Speak and the Breadwinner: Coming of Age in Literature

Topics: Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak / Pages: 8 (1805 words) / Published: Dec 14th, 2011
There comes a time in everyone’s life when they reach the point where they are no longer children, but adults. The transition from a child into a young adult is referred to as “the coming of age,” or simply growing up. Certain children reach this stage through a tragic, painful event, which sometimes can potentially change them and the way they view the world. Other children reach this stage by simply growing up and understanding everything around them. This stage in life is one of the most important in literature. The coming of age theme is found in many pieces of literature, such as Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak and Deborah Ellis’ The Breadwinner. The main characters in both of these young adult novels experience growth and change in their own ways. In Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, readers are given a mental picture of who they think Melinda Sordino is. “The bus picks up students in groups of four or five…I close my eyes. This is what I’ve been dreading. As we leave the last stop, I am the only person sitting alone” (3). What the reader gets is this picture of Melinda Sordino predicting that she’s going to have the worst freshman year ever. What I think a lot of readers don’t pick up on right away is that this is the beginning of Melinda’s character developing. Speak is a story truly based on the coming of age theme, and unfortunately Melinda’s character grows as a result of a tragic event. The summer before freshman year, Melinda was living a normal, good life. She had tons of friends, good grades, and a loving family. Then the best night of her life turned into the worst. “We were on the ground. When did that happen? “No. No I do not like this.” “In my head, my voice is as clear as a bell: NO I DON’T WANT TO!” (…And he hurts me hurts me hurts me and gets up and zips his jeans, and smiles” (135-136). This traumatic experience would forever change Melinda. “The novel’s title is Speak, but the silence of the main character predominates”


Cited: Anderson, Laurie Halse. Speak. New York: Penguin Group, 1999. Bean, Thomas W. and Harper, Helen J. Exploring notions of freedom in and through young adult literature. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, Oct2006, Vol. 50, Issue 2, p96-104, 9p (AN 22521106). Ellis, Deborah. The Breadwinner. USA: 2001. Smith, Sally. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 10813004, Mar2000, Vol. 43, Issue 6.

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