Laurie Halse Anderson

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Speak: Part 1, Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Since the pep rally, Melinda has used watercolors to paint trees that have been struck by lightning. Mr. Freeman has not commented on them, however, and Melinda is not satisfied. She recounts that her other classmates have been experiencing problems too (especially Ivy, whose subject is clowns, although she fears and hates them). Mr. Freeman responds to their complaints by telling them that great artists do not complain, and then ranting about school board budget cuts that have kept him from buying new art supplies. As he does, Melinda doodles a tree, and laments the fact that Mr. Freeman won’t give her any guidance. She criticizes her doodle, and wonders why Mr. Freeman, who seemed like “such a cool teacher,” is forcing the class to complete such a “ridiculous assignment.”
Melinda’s desire to draw lightning-struck trees clearly signifies the way that she feels—violated, barren, and dead. Her struggle to create a satisfactory piece of art mirrors her struggle to express her emotions and to find a voice to which people will listen. Her frustration that Mr. Freeman won’t offer her any help, meanwhile, shows her immaturity. Melinda believes that authority figures are fundamentally unhelpful, yet still expects Mr. Freeman’s guidance.
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