Melanie's hard to classify. She's a consciousness, still existing in her own body, which has been taken over by an alien from outer space. She can't speak. She can't control her own movements. She has been relegated to an observer with no control over her own life. This sounds like a terrifying fate to us, like being in a walking locked-in state. Is this a sign of Melanie's fearlessness and perseverance—or is it a side effect of her submissive nature?
Physically, Melanie is a force to be reckoned with. Even her name signifies strength: a bold stride, a woman on a journey. Melanie spent an unspecified number of years on the run from aliens. She's been from New Mexico, to California, to Chicago and back again. You might even say she's a wanderer. Wanderer, the alien, is lucky to be implanted into a body of physical perfection such as Melanie's. In fact, one of Melanie's main complaints to Wanderer is the lack of exercise her body gets: "You've let us get all soft, Wanderer" (10.22).
During her exile, she developed impeccable survival skills and a lean, tone, muscular frame. She's also a feisty fighter who doesn't pull punches. Even without a body, she fiercely protects her memories of her loved ones from Wanderer's probing thoughts, as evidenced by her first word in the book: "Mine."(1.51).
Melanie wasn't working hard solely for her own survival either. The life of her brother, Jamie, depended on Melanie's support. Since their parents both died, Melanie acts as a mother to Jamie. And you know that a determined mom can do absolutely anything.
Melanie eventually reveals her memories to Wanda, and even becomes her friend. Through Melanie, Wanda experiences her first human kiss—which just so happens to have been Melanie's first kiss, too. After Jared kisses her, she remarks, "No one has ever kissed me in my life" (4.48). (Really?) And she falls in love with Jared instantly for three reasons: (1) He's handsome. (2) He's her first kiss. (3) He just might be the last man on Earth.
Whether or not this is a stable foundation for a relationship, Jared and Melanie are inseparable. Melanie practically worships the ground he walks on. To Melanie, Jared isn't just a gift from God. He practically is God. "Jared is magic" (19.117) Melanie breathlessly sighs (or would if she had vocal cords) at one point in the novel. Her passion for Jared doesn't wane even when Jared is beating her body, trapping her in a cave, and generally treating her (well, Wanda. This two-people-in-one-body thing is complicated!) like a second-class citizen.
The weird thing to us is that, at the end, Melanie doesn't even want to be free. Melanie resigns herself to being trapped inside her body without control forever. Even when Wanda plans to vacate the body and return it to Melanie, Melanie tries to talk Wanda out of it. "You're of more value to them than I would be." (46.39) Has Melanie taken a page of Wanda's book of self-sacrificing compassion … or has she just let herself go soft?Timeline