How does characterization effect the development of the plot in Speak?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that Melinda's characterization in the novel helps to reveal the plot.  An argument can be made that her characterization is the plot of the narrative.  There is a central conflict present in the novel and this is what drives its plot.  Where characterization is essential is that this conflict is about Melinda's ability to reclaim her voice and her identity; to "speak."  The only way that Anderson can develop this plot effectively is through developing her own characterization.  Melinda is presented much differently in the beginning than she is in the middle and end of the narrative.  It is through this characterization that the plot is revealed.  How Melinda endures the act itself, the public shunning as a response, as well as the embrace of her own sense of identity are all examples of the characterization of the protagonist as well as the development of the plot in the narrative.  This is essential for Melinda and for the narrative structure.  The plot is not about her getting revenge nor is it about any type of legal justice being brought.  It is about her, and her own reclamation of voice and identity.  Since this is the plot of the story, the characterization and arc of Melinda's development becomes the plot because this development moves towards whether or not she will possess her voice.  In this, the characterization of the protagonist is the plot of her story.

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