Student Question

In the novel Speak, what item does Melinda draw a word from in art class?

Quick answer:

In art class, Melinda pulls out a word from an old globe. The word is "tree," which is the object she will have to recreate in various forms.

Expert Answers

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In Speak, Mr. Freeman, the art teacher, fills an old globe with pieces of paper. He tells everyone to pull a piece of paper out of the globe. He has written a word on each piece of paper and wants his students to spend the rest of the school year turning each word into a piece of art. One word will be assigned to each student, and all are required to participate in the project.

Mr. Freeman tells the class that they can turn their words into sculptures, wood carvings, and papier-mâché. They can also draw, paint, or sketch their chosen words. He even suggests that his students may be able to use the computer lab to create computer-aided designs for their art projects.

When it comes to Melinda's turn, she picks a piece of paper with the word "tree" on it. Unimpressed by her pick, she reaches in for another piece of paper. However, Mr. Freeman stops her and says that she must stick with the choice she made.

For one of her first attempts, Melinda paints trees that have been hit by lightning. She tries to make them look like they're almost dead. Her work causes Mr. Freeman to raise his eyebrows, but he says nothing.

As time progresses, Melinda continues to work on her art project. Her initial attempts aren't very promising. She tries to draw trees on paper but they look like caricatures of real trees.

Her first real success comes after her father unwittingly botches Thanksgiving dinner. After the Thanksgiving recess, she takes the bones of the ruined turkey to art class. There, she glues the bones to a piece of wood and sticks plastic knives and forks into them. She also sticks in a half-melted palm tree from a Lego set. Finally, Melinda pops the head off of a Barbie doll and sets it inside the turkey bone exhibit. Mr. Freeman says that a slice of pumpkin pie would complete the exhibit and make it a "desserted island."

His comments lift Melinda's spirits, and she begins to believe that she can succeed with her art project. Her final touch is to stick a piece of tape over Barbie's mouth. Her actions prompt an ominous comment from Mr. Freeman, who tells her that her exhibit epitomizes pain.

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