Speak

Theme

One theme of Speak is finding one's voice.[2] Another theme in the novel is identity.[4] The story can also be viewed as speaking out against violence and victimization.[10] Melinda feels guilty, even though she was a victim of sexual assault. Yet, by seeing other victims, like Rachel, Melinda is able to speak.[10] Some see Speak as a story of recovery.[1][4] According to Latham, writing/narrating her story has a therapeutic effect on Melinda, allowing her to "recreate" herself.[4]

Post traumatic stress disorder

One interpretation of Melinda's behavior is that it is symptomatic of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of her rape.[1][4] Like other trauma survivors, Melinda's desire to both deny and proclaim what happened produces symptoms that both attract and deflect attention.[4] Don Latham and Lisa DeTora both define Melinda's PTSD within the context of Judith Herman's three categories of classic PTSD symptoms: "hyperarousal", "intrusion", and "constriction".[3][4] Melinda displays hyperarousal in her wariness of potential danger.[3][4] Melinda will not go over to David's house after the basketball game, because she is afraid of what might happen.[3][4] Intrusion is depicted in the rape's disruption of Melinda's consciousness.[4] She tries to forget the event, but the memories keep resurfacing in her mind.[4] Constriction is illustrated in Melinda's silence and withdrawal from society.[4] Latham views Melinda's slow recovery as queer in its diversion from the normal treatment of trauma.[4] Melinda's recovery comes as a result of her own efforts, without professional help.[4] Further, DeTora notes the connection between trauma and "the unspeakable".[3]


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