List figurative language examples from "Marking Period 1" in Speak.

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In the First Marking Period, Melinda is entering high school with no friends and no self-esteem. She has a dark secret that no one knows or understands. This secret creates conflict for the entire story, but it also causes Melinda to suffer for the majority of her freshman year.

Her...

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In the First Marking Period, Melinda is entering high school with no friends and no self-esteem. She has a dark secret that no one knows or understands. This secret creates conflict for the entire story, but it also causes Melinda to suffer for the majority of her freshman year.

Her struggle is felt through the tone and mood of the book because of Anderson's use of devices such as figurative language. Figurative language uses different types of comparisons to create vivid images the reader will understand. These images help the reader feel what the characters are feeling by engaging the senses.

Here are some examples from the first section of the book:

A metaphor compares two unlike things. When you use a metaphor, you speak of one thing as if it were another.

  • "Our clan, the Plain Janes, has splintered and the pieces are being absorbed by rival factions" (4).
  • "I stand in the auditorium, a wounded zebra in a National Geographic special" (5).
  • "My room belongs to an alien" (15).
  • "My bed is sending out serious nap rays" (16).
  • My head explodes with the noise of fire trucks leaving the station" (39).

Melinda is not a literal zebra, nor does her head literally explode, but these metaphors help the reader understand how she is feeling during times of stress.

A simile uses a comparison between two unlike things. What differentiates a simile from a metaphor are the words "like" or "as."

  • "Mr. Freeman is ugly. Big old grasshopper body, like a stilt-walking circus guy" (10).
  • "Nose like a credit card sunk between his eyes" (10).
  • "I have been dropped like a hot Pop Tart" (21).

These similes compare objects to Mr. Freeman to help the reader comprehend what he looks like through Melinda's eyes. The last simile helps us understand how quickly Melinda's friends bailed on her.

Personification is when you give non-human things human characteristics. This means an object will take on human behaviors such as talking or movement.

  • "The school bus wheezes to my corner" (3).
  • "Words climb up my throat" (5).
  • "The room screams Heather" (33).

Personification adds life to a rather boring moment. Melinda could have said Heather's room reflected her personality, but instead, the room screaming Heather's name exaggerates the idea while still providing the same understanding that Heather's room reflects who and what she is.

An Analogy is a device that takes two groupings of unlike things and compares them to form a bridge of understanding. It's like saying, "these two things are like these other two things."

  • "Art follows lunch, like dream follows nightmare" (9).
  • "He talks about algebra the way some guys talk about their cars" (38).

These analogies help the reader see that art class is like a dream, and Mr. Stetson has a deep passion for his subject.

An Idiom is a common phrase or expression that uses literal ideas to create a figurative message.

  • "Better the Devil you know than the Trojan you don't, I guess" (4).

Melinda uses an idiom about the Devil but transforms it to connect to her school. The original idiom is "Better the Devil you know than the Devil you don't." This twist is humorous and a nod at a common phrase about knowing the evils in your life.

An Allusion is reference or idea from a text/film within another text/film. This allusion references the Holy Trinity from the Bible.

  • "The closest we have come to worship is the Trinity of Visa, MasterCard, and American Express" (29).

Through Melina Sordino, Laurie Halse Anderson creates a world of teenage angst, struggle, and overcoming. These examples help Melinda express her feelings which allow the reader to fully grasp her pain and journey to overcoming her trauma.

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The author uses different types of figurative language in "Marking Period 1." After her former best friend mouths the words "I hate you," the narrator, Melinda, says, "My lip bleeds a little. It tastes like metal" (page 4). This is a form of figurative language called a simile that is used to compare the taste of blood to a metallic taste.

Melinda compares herself to "a wounded zebra," using another form of figurative language called a metaphor (page 5). This metaphor suggests that she is an outcast in the jungle of high school. When another social outcast approaches Melinda, she says, "Another wounded zebra turns and smiles at me" (page 5). The two wounded zebras huddle together when Melinda writes that "a predator approaches" (page 5). Using a metaphor, she compares a mean-looking jock to a predator who is hunting her. Later, she compares a tall senior to a basketball pole and writes, "I follow the Basketball Pole into the cafeteria" (page 8). These types of figurative language are fitting for the social word of high school, which often feels like a jungle and in which people are often described by their salient physical characteristics.

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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.

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