Art is commonly known as a “gateway to the imagination”, an escape from everyday life, where someone can just put something on paper, or chisel something. Art usually comes from the emotions of the artist. In the book Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, the main character Melinda, is a depressed freshman mute, who show her mood throughout the story by putting into her art.
In the first quarter of school, after a pep rally incident where everyone figures out that Melinda was the one who called the cops at a party over the summer, she feels even more depressed, and to show this in her art, she paints trees that were struck by lightning.
“I try to paint them so they are nearly dead, but not totally” (Page31). I think the art teacher can see this in her, because when he sees her painting, he just “raises his eyebrow”. Her painting the trees near death signifies how she feels about herself in life. She has no friends anymore, and now the entire school knows who she is and what she did, so now she’s even more depressed. Suicidal, perhaps?
Art is also important because it is the only academic class that she is doing good in, and the one that the teacher seems to give her one on one attention to her art. I think Mr. Freeman (the art teacher) seems to be a key in picking Melinda out of her slump of depression. “Nothing is perfect. Flaws are interesting.” (Page153). Now, Mr. Freeman may have been talking about the tree Melinda was drawing, but this I also think this can be directed toward Melinda. Melinda is in no meaning of the word “perfect”, or average, or run of the mill. She is different. A weird, yet interesting, different. I think Mr. Freeman can see this, and that’s why he tries to help her in here trying to make a tree.
Also, throughout the story, you see different moods she’s in at the time. At the beginning of the story, she obviously depressed, so she draws the lightning trees. But by the end of the story, when she’s finally accepted socially, she draws a beautiful tree, with happy little birds and stuff. She tries to express herself not by words, but through what she draws, and sculpts. If someone wanted to know how she was feeling, they didn’t have to ask for her to tell them, but they should’ve asked to see what she drew that day.
I think this story would seem empty without art class involved You get to see a different side of Melinda in art, one that isn’t as sarcastic towards everything. I think without art, Melinda would have never really found herself.