I have chosen to discuss two references that Laurie Anderson uses as intertextuality in her novel Speak. One is how she uses Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter, and the other being a woman who was an author and poet named Maya Angelou. I decided to choose these examples because I feel that most adolescents are familiar with the book The Scarlett Letter even if they are less familiar with Maya Angelou, but also because Speak is a very empowering book for adolescents who are struggling with speaking up.
Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is a romantic novel of fiction that is set in the course of the 17th century. The character Hester Prynne is young woman who struggles with legalism, sin, and guilt after conceiving a daughter after having an adulterous affair with a man whom she will not name. She is then made to wear a scarlet “A” on her clothes after being found guilty for adultery. It is a story of learning to overcome struggles as Hester tries to create a new life of atonement and self-worth (Wikipedia; Speak).
Anderson uses the symbolism of The Scarlet Letter as a comparison to Melinda’s own life situations. Melinda says, “I wonder if Hester tried to say no. She’s kind of quiet. We would get along” (101). Just as Hester is condemned to the public humiliation of confronting her sin on the platform, Melinda also endures a sort of public punishment. Anderson doesn’t put Melinda into any obvious platform scenes, but you can connect the very public places of humiliation that Melinda is teased and despised in. The bleachers in the gym, the lunchroom, and the school bus are all a public platform or settings for torture in which Melinda must endure the humiliation of the party incident. Just as many eyes looked upon Hester Prynne in shame and judgment, hundreds of school students looked upon Melinda as a reject, unworthy of acknowledgment. I feel Anderson used this reference to Hester as a way to supplement the feelings that Melinda is...