What does the recurring tree symbolize about Melinda?

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

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The original question had to be edited down.  The presence of the tree at different points of the narrative helps to bring to light the issue of change, regrowth, and rebirth.  The tree in winter time symbolizes Melinda because after her rape and social rejection, she too must shed her old sense of self and regenerate.  The frozen and hibernating qualities reflects how Melinda becomes reflective and seeks to better understand herself.  When she emerges into spring, there is a desire to plant things, to help generate life, and it is at this point where Melinda begins to emerge as a new person.  Her desire to be born again, to be replanted in the soil, is representative of how the natural process of regeneration.  The rebirth in spring time is similar to her own spiritual rebirth in terms of understanding what happened to her, her identity, and what she wants to be.  The tree's blossoming of leaves is representative of her warning Rachel about "IT" and seeking to no longer be silent.  Here again the tree's growth is akin to her own.  The assignment of the tree and its assembly is similar to her own assembly of self, something that she is able to grasp at the end of the novel when she sits down and talks with Mr. Freeman.  It is here in which the use of the tree and its recurring pattern is symbolic of Melinda herself and the thematic significance of the work.

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