Characters

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 360

Laurie Halse Anderson is a sexual assault survivor. In her latest book, Shout, she delves into the world of free-verse narrative. Shout is a memoir written in poetry. Anderson’s words are poignant accounts of her childhood and beyond, including the abuse she endured as a child growing up in a dysfunctional family. After publishing the groundbreaking novel Speak, Anderson stepped into the public light as an advocate for sexual assault survivors. In that light, Anderson the advocate explains how she came to admit to the public that she is a survivor.

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People who influenced Anderson during her prominent years growing up (i.e., parents, teachers, and friends) are the central characters in her memoir. Some of these characters are involved in the recollections and flashbacks endured by Anderson as a survivor coping with PTSD. Anderson writes in the introduction, “This is the story of a girl who lost her voice and wrote herself a new one.” Her voice shouts out to all sexual assault survivors in relatable free verse.

Anderson’s first two characters are her parents. She got her poetry skills from her father, which she recognizes in the introduction. The next character is her mother, followed closely by her sister, a friend named Leslie, and the “shiver of slippery boys” at the public swimming pool. The alliteration here is stark. The older boys are the grabby sharks, and the younger girls the “chum”: “Girls stay in the shadows after their baptism of bait.”

Many of the poems mention influential people. For example, Mrs. Sheedy-Shea taught Anderson how to write haiku, and Mr. Edwards “changed her life.” Then there was that boy who forced himself on her down by the creek. She was in middle school at the time, and her parents had stopped caring about the important stuff.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the character development in Shout is Anderson's inclusion of scenes from some of her most important public talks. This makes the “public” a central character in a cathartic message to other victims of sexual assault. Presenting the public in this way gives Anderson’s words a feeling of empathy that readers cannot escape.

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