Alternative Worldview – Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Subject: Sociology
Type: Critical Analysis Essay
Pages: 3
Word count: 762
Topics: High School, Rape, Social Issues, Social Psychology

Teenage is a very fragile level of life. The individuals at this level are at the most challenging stage because they are attempting to form an identity with which to identify with and that determines most of their decisions as well as the direction that their lives take. Any traumatic event at this level is tragic and leaves a reminder for the rest of their lives. The situation gets even worse when considering the female population. The novel entitled Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson presents such a case in a way that virtually all teenagers can relate with. A teenage girl is sexually assaulted weeks before she starts her high school life, which prompts her to make decisions that would affect most of her high school life. During her ordeal with abuse, she had accompanied her friends to a party in the woods after which she called the cps ruining the party for everyone else. However, her friends did not know why she called the cops, which was the primary reason for her being stigmatized. When the story begins, it makes the reader much uncomfortable, which turns out to be a good thing because it prompts them to think outside the box, which is required for those in the teenage level of life. The best direct quote from the text that explains the confusion that the author was experiencing is at the start of the novel stating, “If I sit in the middle, a stranger could sit next to me. If I sit in the front, it will make me look like a little kid, but I figure it’s the best chance I have to make eye contact with one of my friends, if any of them have decided to talk to me yet” (Anderson 3).

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From the perspective of the main character, Melinda, many occurrences in the school are either humiliating or uncomfortable. This makes her to change her overall view in that she isolates herself. While it appears a bad decision, it is actually an alternative worldview that only the teenagers can relate with. When isolated, they get the opportunity to digest what is happening around them and allow then to get an opportunity to react in a favorable manner. In the case of the character, she resorted to nonverbal communication most of the time as she tried to fit in a world that only looked humiliating. She also felt not ready for the coming phase of life that further confused her into anxiousness and fear that are signified by her constant acts of biting her lip or even running away at times. This is directly relatable by almost all teens who feel like they do not belong where they are. As such communication, which troubles most of the teenagers, is one way through which the world can be seen in a different way. For a guardian, isolation could mean that the individual is about to do something negative, which happens sometimes as is the case with suicidal thoughts, but it could also mean that the individual requires time before they can finally talk about the issues that they may be facing. At the end of the novel, Melinda was finally able to speak about the abuse after she had gathered all strength on how to do it and how to react to the resultant criticism. The struggles that Melinda was facing were made a bit easier by her decision to remain isolated before she could finally speak about it. While there are numerous ways of helping such a student, it should be noted that healing is a process that is only possible with the support of the individual that went through the ordeal. As such, if they do not want to talk about it, they should be given their space to come into terms with the issue. Moreover, it should be noted that communication is not only possible through verbal prose. For those dealing with issues such as what Melinda was facing, an ingenious way of communication can be employed like what she herself did which was directing her emotions to art and science. Therefore, in viewing the world differently, art and science should be given a place in gender and disability studies.

In conclusion, silence has a place as well as a purpose as opposed to what most people may think. With the application of silence and isolation, Melinda was able to come to terms with the humiliating ordeal she went through, which enabled her to channel her emotions to the proper channels thus making her struggles easier.

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  1. Anderson, Laurie H. Speak. New York: Penguin Group, 2006.
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