Themes in Speak
- The novel, Speak, allows students and teachers to discuss many important teen issues. Below is a list of themes to jump start a discussion of the novel's main ideas. You may use these as discussion starters, writing activities, or class projects.
- Friends and Enemies: Who are Melinda's friends? Who are her enemies? Do some characters act as both? What cliques are present in the novel? How do these cliques affect outsiders like Melinda?
Depression: Although the novel never directly states it, Melinda is obviously dealing with depression throughout her freshman year. What are the signs that point to Melinda's depression?
Isolation: Melinda speaks of being an "outcast" among her peers. What causes Melinda's isolation? How does the janitor's closet relate to this theme? Who helps Melinda come out of isolation?
- Education: Think about Melinda's teachers. She describes them in very different ways. What do Melinda's teachers teach her? What does the novel teach us? What different kinds of education does Melinda get in the novel? What do Melinda's end of semester progress reports tell us about her development?
- The Individual vs. Society: How does Melinda interact with society? What role does society play in her depression and isolation?
- Rape and violence: What does the novel teach us about rape? What misconceptions are there about rape? How does our society's perception of rape affect victims of sexual violence? What can we do to help?
Challenges and Triumphs: What are Melinda's challenges to recovery? What are her triumphs?
Families: Describe Melinda's family. How do they help or hinder her recovery?
- Healing power of Art: What power does Mr. Freeman's art class hold for Melinda? Why does she refer to art class as her "sanctuary"? How does her art project reveal her inner journey?
- Guilt and Blame: Does Melinda feel guilt? What do you make of Andy Evans' lack of guilt? Who is to blame for Melinda's troubles? How responsible are her parents and teachers for her ongoing depression? How responsible are her friends?
- Hiding and silence: Why does Melinda hide what happened to her at the party? How does she hide and from whom? Why does Melinda find it hard to speak? Where does Melinda seek shelter? What helps Melinda finally come out of hiding and break her silence? When is silence a bad thing?