Laurie Halse Anderson

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Trees, Seeds, Plants, and Forests

Near the beginning of the novel, Melinda is assigned a tree as her yearlong assignment in art class. As the narrative progresses, Melinda’s attempts to draw a tree come to symbolize her ability to move… read analysis of Trees, Seeds, Plants, and Forests


Birds appear multiple times in the text of Speak—the most memorable of these appearances, of course, being the doomed turkey that Melinda’s mother attempts to cook on Christmas. After Melinda’s mother ruins the bird… read analysis of Birds

Melinda’s Closet

Melinda feels unsafe and isolated in high school; and she responds by isolating herself even further, making an unused janitor’s closet into a hiding place where she can cut class and avoid seeing the peers… read analysis of Melinda’s Closet

Melinda’s Bedroom

While Melinda’s closet is a haven for her hide from her new, traumatized existence, her bedroom is a symbol of the childhood innocence that she has lost. Adorned with pink roses, the room looks like… read analysis of Melinda’s Bedroom


At the beginning of Speak, Melinda despises mirrors. She thinks her reflection looks ugly in her bedroom mirror, and covers up the mirror in her closet with a poster of Maya Angelou. In… read analysis of Mirrors

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Melinda hates her appearance, but is especially disgusted by her ragged lips, which she can’t stop picking at and chewing. In a novel called Speak, of course, it is significant that Melinda is… read analysis of Lips


Melinda is hyperaware of blood throughout the novel. An incredibly charged symbol, blood represents both life and death, and also is especially connected to the idea of adult womanhood (because of menstruation). Blood is also… read analysis of Blood

Water, Ice, and Melting

Images of water and ice are prevalent throughout Speak. This symbol is appropriate because Melinda is, in effect, frozen. She is cold to all those around her, from Heather to her teachers to her… read analysis of Water, Ice, and Melting

Warmth and Sunlight

Just as water and ice symbolize how dead and frozen Melinda feels, warmth and sunlight represent moments in which she feels as if she might be alive inside after all. As winter turns to spring… read analysis of Warmth and Sunlight

Poster of Maya Angelou

Although Melinda doesn’t know it, her choice of a poster of Maya Angelou to cover her own reflection in her janitor’s closet is an appropriate one. A famous African American writer, Angelou writes eloquently about… read analysis of Poster of Maya Angelou