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by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak Theme of Education

Speak is what fancy literary types call a Bildungsroman. That's a German word meaning novel (roman) + education (bildung), or novel of education. Melinda Sordino, the star of Speak, goes through intense growth over the course of the story. Coming-of-age novels are often novels of education and like Speak they often (not always!) take place in school settings. Here we can learn a little about biology, art, literature, civil rights, and even some Spanish. But that's just a bonus. Our real fascination lies in following Melinda through her education or re-education of the heart. In "Tone," we suggest that Speak is also a novel meant specifically to educate the public, or at least open a dialogue, on the subject of rape and its aftermath. The novel also teaches about the power that speech has to hurt and to make things better.

Questions About Education

  1. What is the most important thing you learned from the novel? What's the most important thing Melinda learns?
  2. Does Melinda get practical knowledge at school? If so, like what? If not, why not?
  3. What does Melinda learn from Mr. Freeman?
  4. What does Melinda learn from her own deep thinking?
  5. Does Melinda teach any of the other characters anything? If so, what? If not, why not?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Speak makes high school seem worse than it is.

Speak's main purpose is to help young people learn to talk about their problems.

The characters in the novel don't reach out to Melinda because they are not educated about sexual assault.

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