Speak

From Wishbones to Wings: The Symbolism of Birds in "Speak" 9th Grade

Anguish, hope, and forgiveness may not be the first connections a person makes to the idea of birds. In her novel, Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson is able to transform ordinary birds into powerful symbols. Heavy/controversial topics are discussed in Anderson’s work, and not all of her message can be conveyed through literal concepts on the sentence level. The symbol of birds reflect protagonist Melinda’s inner conflicts as the story progresses. Anderson uses the evolution of birds and their meaning to Melinda Sordino to unify themes related to trauma, redemption, and freedom.

The evolution of the meaning of birds in this novel can be traced back to the Sordino family’s symbolic Thanksgiving turkey. The disastrous bird represents tradition - solidified by years of innocent childhood memories - that Melinda can no longer understand after being raped. On the other hand, Melinda’s parents idolize this turkey and what it stands for. They consider succeeding at their annual “holy obligation” as redemption for their failures as a family every other day. To Melinda’s mom in particular, “Thanksgiving dinner means something...if her mother cooks a proper Thanksgiving dinner, it says they’ll be a family for one more year.” The corrosive...

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