Figurative language is an effective tool in any piece of literature because it aids the author in illustrating thoughts, feelings and ideas. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is no exception. Marking period 1 is full of simile, metaphor, personification and imagery examples.
In the beginning of the chapter "Welcome to Merryweather High," the bus pick up contains personification, metaphor, and simile:
"The school bus wheezes to my corner," (3) represents personification because a school bus is an inanimate object that cannot make human sounds. In fretting over where to sit, Melinda tosses the idea of sitting in the back, explaining she's never been a "backseat wastecase," (3) and exhibiting metaphor. She further debates sitting in the front and decides if she does it will make her "look like a little kid," (3), which is simile because it's a comparison of Melinda to a kid using like. Imagery is illustrated on the bus ride in to school as the students notice the "janitors painting over the sign in front of the high school," (3) for yet another mascot/name change. This represents a clear depiction of what's happening.
The marking period continues to employ figurative language for effect. In the auditorium, Melinda is made more nervous being surrounded by her ex-friends, especially her ex-best friend, Rachel. This is highlighted in the example of personification, "Words climb up my throat," (5) and imagery, "I hate you,' she mouths," (5). Melinda compares herself metaphorically to "a wounded zebra in a National Geographic special, looking for someone, anyone, to sit next to," (5), clearly describing the way it feels to be an outcast.
Metaphor is further exemplified as Melinda makes her way to lunch by diving "into the stream of fourth-period lunch students and swim[ming] down the hall to the cafeteria," (7). Her humiliation only grows as a lump of mashed potatoes and gravy misses its mark "and hits [her] square in the center of [her] chest," (8), highlighting imagery.
In Spanish class, Melinda's teacher's actions illustrate both imagery and simile, respectively: "She tries one more time and smacks herself so hard on the forehead she staggers a bit. Her forehead is as pink as her lipstick," (13).
In her bedroom, Melinda (as narrator) uses metaphor to explain the outdated decorum: "My room belongs to an alien. It is a postcard of who I was in fifth grade," (15). Then, she uses personification to rule out the chance of doing any homework, "My bed is sending out serious nap rays," (16). Perhaps the best use of metaphor is in the mini-chapter "Burrow." The title itself lends itself to the meaning of a hiding place, which is exactly what Melinda discovers in the abandoned janitors' closet.
The subsequent mini-chapters continue to use multiple examples of figurative language. Speak provides an excellent example of how a narrator can effect the reader with language.