by Laurie Halse Anderson
Mom and Dad (Melinda's Parents)
Melinda's mom is the hardworking manager of Effert's, a downtown clothing store. She's a practical, busy woman, who struggles to balance home and career. In contrast, Melinda's dad sells insurance, and Melinda thinks Dad's job is too easy and resents what she sees as his freedom.
Melinda thinks that Mom and Dad are unhappily married. We don't know how close Melinda is with her parents before the rape, but it's unlikely they spent hours and hours in deep conversation. Readers are likely to have mixed reactions about Mom and Dad. They are hard to get a fix on because Melinda is so torn about them.
Melinda clearly wants to tell them about the rape. However, because they seem unwilling or unable to see that Melinda really needs help and that something has hurt her, Melinda is less willing to confide. Mom goes as far as to say that Melinda's bad grades, silence, and skipping school are pleas for attention. Well, yes…or we could call them cries for help. Dad almost gets it. He thinks Melinda is under the influence of some bad high school kids or teachers. Yes again, but he's so not stretching his imagination far enough.
Melinda's lip biting, wrist scratching, and silence are all signs probably meant most of all for Mom and Dad. She doesn't know how to ask for help, so gets more and more extreme in the hopes they will do what Mr. Freeman does: ask, not demand, that she talk to them if she wants to.
It's likely that Mom and Dad are just as clueless as Melinda about rape and its aftermath. Melinda exhibits some signs that seem to be common among victims of violent attacks and other trauma. Through Mom and Dad, Speak makes the argument that parents need to be educated too, in hopes that they can respond helpfully if tragedy strikes their child.