Speak By Laurie Halse Anderson Summary and Analysis Third Marking Period, Clash of the Titans"-"Picasso""

Summary

Melinda and her parents meet with Principal Principal and Melinda's guidance counselor in an effort to sort out Melinda's difficulties at school. All four adults try to get Melinda to talk and come up with different reasons for her silence. Mom thinks it is because Melinda wants attention; Dad thinks it is the school's fault. The guidance counselor tentatively suggests Melinda is quiet because of her parents' marriage problems. At the end of the meeting, Melinda remains silent despite all of the adults, and sees them as fools for not understanding why her life is a mess.

The result of Melinda's meeting is a contract with the school that outlines consequences for her poor behavior. Thus, when Melinda skips school one day, she is punished the next day with in-school suspension. Mr. Neck supervises her and the other students in suspension, who must spend the day in quiet, uninterrupted boredom. Andy Evans enters suspension and sits near Melinda, causing her feel like a scared rabbit. When Mr. Neck is not looking, Andy blows in her ear.

In art class, Mr. Freeman can tell that Melinda is stuck, so he gives her a book featuring reprints of various Picasso paintings. Melinda is not interested in Picasso's early works, but falls quickly and completely in love with Cubism. She draws a Cubist tree and both she and Mr. Freeman are delighted by her project.

Analysis

In these sections, Melinda uses a variety of strategies to avoid facing the problems in her life. The first strategy she uses is during the meeting between her parents, the principal, and her guidance counselor. During the meeting, Melinda pretends her parents are tap dancing on Principal Principal's desk and even laughs out loud at the image. Through this imaginative exercise, Melinda removes herself from the meeting, at least emotionally, and disengages from the school problems (which are actually just symptoms of her emotional problems) that the adults in her life are trying to address.

The second strategy Melinda uses is metaphor; once again she turns herself into "BunnyRabbit" when Andy Evans joins the suspended students. Recall that Melinda used this metaphor earlier in the novel when she and Andy are in the bakery parking lot. Once again, while this metaphor rescues her from having to directly deal with Andy — a baby rabbit is dealing with him, not her — it also prevents her from having power in the situation because she turns herself into something vulnerable.

The third strategy Melinda uses is her art work. In discovering Picasso, Melinda finds a new way to see the world around her and to change it into something that makes sense. By creating a Cubist tree, Melinda revises the way she sees trees. She constructs the tree out fragments of her life — lockers, for instance — and in doing so, gains power over her life and distance from her problems. This third strategy is the most useful to Melinda as it helps her see beyond herself and start to participate in making sense of her life rather than avoiding the circumstances surrounding 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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