We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Speak

Speak

  

by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak Chapter 49 Summary

Code Breaking

  • It's Nathaniel Hawthorne Month at school. Melinda feels sorry for Hawthorne. She feels bad that the class is tearing apart every line of The Scarlet Letter.
  • Hairwoman says that to understand Hawthorne, you must understand his elaborate system of symbols.
  • Melinda thinks this is a little silly, but she enjoys it too. It's cool to think of Hawthorne writing in a kind of code to get his point across, while also keeping things interesting.
  • Hairwoman wants to know what "the house with bits of glass embedded in the walls" (49.7) symbolizes in Hawthorne's novel. Nobody answers.
  • Hairwoman says that glass in the walls suggests a house where something dangerous is going on.
  • Rachel, Melinda's ex-best friend, challenges Hairwoman. She argues that if Hawthorne wanted us to read his novels symbolically, he would have written a book called "Symbolism in My Books" (49.11). Otherwise, how can we know that Hawthorne meant us to interpret these symbols in a particular way?
  • Hairwoman replies, "This is Hawthorne, one of the greatest American novelists! He didn't do anything by accident – he was a genius" (49.12).
  • Rachel says that she actually likes the story, but she doesn't believe in reading it symbolically.
  • Hairwoman says that symbolism in Hawthorne is like the multiplication tables in math. Once you understand, it all makes sense.
  • She's really mad though – and she assigns an essay. Now everybody is mad at Rachel.
  • See what happens when you say what you believe?

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...

Advertisement