What is the symbolism of the tree throughout Speak?

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In the novel Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Melinda is given the task of working with a tree as her object for the year in Mr. Freeman's art class. This is not coincidental, as the tree symbolizes Melinda's growth throughout the novel.

In the beginning of the year, Melinda has a difficult time working with the tree. She begins by using watercolors to present the tree as a depiction of herself-- wounded. "I try to paint them so they are nearly dead, but not totally," (30-1). Her trees are alone and surrounded by darkness, which represents the way Melinda feels about herself during this time.

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caylarussell1 | Student

The tree symbolizes the development and growth that Melinda goes through throughout the story. A tree goes through stages as it grows from a bud to a full blooming tree. It even goes through different stages during different times of the year from cold and dead looking the winter, to beautiful and blooming in the spring. Melinda goes through something very horrible and it makes her feel cold and dead inside. But that does not define her, nor does it shape the rest of her life. She does make it through that stage and continues to grow and improve her life.