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The Ways Character Melinda Stands Firm For Her Reputation In The Book Speak

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In the book Speak by Laurie Anderson, Melinda’s reputation ruined. Reputation, image, and impression are used in everyday situations affecting social status, self-esteem, and professional freedom. In the book, she loses her social position because of her past and present actions. Reputation is a social process that is an essential part of success, and a bad reputation can damage a future. People learn reputation, study others, and use it to make their own decisions. Melinda’s friends, therefore, consider her and make a decision not to associate with her due to her ruined reputation as quoted by Melinda in the book Speak ‘I don’t have anyone to sit with, I am an outcast” (Anderson 4).

Nonetheless, the Oxford dictionary’s definition of reputation is ‘the opinion that people have about what someone or something is like, based on what has happened in the past.” One’s reputation is created by every action and reaction. Their actions are generally reflected by the reactions of a collective group, not only one. Individuals who are thriving may always worry about keeping up their image, as it is an essential piece to progress in the social hierarchy. Reputation, similar to every single beneficial thing, needs constant effort. Many characters in the book Speak, focus on what the mass majority think of them, instead of focusing on personal relationships. This mindset leaves the characters blindsided to Melinda’s reality.

The primitive thought behind image and reputation is, to some degree, like reward and punishment. ‘A social dilemma is characterized by a conflict of interest between the welfare of the community and the performance of an individual” (Hauert, Christoph). In the fourth chapter of the Speak, Melinda is seen by the other girls as a trader for her past actions; in turn, Melinda gets bullied. The girls in the book choose to bully Melinda, because it was in their best interest to not associate with her. The girl’s bully and Andy’s rape make her feel uncomfortable and boycott her classes with the exception of the art class, which she finds enjoyable, and she cannot miss Mr. Freeman’s class. Based on her freshman experience and her former friend’s judgment, she finds a hideout at the old janitor’s room ‘I haven’t stumbled into the classroom. It is an old janitor’s closet’ (Anderson 25). The janitor’s old dusty place becomes her sanctuary, which serves her with the best peaceful environment at Merryweather High School.

Cooperation in a community seems to be fueled by its benefit. ‘Subjects direct their cooperative efforts preferentially towards defectors they have punished and away from those they haven’t punished; they avoid expending punitive effort on reforming defectors who only pose a risk to others” (Krasnow, Max M., et al.). That is to say, Melinda’s peers stop trying to help her because she is seen punished by her respected ex-friends. Their decision was based on status and the effect of Melinda’s reputation.

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‘Speak,’ written by Laurie Anderson, gives excellent examples of the effects of reputation on someone’s mental health and social life. Melinda was cast away, no good reputation salvaged. Her peers and mentors treated her different due to the effect it had on their status. Lack of a good reputation hindered her ability to create many relationships with people in higher places because they would not give her a chance. Individuals tend to judge through status and credibility.

She gains her new reputation from creating a vibrant tree for art class, as observed in Mr. Freeman’s speech compliments. ‘You get an A+. You worked hard at this’ (Anderson 298). Additionally, she tells Rachel her former friend what happened to her and takes hobbies like yard walk. She reconnects to her old friend Ivy to whom they share a distant relationship and Andy’s experience, and through doing so she feels relieved and gains back her lost glory. The protagonist, Melinda, who is also the main character of the book, speaks spirals into a dark depression and only expresses her pain through snails and lips bites. However, Melinda’s dedication and introspection to her artwork lead to her growth and eventually defines her different self-reflection as a survivor rather than a victim of the circumstance. She, therefore, gathers courage and speaks the truth about the monster Andy’s rape. In Anderson’s book Speak She quotes, “Guys to stay away from Andy Evans, he is a creep he should be locked up” (Anderson 185).

The book Speak portrays how Melinda gains back her reputation from the post-trauma stress disorder (PTSD). Through three categories of the symptoms, hyper arousal is represented through her wariness of potential danger, hence made her skip going to David’s house after the game. Melinda is also attacked by constriction as depicted from her silence and withdrawal from the society, well as intrusion painted from her consciousness. After the rape case, memories of the events keep on resurfacing in her mind. Her sense of shattered identity and trauma is presented through disruptive temporality and nonlinear. Melinda finds Merryweather High School with easily categorized characters like a shape-shifting best friends, a witchy mother, and beastly rapist, which intern reflect her fragment identity. Melinda tells her story to her art teacher Mr. Freeman. And fights back Andy not to attack her at the closet and finally reveals the secrets to Rachel her friend who has befriended Andy for the sake of her safety, she wins the battle and crowns as a heroine. Her friends who dumped and observed her as an outcast, the likes of Heather, and “Marthas” join hands in celebration of her victory over monster Andy. Thus she represses the memory of the events through her simultaneous speech.

Mr. Freeman, Melinda’s art teacher, taught her how art could be used to express feelings and deals with painful emotions. David Petrakis helps Melinda in the library gain her soiled reputation through speaking ill of Mr. Neck’s behavior. The reputations for characters like the principal, Melinda’s Dad, and Mr. Neck are not all that good, based on their behavior and incapability to handle their job with respect. However, since an individual’s reputation is a tangible asset whose nature depends on this, she does defend it (Davies). Melinda stands strong amidst troubles and worries caused by her friends and victoriously wins back her reputation as she explains that tears of joy dissolved the last block of ice in her throat (Anderson 297). The Book Speak by Anderson, therefore, depicts how girl children through the character, Melinda struggled to gain her ruined reputation, which she finally gained at her end year of studies in Merryweather High School.

Works Cited

  1. ‘Reputation Noun – Definition, Pictures, Pronunciation, and Usage Notes: Oxford Advanced American Dictionary at’ (2019): Retrieved from 04 November 2019.OxfordAdvancedAmericancom/us/definition/american_english/reputation.
  2. Anderson, Laurie Halse. Speak. (1999): retrieved from 4th, November 2019 › Anderson_Laurie_Halse_SPEAK_novel_1999.
  3. Davies, Gary. Reputation Management: Theory Versus Practice. Manchester: The University of Manchester,(2019): Retrivedfrom,
  4. Emler, Nicholas. ‘A Social Psychology of Reputation.’ European Review of Social Psychology (1990): 171. DOI: 10.1080/14792779108401861.
  5. Hauert, Christoph. ‘“Reward and Punishment.”.’ Reward & Punishment, (2005) Retrieved from 4th , November 2019, http//
  6. Krasnow, Max M., et al. “What Are Punishment and Reputation for?” ‘PLOS ONE.’ (2012). PublicLibraryof Science retrieved from 4th, November 2019 http//

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The Ways Character Melinda Stands Firm For Her Reputation In The Book Speak. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from
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