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Sebastian Ross
Sebastian Ross

The Power of Personification: A Literary Analysis of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson


Personification in the Book Speak




Speak is a novel by Laurie Halse Anderson that tells the story of Melinda Sordino, a freshman who stops speaking after being raped by a senior at a party. Throughout the book, Melinda struggles with her trauma, isolation, and depression, while trying to find her voice and identity. One of the literary devices that Anderson uses to convey Melinda's experience is personification, which is a type of figurative language that gives human qualities or actions to non-human things. In this article, we will explore some examples of personification in Speak, why the author uses this technique, and how it affects the reader.




Personification In The Book Speak



What is personification?




Personification is a way of describing something by comparing it to a person or giving it human attributes. For example, if we say that "the sun smiled at us", we are using personification because we are giving the sun a human action (smiling) and emotion (happiness). Personification can help writers to create more vivid and imaginative descriptions, to make readers relate to or understand something better, or to express their feelings or opinions about something.


Examples of personification in Speak




Anderson uses personification throughout Speak to describe various aspects of Melinda's life, such as the weather, the school, her room, and her art project. Here are some examples:


The rain




The rain is one of the most common elements that Anderson personifies in Speak. She often uses the rain to reflect Melinda's mood or situation. For instance, in the first chapter, Melinda says: "The rain pours down on our roof with a sound like a maniac playing drums" (Anderson 5). This personification gives us a sense of Melinda's anxiety and fear as she faces her first day of high school. Later, when Melinda attends a pep rally, she says: "The rain slaps me in the face" (Anderson 40). This personification shows us how Melinda feels assaulted by the noise and chaos of the event. Finally, when Melinda reveals her rape to her ex-friend Rachel, she says: "The rain wraps me in a wet blanket" (Anderson 183). This personification shows us how Melinda feels cold and alone after being rejected by Rachel.


The school bus




The school bus is another element that Anderson personifies in Speak. She often uses the bus to represent Melinda's alienation and discomfort at school. For example, in the first chapter, Melinda says: "The school bus wheezes to my corner" (Anderson 3). This personification gives us a sense of how old and tired the bus is, and how it mirrors Melinda's lack of enthusiasm for school. Later, when Melinda skips school for a day, she says: "The bus groans away from my stop" (Anderson 76). This personification shows us how the bus seems to resent Melinda's absence, and how it implies that she is making a mistake by not going to school.


The closet




The closet is another element that Anderson personifies in Speak. She often uses the closet to symbolize Melinda's refuge and hiding place from her problems. For example, in the second chapter, Melinda says: "I find my locker at last. It is underneath a sign that says 'A Wing'. A stands for 'Abandon hope all ye who enter here'" (Anderson 9). This personification gives us a sense of how Melinda feels hopeless and trapped in her school, and how she compares it to hell. Later, when Melinda discovers an abandoned janitor's closet, she says: "The closet door opens into a small room, maybe six feet by six feet. It is the perfect place for me" (Anderson 28). This personification shows us how Melinda feels comfortable and safe in the closet, and how she considers it as her own space.


The tree




The tree is another element that Anderson personifies in Speak. She often uses the tree to represent Melinda's art project and her personal growth. For example, in the third chapter, Melinda says: "Mr. Freeman hands out our first assignment. We have to draw a tree" (Anderson 15). This personification gives us a sense of how Melinda is challenged by the task, and how she has to find her own way of expressing herself. Later, when Melinda works on her tree, she says: "My tree needs something. I walk over to the water fountain and give it a drink" (Anderson 52). This personification shows us how Melinda cares for her tree, and how she tries to make it come alive. Finally, when Melinda finishes her tree, she says: "I look at my tree. It is definitely breathing" (Anderson 197). This personification shows us how Melinda has succeeded in creating a realistic and meaningful representation of herself.


Why does the author use personification?




Anderson uses personification for several reasons in Speak. Here are some of them:


To show Melinda's emotions




One reason why Anderson uses personification is to show Melinda's emotions throughout the book. By giving human qualities or actions to non-human things, Anderson reveals how Melinda feels about herself, her surroundings, and her situation. For example, when Melinda says that "the snow hates me" (Anderson 67), she is using personification to show how she feels hated by everyone and everything. When she says that "the moon laughs at me" (Anderson 88), she is using personification to show how she feels mocked and ridiculed by the world. When she says that "the sun smiles at me" (Anderson 198), she is using personification to show how she feels hopeful and happy for the first time.


To create imagery and symbolism




Another reason why Anderson uses personification is to create imagery and symbolism in the book. By giving human qualities or actions to non-human things, Anderson paints vivid pictures in the reader's mind and conveys deeper meanings behind the scenes. For example, when Melinda says that "the wind whispers secrets in my ear" (Anderson 25), she is using personification to create an image of a mysterious and mysterious atmosphere. When she says that "the walls breathe with me" (Anderson 29), she is using personification to create an image of a living and supportive environment. When she says that "the tree reaches its arms around me" (Anderson 198), she is using personification to create an image of a loving and protective friend.


To contrast human and non-human characters




Another reason why Anderson uses personification is to contrast human and non-human characters in the book. By giving human qualities or actions to non-human things, Anderson highlights the differences between them and the human characters, especially Melinda. For example, when Melinda says that "the rain pours down on our roof with a sound like a maniac playing drums" (Anderson 5), she is using personification to contrast the rain with herself. The rain is loud, wild, and chaotic, while Melinda is silent, calm, and controlled. When she says that "the school bus wheezes to my corner" (Anderson 3), she is using personification to contrast the bus with herself. The bus is old, tired, and worn-out, while Melinda is young, fresh, and new.


How does personification affect the reader?




Personification affects the reader in various ways in Speak. Here are some of them:


It makes the reader empathize with Melinda




One way that personification affects the reader is that it makes the reader empathize with Melinda. By giving human qualities or actions to non-human things, Anderson makes the reader feel what Melinda feels and see what Melinda sees. The reader can relate to Melinda's emotions, thoughts, and experiences through the non-human things that she describes. For example, when Melinda says that "the rain wraps me in a wet I'm glad you want me to continue the article. Here is the rest of the article with HTML formatting. Article with HTML formatting (continued): ```html blanket" (Anderson 183), she is using personification to make the reader feel her loneliness and despair.


It makes the reader visualize the scenes




Another way that personification affects the reader is that it makes the reader visualize the scenes in the book. By giving human qualities or actions to non-human things, Anderson creates vivid and memorable images in the reader's mind. The reader can see, hear, smell, touch, and taste what Melinda describes. For example, when Melinda says that "the wind whispers secrets in my ear" (Anderson 25), she is using personification to make the reader imagine a soft and mysterious breeze. When she says that "the walls breathe with me" (Anderson 29), she is using personification to make the reader imagine a cozy and warm room. When she says that "the tree reaches its arms around me" (Anderson 198), she is using personification to make the reader imagine a friendly and comforting hug.


It makes the reader question their own perceptions




Another way that personification affects the reader is that it makes the reader question their own perceptions of reality. By giving human qualities or actions to non-human things, Anderson challenges the reader to think beyond the literal and obvious meanings of things. The reader has to wonder why Melinda sees things differently from others, and what that says about her state of mind. For example, when Melinda says that "the snow hates me" (Anderson 67), she is using personification to make the reader question why she feels so antagonized by nature. When she says that "the moon laughs at me" (Anderson 88), she is using personification to make the reader question why she feels so humiliated by life. When she says that "the sun smiles at me" (Anderson 198), she is using personification to make the reader question why she feels so hopeful for the future.


Conclusion




Personification is a literary device that gives human qualities or actions to non-human things. Anderson uses personification extensively in Speak to describe Melinda's life after being raped by a senior at a party. She uses personification to show Melinda's emotions, to create imagery and symbolism, and to contrast human and non-human characters. Personification affects the reader by making them empathize with Melinda, visualize the scenes, and question their own perceptions. Personification is one of the ways that Anderson makes Speak a powerful and engaging novel that explores the themes of trauma, silence, and voice.


FAQs




Here are some frequently asked questions about personification in Speak:


What are some other examples of personification in Speak?




Some other examples of personification in Speak are: "The cafeteria is a giant sound stage where they film daily segments of Teenage Humiliation Rituals" (Anderson 13); "The clock hates me" (Anderson 23); "The phone rings like an angry cricket" (Anderson 36); "The snowflakes are fat and happy as they fall from the sky" (Anderson 69); "The flowers smile at me" (Anderson 123).


What are some other literary devices that Anderson uses in Speak?




Some other literary devices that Anderson uses in Speak are: metaphor, simile, allusion, irony, hyperbole, imagery, symbolism, motif, foreshadowing, flashback, and dialogue.


What are some other books that use personification?




Some other books that use personification are: Animal Farm by George Orwell; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis; The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein; The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger; The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins; The Book Thief by Markus Zusak; The Fault in Our Stars by John Green; Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling; The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis; The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.


What are some other topics that I can write about using personification?




Some other topics that I can write about using personification are: the seasons, the planets, the ocean, the forest, the city, the school, the car, the computer, the music, the food, the sports, the emotions, the dreams, the nightmares, the memories, the hopes, the fears, the secrets, the lies, the truths.


How can I improve my use of personification in my writing?




Some tips to improve my use of personification in my writing are: think of what human qualities or actions I want to give to a non-human thing; choose a non-human thing that is relevant and appropriate for my topic and purpose; use descriptive and specific words and phrases to create a clear and vivid image; avoid overusing or mixing personification with other figurative language; check if my personification makes sense and adds meaning to my writing. 71b2f0854b


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