Where does the novel Speak take place?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson takes place in Syracuse, New York. This is mentioned in the first chapter of the novel when Melinda tells us:

The sun doesn't shine much in Syracuse, so the art room is designed to get every bit of light it can.

The placement of the...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson takes place in Syracuse, New York. This is mentioned in the first chapter of the novel when Melinda tells us:

The sun doesn't shine much in Syracuse, so the art room is designed to get every bit of light it can.

The placement of the story in Syracuse is crucial because it relates to the weather and sets a mood for the reader. The idea that there is not much light in much of the school is symbolic for the darkness that Melinda feels there, as an outcast. She called the police on a party and is a persona-non-grata among her peers because of the arrests made. No one knows that she was raped at the party, and as a result, she is left isolated from everyone, including her old friends.

The presence of the light in the art room is also significant because art is the one class that Melinda loves. She can express herself through what she creates in a way that she can't do otherwise.

Along with being set in Syracuse, the novel mostly takes place at Melinda's school: Merryweather High School. The school is a lot like any other high school, complete with strange teachers and cliques. Melinda doesn't fit in anywhere and many of the interactions with other people are set during classes and passing periods. Much of the development of Melinda as a character and her journey to find her voice again comes while she is at school.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The setting of Speak is a high school in Syracuse, New York right before the turn of the twenty-first century.

Setting is the landscape of a story.  It includes the time period, the location, and the culture in which the book is set.  Teenage high school culture is an important part of the book.

High school is a hellish place.  Melinda attends Merryweather High School. The book begins at the beginning of freshman year.

It is my first morning of high school.  I have seven new notebooks, a skirt I hate, and a stomachache. (p. 3)

Melinda describes herself as an outcast, and describes the other kids as all falling into specific cliques based on their interests.  She describes them as “clans,” including the “Jocks, Country Clubbers, Idiot Savants, Cheerleaders” and so on (p. 4).  The novel follows her throughout her first year, as her life slowly falls apart.

High school is a time and place where kids turn on you.  Melinda basically describes high school as this world.  All of the kids hate her, including her former best friend Rachel.  She is considered a “ho” and a snitch for calling the police on a party.  She does not tell anyone she was raped.

Over the course of the year, Melinda grows.  At the end, she confronts Andy as he tries to rape her.  She has found her strength, and other kids respect her too.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team