about her and almost tells them about being attacked. The night of the party last summer, Melinda came home late instead of spending the night with friends. Neither of her parents was home — her mother got in around two in the morning, and her father arrived around dawn. Melinda does not know how to tell them about that night without also addressing their own whereabouts.

After a couple of days of winter break, Melinda's parents decide she is not going to sit around the house. One day she accompanies her mom to work. After folding a few shirts, she slacks off the rest of the day thus winning the approval of her mom's employees (who thought Melinda would spy on them for her mom). By the end of the day, however, Melinda sees how hard her mom works and begins to feel guilty for her laziness.

The next day she goes to work with her dad, who sells insurance. He works in a fancy office and is able to order out for lunch every day. Melinda resents how easy her dad has it when her mom works so hard. While stuffing calendars into envelopes, Melinda cuts her tongue, causing her to bleed on some calendars, which upsets her father.

Analysis

During Melinda's winter break, you see how her family dynamics affect her decision to remain silent and how her parents' work life influences her perception of them. As Melinda slowly reveals more about the events that took place the night of the summer party, her reasons for remaining silent become more apparent: She was attacked by IT, and the attack prompted her to call the police who made some arrests. She loses her friends and becomes a social pariah at school because of that phone call. Now, an additional bit of information comes to light: She came home that evening to find each of her parents out late and at different locations. Thus, in addition to not wanting to deal with the pain of the attack from that evening, Melinda hesitates to talk to her parents because it will ruin the illusion they work so hard to create: the illusion that they are still the happy, functional family they once were.

Melinda gains a better understanding of her parents through her experience of joining them at work. By spending a day at her mom's workplace, Melinda understands how much pressure her mom is under and how alone she is in trying to meet the demands she faces. For instance, not only does Melinda slack off the entire day, so do her mom's regular employees, causing her mom to stay several hours late after the shop closes. In contrast, Melinda's dad is able to put his feet up and joke around with his coworkers and clients. Melinda resents how easy her dad has it compared to her mom — not only because his work day is easier, but because of how little he does to support his wife when he is not at work.

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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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