Trees as Symbols in Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

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					Trees as Symbols…
 Trees as Symbols in Speak by
    Laurie Halse Anderson

                          In Speak
                                  by
               Laurie Halse Anderson
Directions for this Lesson:
              • Today you will be
                learning about the
                symbolism Laurie Halse
                Anderson uses
                surrounding “trees”.
              • Some parts of the lesson
                are presenting new
                information. Anything
                you find important, you
                should take notes on, just
                as you would off the
                board.
              • Anything in red italics is a
                question for the group to
                discuss.
         WHAT IS A SYMBOL?
• A word, phrase, or image that has complex meanings.
• In other words, when a certain object, picture or idea
  is used in literature to really represent something else,
  it is a symbol.
• If you are reading and a certain idea or object keeps
  reappearing, being described in interesting and complicated
  ways, there is a good chance it is meant to be looked at on a
  deeper level…perhaps a symbol of something else!
• For example: We notice that Laurie Halse Anderson
  continually brings up trees in Speak, so it becomes our job
  as the reader to look deeper into why she makes such a big
  deal about trees. What is she really trying to get us to see?
                    What is a tree, really?

• A tree is a plant that
        occurs in many
  different forms. Trees
      show a variety of
    formations—including
    different leaf type
       and shape, bark
    characteristics, and
    reproductive organs.
 • Compared with most other
    plants, trees are long-lived,
  some reaching several thousand
   years old and growing to up to
             379 ft high.
     Melinda’s Connection to Trees…
-Melinda first starts thinking about trees when
She draws “TREE”” out of a globe for her year-long art
assignment in Mr. Freeman’s class.

-At first she is annoyed, thinking, “Tree? That is too easy!
Anyone can draw a tree." But she soon comes to realize the
complexity and beauty that lies within the subject.

-As the novel continues, we start to see that Melinda has a
deeper connection to trees than just an art assignment…it’s up
to us to find the other
Meanings that lie within the text………………..
The Roots of a Tree and
       Melinda: of a tree are
            • The roots
                 embedded in earth, providing
                 an anchor and a way to absorb
                 water and nutrients from the
                 soil.
               • While ground nutrients are essential
                 to a tree's growth, the majority of its
                 growth comes from carbon dioxide
                 absorbed from the atmosphere.
               • The roots systems of trees are
                 intricate and complicated…

                  • WHAT ARE MELINDA’S
                        “ROOTS”?

               • What “embeds and anchors
                          her”?
What happens when “roots”
   become damaged?
                 • Damaging roots on a tree
                   may cause branches to die.
            • You cannot have healthy branches if
              the roots are damaged. Eventually
              the “disease” will spread throughout
              the tree, taking over.

                 •     How have Melinda’s “roots”
                            been damaged?

             •        Once her roots were damaged,
                       what were the consequences
                     that followed? What “branches”
                            withered and died?
       The branch system of a tree…
• A tree branch is a woody
  structural piece connected to
  but not part of the central
  trunk of a tree.

•     Large branches are known as
     boughs and small branches
     are known as twigs.

• A bough can also be called a limb or
  arm.
        • What are Melinda’s
            “branches”?

    • What people or things does
     she feel connected to but not a
                 part of?
                                Pruning 101…
• Pruning is when branches are cut
  back.
• If you do not prune branches, the
  tree will become overgrown.
„ If you prune too much, the tree will bear
  less fruit and leaves, and will not appear
  “beautiful”.
• Removal of deadwood or diseased
  limbs will usually result in an ugly
  plant.

        • Has Melinda lost so many
        “branches” that she is now ugly?

    •   Who is responsible for breaking
           down these branches?
              What happens when tree
               branches are pruned?
•       Pruning can be harmful to a
        newly planted tree’s health.
• Pruning branches on trees not yet
  planted does not help a tree grow
  better or establish a balance
  between the roots and the branches.
•       A newly planted tree needs all the
        leaves it has to help support the
        growth of new roots. Pruning trees
        before they are ready hurts the tree’s
        ability to become established.
    •    How do you think the events in
         Melinda’s life will shape the way
         she grows and develops in the
                       future?
Trees + Symbolism = Melinda?




• Clearly Laurie Halse Anderson has a
    plan when she “plants” the idea of
                 trees in this novel.
• The tree gradually becomes a symbol in the text that
        represents Melinda’s suffering and recovery.
• Does this symbol make sense to you? Is it a good choice by the
             author to use a tree to symbolize Melinda?
    What happens when trees become
               “sick”?
• When a tree becomes sick, it
  must either be cared for, or
  chopped down.

• If it is ignored, it
  will continue to rot
  until eventually it
  dies.

    •    Can we say the same for humans?
        Once someone is mentally “sick” like
        Melinda, will they eventually die if they
                  are not cared for?

•       How will Melinda be healed enough to
         shed her unhealthy bark and dead
           leaves in order to grow anew?
  Interpret a quote…
• “The sun goes behind a cloud and I shiver. I should
    have worn a sweatshirt. The wind rustles dead
     leaves still clinging to the oak branches by the
    street. All I can think of is that the rest of the
    leaves are going to drop and I’ll have to keep on
     raking…I shouldn’t have raked anything. Look
                       what I started.”
            • (Melinda, page 167 of Speak)

• What is Melinda referring to when she talks about “raking
                        up dead leaves”?
 • Do you agree with her, should she have “never started”
   raking up leaves if it seems they’ll just continue falling?
     Why a tree as a symbol?
• Because of their shape – a
   central trunk with branches like
   arms and fingers, bark like skin
   – trees lend themselves to
   identification with the human
   form.
• We can compare trees and
   humans easily in how they look.
   However, we can also compare
   the way trees grow and die to the
   human life as well.
  • What other things in nature
      could we compare human
               beings to?
                      Your Task:
• Laurie Halse Anderson
  chose to use the tree as a
  symbol for Melinda in
  Speak.
• Now you will choose a
  symbol that you feel
  represents Melinda.
• You may draw the symbol if
  you wish, or you can just
  journal about it. You will use
  the remaining time in class
  to create your symbol and
  describe it in as much detail
  as possible.