a major theme

a major theme in melinas book

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As a coming of age novel, Speak has a strong focus on adolescence and the problems and desires associated with it. Despite Melinda's unusually traumatic experiences, almost every reader can connect to the world she lives in. Melinda lists the cliques that the ninth grade class has broken into: "Jocks, Country Clubbers, Idiot Savants, Cheerleaders, Human Waste, Eurotrash, Future Fascists of America, Big Hair Chix, the Marthas, Suffering Artists, Thespians, Goths, Shredders" (4), familiar high school groups. Many readers will also understand Melinda's feeling of adolescent social isolation. Her negative reactions to certain aspects of the school day, such as gym class ("Gym class should be illegal. It is humiliating" [18]) and lunch ("Nothing good ever happens at lunch. The cafeteria is a giant sound stage where they film daily segments of Teenage Humiliation Rituals. And it smells gross" [104]), are not unique to someone suffering from post-traumatic stress. Furthermore, Melinda exhibits a typical adolescent reaction to authority figures and rejects them by giving them ridiculous nicknames.

The theme of adolescence connects Melinda to the real world. Not only does it make her story easier to relate to, but it also makes it broadly applicable. Melinda's extraordinary circumstances just highlight the universal difficulties of adolescence--not just the social problems, but the conflicting pulls between the future adult self and the former child self. Melinda feels dismayed by the sexuality of her high school peers, largely because she is a victim of sexual violence, but also because she does not feel ready for this next phase of life. Coming to terms with what happened to her allows her to finally accept that she is entering this new stage, and look forward to her future.

For a complete list of themes, check out Gradesaver's theme page. The direct link is provided below.