March 27, 2019
Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, is about a ninth-grade girl named Melinda Sordino. Melinda loses the ability to effectively communicate after being sexually assaulted at a party. She wants to tell her best friend, or anyone in fact but the guilt that she places on herself doesn't allow her to. Through this action of silence she believes she’ll just forget what happened and move on. The author Laurie Halse Anderson uses an internal voice throughout the book to express several themes, including Silence, Pain, and Isolation.
Silence is a powerful theme in this novel, as it is the center of the story and very contradicting to the title “Speak”. This theme is very suitable to the young adult audience because at this age it’s often extremely difficult to share emotions, thoughts, and feelings with almost everyone. Now imagine just how more difficult it is to share with your peers or elders such an extreme and controversial thing such as rape. We get insight of just how tough this is from Melinda early on in the book stating,
“It is getting harder to talk. My throat is always sore, my lips raw. When I wake up in the morning, my jaws are clenched so tight I have a headache. Sometimes my mouth relaxes around Heather, if we’re alone. Every time I try to talk to my parents or a teacher, I sputter or freeze. What is wrong with me? It’s like I have some kind of spastic laryngitis. (p.50-51)”
She physically and mentally cannot get herself to speak. This type of psychological block and guilt isn't uncommon for rape victims as they seem to place the blame and situation on themselves. The narrator also mentions this, “I can see us, living in the woods, her wearing that A, Me with an S maybe, S for silent, for stupid, for scared. S for silly. For shame.(p.101)”. This is quote in relation to The Scarlet Letter, and how Melinda has put herself in the same shoes as the character who committed adultery. Meli...