Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 396
It has been twenty years since Laurie Halse Anderson published the novel Speak. In that time Anderson has become an advocate for the rights of sexual assault survivors. Her insight, empathy, and compassion surrounding the systemic problem of sexism and inequality in our culture make her a formidable force, one immeasurably strengthened by her own admission of being raped at age thirteen. A broad theme of Shout is “speaking truth to power,” a theme that relates to contemporary movements like #MeToo. In writing Shout, Anderson has composed a powerful collection of life’s moments. Written in free-verse form, these moments are poetic masterpieces that evoke emotion and pain as readers relate to her stories.
Shout’s themes are small and large. The small themes include those that influence life in little ways. For example, readers may think that “Ignoring Stupid Advice” is beneficial to developing personal opinions. In contrast, Anderson tells readers in poetic form that the opposite is true, that avoidance of “getting killed” may go without saying but still needs to be said. It is the little things in this poem that lead to one of the most consequential pieces of advice she offers:
Don’t get raped
cuz the jackasses and idiots will say
that’s your fault, too.
Of course, getting raped is not a personal choice. Anderson’s larger theme is a sense of powerlessness, the sense that she could not tell anyone of her own rape because culture and society not only expect, but also influence, some of the predatory behavior boys train for in social situations.
Girls, Halse writes, are like chum in the swimming pool, goggled at and teased by the older boys, the sharks. These are small moments with massive implications. Anderson recounts her own early experience with lust in the woods; she said no when the boy went too far, but she was ignored. Anderson demonstrates how these moments build up over the course of a childhood to create an adult. These are the moments in people’s lives that join other survivors’ stories as part of the #MeToo movement.
The themes of Shout reflect the events in a childhood that demonstrate and contribute to the sociocultural atmosphere of today’s interactions between men and women. While these interactions shaped the personality and well-being of Anderson growing up, they also helped her find her voice as an advocate.