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"Speak" Symbols and Motifs
Transcript of "Speak" Symbols and Motifs
by Laurie Halse Anderson
"I push my ragged mouth against the mirror. A thousand bleeding, crusted lips push back."
This is showing how Melinda sees her lips and is so very self-conscious about them. She describes her lips with ugly words.
"...and a chewed-up horror of a mouth. Definitely not a dryad face. I can't stop biting my lips. It looks like my mouth belongs to someone else, someone I don't even know." (pg 17)
Melinda feels like her lips are changing her from her normal self. It symbolizes her insecurity and possible mental illnesses forming.
"I've been painting trees that have been hit by lightning. I try to paint them so they are nearly dead, but not totally. (pg 30)
Melinda is at her darkest depression at this moment. She feels damaged, broken, like she has been "struck by lightning". The tree represents her and her emotions.
"My tree is definitely breathing; little shallow breaths like it just shot up through the ground this morning...The new growth is the best part." (pg 196)
After all that has happened with Melinda, she finally feels somewhat confident with herself and feels like she can finally breathe again. The tree is finally alive and so is she.
"I look at my homely sketch. It doesn't need anything.Even through the river in my eyes I can see that. It isn't perfect and that makes it just right." (pg 198)
Melinda draws her final tree and realizes that it doesn't have to be perfect to have emotional value or to have purpose which is symbolizing that although Melinda has gone through some terrible hardships, it doesn't mean that just because she isn't beautiful or perfect means that she has no value to others or herself.
"I lean into the mirror. Eyes after eyes after eyes stare back at me. Am I in there somewhere?" (pg 124)
Melinda looks into the mirror and there are an infinite amount of her reflections "staring back at her". Even though she sees so many reflections of her, she is yet able to find herself.
"I get out of bed and take down the mirror. I put it in the back of my closet, facing the wall." (pg 17)
Melinda is so insecure about herself. She feels very ugly and never wants to see herself ever.
"I hit the wood against the poster, and the mirror under it, again. Shards of glass slip down the wall and into the sink. IT pulls away from me, puzzled. I reach in and wrap my fingers around a triangle of glass. I hold it to Andy Evans' neck. He freezes." (pg195)
Melinda is being confronted by the guy who raped her. Throughout the story, Melinda is seeing mirrors and saying that she is worth nothing and feels not wanted because of what he did to her. She uses this piece of mirror to defend herself against him. This is representing that now that she spoke up, she can defend for herself and break free and speak.
Mirrors, mouths, and trees played a big part in representing Melinda growing and changing as a person, specifically the tree. These all give hints and clues about how she feels about herself and want she does/does not want. In the end, Melinda finally tells everyone what had happened, concluding that its better to fight back and "speak", than to stay quiet.
Symbolism Throughout the Story
Mirrors are a reoccurring motif for Melinda. they are representing how she feels so insecure her in her body and wants nothing to do with how she looks.
"They all have beautiful lips, carefully outlined in red and polished to a shine." (pg 30)
Melinda is constantly comparing herself to other people. In this instance, she is comparing herself to the cheerleaders and how perfect their lips are. This shows how insecure she is and how she thinks down on her self constantly.
Mouths were a reoccurring motif for Melinda. She constantly had issues with speaking and expressing her feelings through talking. Also, her habit with biting her lips is damaging her self-esteem. She is nervous all the time and biting her lips is showing possible mental illnesses forming or anxieties.
Trees are the main symbol in the book. The tree is a reflection of Melinda and her growing as a person.