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Laurie Halse Anderson Essay

As Cayla Mills once said, “You never know strong you are… until being strong is the only choice you have.” People in books, movies, and even in real-life don’t know their true strength until being strong is the only option they have. People will even become stronger and will demonstrate their strength by facing tough decisions and by dealing with their problems. Characters in books frequently demonstrate their true strength by overcoming obstacles in life. Throughout the books Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, characters demonstrate their strength by facing their problems. It is when they learn to speak up for themselves that they find their true strength and become even stronger than they were before. In the story Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Melinda discovers her true strength through her problems with bullying.

During the party over the summer, Melinda was raped and had not been able to speak up for herself. After the rape, she called the cops on the guy who had raped her. People had not treated her fairly because they thought she was strange for calling the cops at the party. She had not been able to tell anybody about what had really happened. Throughout the story, Melinda suffers to speak to other people. Since the story is told in first-person, the reader can understand the situations Melinda has suffered through. They feel her pain when Rachel walks up to her during the first day and says to her, “I hate you.” They also understand her difficulties with speaking up for herself. During the beginning, there are often conversations involving Melinda without her saying a word. When she decides to speak up for herself in the spring, she discovers her true strength and is able to tell Rachel, her ex-best friend, about the rape. Also, because Laurie Halse Anderson used symbolism effectively throughout the novel, the reader is able to understand Melinda in relation to a tree.

Similar to a tree, Melinda hibernates in the winter and goes dormant, but gains the strength the speak up for herself in the spring. Another example from the story Speak is when Melinda has to protect herself from Andy Evans. When she is attacked once again by Andy Evans in the janitor’s closet toward the end of the book, she is given two options: to let Andy Evans gain control of her and possibly rape her a second time, or to defend herself against Andy Evans, despite her fear. She chooses to stand up against Andy Evans and gains the courage to say “no” to him, which is what she wasn’t able to say during the rape at the party. When he assaults her further, she grabs a piece of the broken mirror and uses it to harm Andy Evans, disabling his speaking ability. During the entire first marking period, she tried to hide from mirrors so that she can’t look at herself. When she used the broken mirror to defend herself, it showed that she had the strength to face herself and to see that the rape had not been her fault.

Through this decision she has demonstrated her true strength, and shows that she finally has the strength to protect herself from Andy Evans. Throughout the book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Arnold must face both his problems at home and his problems at school in Reardan. At the beginning of the book, Arnold is treated poorly by the Indians on the rez for being bold enough to leave the rez and to go to Reardan. Arnold is also treated unfairly by the white people at Reardan for being the only Indian at the school. Toward the end of the book, however, Arnold gains the strength to start making new friends at Reardan. Even when his grandmother is, ironically, hit by a drunk driver and killed, he is able to demonstrate the strength he has gained from these new friends and from the hard choices he has made.

At the beginning of the book, Arnold is faced with two options: to either stay on the rez and face his drunken father along with the rest of the drunken Indians, or leave the rez to go to Reardan. It would have been easier to stay on the rez, knowing that he would not be treated the same by the Indians after leaving, but he chose to go to Reardan. Arnold was bold enough to leave the rez to go to Reardan, where he had decided that he would be able to get a better education. Arnold is certainly not treated the same by the Indians after leaving, nor is he treated fairly by the students at Reardan.

On the rez, he is frequently called an “apple,” meaning that he is white on the inside on red on the outside. By facing his problems head on, he is able to demonstrate true strength and is ultimately able to gain the trust of many students at Reardan. Cayla Mills once said, “You never know how strong you are… until being strong is the only choice you have.” The quote describes how you never know how strong you really are, until the times in life that you must be strong. By facing one’s problems, it is possible to demonstrate true strength. In many real life situations and in books, the strongest characters find their true strength through suffering and often don’t know how strong they are until faced with difficult decisions.


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