Art has the power to express what words cannot; it describes what one is feeling and thinking. The novel “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson demonstrates how art can express more than a thousand words. Her artwork is a symbol of how she struggles with finding her herself like she struggles to create the perfect tree. Melinda’s efforts to create the right tree in her art class represent her hardship and her ability to overcome them. Melinda is struggling with hiding and isolating herself from everyone and dealing with accepting herself. Melinda hides herself from everyone by hiding herself in a secret closet, this allows her to hide her mistakes just like one of the trees she creates with “some thick branches, a bunch of thinner branches and plenty of leaves to hide mistakes” (Anderson, 32). Melinda hiding her mistakes in her artwork is like her hiding the rape from everyone. Her mentality is that if she continues to hide what happened eventually it will be as if nothing ever happened. Later when everyone finds out about the rape she no longer feels the need to hide herself.
Subsequent to being raped Melinda is disgusted by herself she cannot bear to look at herself she thinks of herself the same way she thinks of her tree “a flat, cheap cruddy drawing and [she] has no idea how to make it come alive”(Anderson, 55). She is horrified by the look of herself. In her closet she covers up the mirrors because the closet is her safe space and by seeing the way she looks it reminds her of what happened. Seeing herself reminds her of that night because seeing the way she’s transformed from a pretty girl with friends to a girl with no friends and multiple bruises and cuts on her face all because of Andy Evans. She was then only able to look at herself in her moms store where as it was through a 3 way mirror making her reflection appear broken into several small pieces which is exactly how she feels on the inside.
Melinda struggles with isolating herself and accepting herself since she just can’t seem to let go of what happened to her on that night. Melinda overcomes some of her obstacles by cutting down the dead branches of the tree on her yard and when Mr. Freeman tells her a perfect tree doesn’t exist, trees with flaws are perfect. When Melinda’s biology class was done studying Germination Melinda grew an interest for the tree in her yard so she eventually cut off the branches because “those branches were long dead from disease. All plants are like that by cutting of the damage, you make it possible for the tree to grow again” (Anderson 187). When she was cutting down these dead branches it was like her cutting off the shackles of her past allowing her to continue positively with her life leaving that night behind.
Melinda had been letting that one detail of her life overpower every other part, creating all the problems she was facing. Once she let go of that night her life started to quickly recover. For the entire year she has been trying to perfect her tree like she’s been trying to hide the mistakes she made although instead of hiding her mistake she needs to let it go just like how she needs to accept her tree will never be perfect by the reason of “perfect trees don’t exist. Nothing is perfect. Flaws are interesting” (Anderson, 153).
The flaws on the tree represent her mistake, mistakes make the person, a person without flaws does not exist and it’s one choice whether they’re going to hide their flaws or if they’re going to try to move on and accept it. Melinda decided that what happened, already happened there’s nothing she can do about the past all she can do is move on with her life and leave the past behind. So as she began to heal her artwork got better; as she decides to cut off the negative things in her life and as she acknowledges that no one is perfect her artwork improves drastically