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Tracking Author’s Choices in

Speak - Example


Author’s Choice

What the Author Chose to Do

(Answer Questions)



Sample Passages that Illustrate the Author’s Choice

AT LEAST THREE!

(Just Write First Words of First Sentence… Last Words of Last Sentence & PAGE NUMBER!)

The Impact of the Author’s Choices on Reader’s Interpretation

Why the Author Chose to Write it This Way and not Another Way

Setting

Where has the author chosen to situate this story?

What time period has the author chosen to situate this story in?


Merryweather High School in Syracuse, New York

1990s - Present



“WELCOME TO MERRYWEATHER HIGH” (3)

“I’ve lived in Syracuse my whole life and I hate winter.” (136)

“REAL SPRING” (165)


This location is most significant because of the weather, which Melinda Sordino is very tuned in to. Her journey back to life after being raped is reflected in the seasons. Melinda grows more and more brittle, fragile, and cold through the long Syracuse winter. But when spring and summer come, she thaws and grows, just like a tree.

Other than that, I get the feeling that Speak could be happening anywhere, and that's probably the point. I suspect that Anderson wants us to feel like Melinda's experience isn't unique to girls in one specific area – it could, and does, happen everywhere. Similarly, exact dates aren't listed, giving it an anytime-feel. It probably takes place in the late 1990s, since the book was first published in 1999.



Point of View

Is the story written in first, second, or third person point of view?


First Person

“I have entered high school with the wrong hair, the wrong clothes, and the wrong attitude.” (4)

“I am Outcast.” (4)

“It wasn’t my fault. He hurt me. It wasn’t my fault. And I’m not going to let it kill me. I can grow.” (202)


Speak is the story of Melinda Sordino, a high school freshman. She tells her story in her own words, in the present tense. This telling seems to be a kind of internal monologue. Melinda doesn't talk much to others, but she sure hasn't stopped talking to herself; she does lots and lots of thinking about her problems, and we get access to all of her thoughts.

We might think of Speak as a glimpse into Melinda's mind as she figures out how to deal with the fact that she was raped. Seen in this way, the novel makes a subtle argument for thinking, or talking to one's self as a means to solve problems. Melinda's intense reflections on her inner and outer worlds lead her to certain conclusions. Perhaps most importantly, she concludes that she has a moral obligation to warn others about her attacker and that telling the story to others is necessary for her own healing.





Author’s Choice

What the Author Chose to Do

(Answer Questions)



Sample Passages that Illustrate the Author’s Choice

AT LEAST THREE!

(Just Write First Words of First Sentence… Last Words of Last Sentence & PAGE NUMBER!)

The Impact of the Author’s Choices on Reader’s Interpretation / Understanding /

Why the Author Chose to Write it This Way and not Another Way

Expansive/Economical Diction

Is the writing tight and efficient, or elaborate and long-winded?


Overall, tight and efficient

“I am Outcast.” (4)

“I have entered high school with the wrong hair, the wrong clothes, and the wrong attitude.” (4)




Melinda speaks in a manner common to teenagers in the 1990s to the present. This is characterized by slang, staccato sentences, and colloquialisms. This allows the reader to see through her eyes, feel what she feels, and take on a unique perspective of the world. If it were written as Hawthorne would have written it (yuck), it would not ring as true as it does.

Tone

What is the narrator’s attitude?

What is the mood of the story?

Does the author seem sarcastic? Aggressive? Wistful? Pessimistic? In love? Philosophically detached? Hopeful? Ironic? Bitter? (And so on...)


Depressed, sardonic, uncomfortable, uncertain, fearful, self-deprecating, angry, self-loathing

Changes to triumph and inspiration after finding a way to fix her problem.



“There is no point in looking for my ex-friends. Our clan, the Plain Janes, has been splintered and the pieces are being absorbed by rival factions.” (9)

“I don't want to be cool. I want to grab her by the neck and shake her and scream at her to stop treating me like dirt. She didn't even bother to find out the truth – what kind of friend is that?” (10)

“I get out of my bed and take down the mirror. I put it back in my closet, facing the wall.” (11)

“It wasn’t my fault. He hurt me. It wasn’t my fault. And I’m not going to let it kill me. I can grow.” (202)



Melinda’s tone captivates the reader. For many young, outcasted, struggling teenagers (and just about anyone reall…), sarcasm is a way to vale one’s true distaste with the state of their life, their surroundings, what they’ve amounted to, etc. Without this original tone, it would be hard to understand just how deeply affected Melinda is.

Also, without the initial sarcasm and self-loathing, the reader could not rejoice with Melinda as she finds a resolution to the conflict she has faced and endured. When the tone begins its climb upward, the reader is lifted and can feel the weight being lifted from Melinda’s shoulders.


Chapter Structure

Are chapters very short, or are they enormous?

What is the function of chapter titles if they are present?


Chapters are very short (averaging out at 3 pages each – 90 chapters in 244 pages)

Chapter titles are easily remembered (since chapters are so long) and stand as a blatant summary / theme for each chapter

Additionally, the book is divided by “marking period” or quarter and also follows the changing of the seasons


“OUR TEACHERS ARE THE BEST”

“SANCTUARY”

“COLORING OUTSIDE THE LINES”

“A NIGHT TO REMEMBER”

“GROWING PAINS”

“PREY”


The chapter titles provide for easy access into the ideas and feelings of Melinda. Also, since the chapters are so short, it is easy to hold the titles in mind from beginning to end. The shortness of each chapter not only suits the intended audience (teens), it also captures how little Melinda says (even in her own mind).

The book also follows the changing of the seasons – fall – spring. This, coupled with the symbolism of the tree’s journey through the seasons, adeptly expresses the transformation of Melinda. This internal structure is highly valuable to the integrity of the novel.





Author’s Choice

What the Author Chose to Do

(Answer Questions)



Sample Passages that Illustrate the Author’s Choice

AT LEAST THREE!

(Just Write First Words of First Sentence… Last Words of Last Sentence & PAGE NUMBER!)

The Impact of the Author’s Choices on Reader’s Interpretation / Understanding /

Why the Author Chose to Write it This Way and not Another Way

Use of Images

What types of images did the author choose to include?


Book Cover:

Tree growing almost from young woman’s mouth – no mouth is visible



(See Book Cover)

This image adroitly suits the seasons changing and tree drawing within the internal structure of the book. The staring eyes also seem all at once deserted and removed, terrified, and critical… wishing to say more, if only the mouth would come into focus.

Symbolism

Does the author use any symbols?

If so, what are they?

If so, what do they represent / stand for?


The tree – growth

Snow, cold, & silence

Closets

Grades


Mirrors / Vision

“Tree? It's too easy. […] I reach in for another piece of paper. […] "Ah-ah-ah," [Mr. Freeman] says. "You just chose your destiny, you can't change that…” (12)

“"Hawthorne wanted snow to symbolize cold, that's what I think" (62)

“"Nothing quieter than snow" (62)

“The tears dissolve the last block of ice in my throat. I feel the frozen stillness melt down through the inside of me, dripping shards of ice that vanish in a puddle of sunlight on the stained floor. Words float up.” (89)

“"I don't feel like hiding anymore.” (81)

“"My contact folds in half under my eyelid. Tears well in my right eye.” (9)



Trees: Seeds and trees create an extended metaphor. Melinda learns about them in biology and learns to draw them in art class. By getting intimate with seeds and trees in art and science, Melinda comes to see herself as a precious part of nature, capable of much positive growth.

Snow, cold, & silence: As the weather thaws, so does her heart. Ice and cold of winter, heat and warmth of summer – these create an extended metaphor (a metaphor that plays out across the novel) that symbolizes Melinda's movement from frozen muteness to fluid speech.

Closets: The closets in Speak have a double meaning. They are places of contemplation and safety, but also of isolation and terror. The empty supply closet at school provides Melinda with a place to reflect on her artwork and her life, take naps, vent her emotions, and hide from mean people at school. When she feels that Andy Evans has been exposed as a predator to the student body, she decides she doesn't need the closet. She thinks, Grades: Bad grades aren't always a sign that a student has suffered a trauma. In Melinda's case, it's striking because, according to Mom and Dad, she used to get good grades. Along with the host of other negative signs Melinda is giving off, bad grades is a sign that something is seriously wrong with Melinda. Unfortunately, adults just seem to give her a hard time about it and don't pick up on the truth. We do, though. At the end of every part of the novel (the "marking periods") we learn Melinda's grades. How well she's doing in school also tells us how well she's doing internally.

Mirrors / Vision: Aha! The broken glasses, the twisted contact, the fake eye, the blindness – when you find these in a story you can expect characters to undergo drastic changes in vision. Often characters move from unclear to clear vision over the course of the story. This seems to be true of many of the characters in Speak, especially Melinda. When she can see clearly, she's able to make her life clear to the very confused people around her.



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