If there is anyone in this entire galaxy I am dying to tell what happened, It's Rachel. My throat burns. (1.10)
This early moment shows how much Melinda values her friendship with Rachel. We also see the start of Melinda's sore throat. It seems like Melinda is <em>burning</em> to speak, but can't manage it. Or maybe her case of nerves is making acid in her stomach, which burns her throat.
There is no point in looking for my ex-friends. Our clan, the Plain Janes, has been splintered and the pieces are being absorbed by rival factions. (1.9)
At first, it sounds like Melinda has just drifted away from her old friends. We soon learn there's more to it. In terms of Ivy and Nicole, this might actually be the case.
Think fast, think fast. That's the new girl, Heather, reading by the window. I could sit across from her. Or I could crawl behind a trash can. (3.4)
Melinda's not exactly bubbling over with enthusiasm to hang with Heather. The party where she lost all her friends happened no more than a month ago. She's still concerned with her old friendships. Heather gets caught in this crossfire.
I see a few friends—people I used to think were my friends—but they look away. (3.4)
Aha! Melinda is definitely on lots of people's bad sides. <em>Speak</em> is very much a book about struggling to make, find, keep, and honor friends. This quote shows how hard that can be.
Rachelle blows a candy cigarette smoke ring at my face. Blows me off. I have been dropped like a hot Pop Tart on a cold kitchen floor. (9.14)
Rachel spends most of the novel experimenting with different personas. She's changed her name to Rachelle and hangs out with foreign exchange students. This strikes us as a good thing – except for the fact that she's becoming less sensitive to others.
"Come on Mel. You gotta come with us! My dad told me to bring anyone I wanted. We can give you a ride home after if you want. It'll be fun. You do remember fun, don't you?" (63.7)
David seems to really, really like Melinda as a friend…or more. The fact that she was raped by a high school boy who she thought was OK makes her think twice about even the most innocent sounding situations.
She is not any part of a pretend Rachelle-chick. I can only see third grade Rachel who liked barbeque potato chips and who braided pink […] thread into my hair that I wore for months until my mom made me take it out. (69.6)
Melinda never stops caring about Rachel. Remembering Rachel as a much younger girl makes Melinda realize how vulnerable she is to Andy.
Someone touches my arm gently. "Melinda?" It's Ivy. "Can you take the late bus? I want to show you something." (84.2)
That Ivy touches Melinda's arm "gently" tells us a lot about the friendship they are developing. Melinda has confided in Ivy very subtly. It's likely Ivy guesses she was attacked by Andy and is considering this when she touches her.
Mom took me to the hospital to stitch up the cut on my hand. When we got home, there was a message on the machine from Rachel. She wants me to call her. (89.4)
Knowing how Melinda feels about Rachel, her message probably means everything to Melinda.
"You don't like anything. You are the most depressed person I've ever met, and excuse me for saying this, but you are no fun to be around and I think you need professional help."
There's truth in what Heather says, but we wish she could have directed Melinda to some of that professional help and tried to stay her friend. Why do you think she doesn't do these things?
I close my eyes, this is what I've been dreading. As we leave the last stop, I am the only person sitting alone. (1.3)
This sets the tone for Melinda's freshman year. She sits alone a lot. If the end of the novel is any indication, she'll be much less isolated next year.
I am outcast. (1.8)
Kids at Merryweather sure know how to hold grudges. Of course, not <em>all</em> the kids know that Melinda called the cops and got drunken partiers in trouble. Some of them have bigger things on their minds. But, Melinda sees it as everybody.
My room belongs to an alien. It is a postcard of who I was in the fifth grade. It is a demented phase when I thought that roses should cover everything and pink was a great color. (6.6)
It seems kind of symbolic that Melinda doesn't like pink anymore. Pink is an innocent, girlish color, and she doesn't feel innocent and girlish anymore. At first, she's totally isolated from the Melinda she was <em>before</em> the rape.
"How can you say this? Why does everyone have that attitude? I don't understand any of this. If we want to be in the musical, then they should just let us. We could just stand on-stage or something if they don't like our singing. I hate high school." (15.5)
Heather is isolated by her new kid status. She's trying to break through into the Merryweather social scene in a thousand ways. We like the idea she has here. Sadly, the Marthas don't value good ideas. They just use and abuse Heather, increasing <em>her</em> isolation.
Deprived of Victim, Mom and Dad holler at each other. I turn up the music to drown out the noise. (16.9)
Melinda's parents' fighting isolates her from them. Part of why they are fighting is because they can see Melinda has a problem, but they have no clue what it is or how to help her.
How can I talk to them about that night? How can I start? (33.10)
Having a secret can feel really lonely. Have you ever felt like this? If so, what did you do? Were you able to find a way or not? Do you feel good about your choice? Why, or why not?
They swallow her whole and she never looks back at me. Not once. (51.21)
When Heather breaks off their friendship, Melinda feels a thousand times more isolated. Her thought here also shows that she sees the Marthas as carnivorous monsters who don't care about Heather.
"You're a good kid. I think you have a lot to say. I'd like to hear it." (56.16)
Mr. Freeman is the only one who offers to listen to Melinda. This does a lot to break through her isolation.
I guess I'll answer if [David] calls. But if he touches me I'll explode, so a date is out of the question. No touching. (73.14)
This thought reveals how much the rape is threatening to isolate Melinda from potentially excellent relationships and experiences. Since Melinda thought Andy was nice at first, and trusted him enough to be alone with him, she no longer trusts her ability to judge character.
Her eyes meet mine for a second. "I hate you," [Rachel] mouths silently. (1.11)
This hurts, especially since Melinda and Rachel have been best friends since around kindergarten. Melinda never returns Rachel's hatred. In fact, love and care for Rachel motivate Melinda to talk about being raped.
It is easier not to say anything. Shut your trap, button your lip, can it. All that crap you hear on TV about communication and expressing feelings is a lie. Nobody really wants to hear what you have to say. (3.13)
Melinda spends much of the book fighting to disprove this though. We think she succeeds What about you?
Siobhan: "She's creepy. What's wrong with her lips? It looks like she's got a disease or something." (21.17)
Siobhan, apparently, isn't mean to Melinda because other kids don't like her, but because she doesn't like the way Melinda looks. By talking about Melinda right in front of her, she shows that she doesn't think Melinda is worthy of any respect.
Sometimes my mouth relaxes around Heather, if we're alone. Every time I try to talk to my parents or a teacher, I sputter or freeze. What is wrong with me? (24.3)
Heather and Melinda's relationship is rocky, but this thought shows that Melinda is actually more comfortable with her than she admits in her snarkier moments. We can also see that some of Melinda's speech problems are involuntary, beyond her control.
He says a million things without saying a word. I make a note to study David Petrakis. I have never heard a more eloquent silence. (27.24)
Silence isn't all bad for Melinda. It's one of the things she's learning about her freshman year. She admires it a little <em>too</em> much at times, and David gives her lessons about that too. David knows when to use silence and when to speak up.
Maybe I'll be an artist when I grow up. (36.7)
People become artists for lots of different reasons. Art is a way to explore emotions and experience. Art shares ideas and opens conversations. Why do you think Melinda wants to be an artist?
"Freshmeat." That's what IT whispers. (42.3)
Andy wants Melinda to know that he's a predator. This terrifies and confuses her. She doesn't get how dangerous he is until he tries to rape her <em>again.</em>
I should probably tell someone, just tell someone. Get it over with. Let it out, blurt it out. (48.8)
Melinda never really stops <em>wanting</em> to talk. Half the time, she's not completely sure though. We aren't told exactly what she's afraid of. What are some negative repercussions she might be afraid of? What's the worst that could happen if she tells?
"Andy Evans will use you. He is not what he pretends to be. I heard he attacked a ninth grader. Be very, very careful." (70.6)
This is the first time Melinda tells anybody anything about Andy. It's dawning on her that she's not Andy's only victim. It takes Andy hanging out with Rachel for Melinda to imagine this. Why do you think Melinda writes an anonymous note? Is it because she feels safer being anonymous, or because she thinks Rachel would disregard the warning if she knew who it was from?
Mom calls me to remind me to drink lots of fluids. I say "Thank you," even though it hurts my throat. It's nice of her to call me. (76.1)
We like this moment, because Melinda and Mom are trying to communicate and are being considerate of one another.
Dad: "That's a lot of work."
Dad: "I'll get some leaf bags from the store" (77.6-8)
We like this moment for the same reason. We can see how much Melinda makes their house a home. When Melinda cleans the yard, Dad takes it as a sign that she cares about the home and the family. This softens him and makes way for a better relationship.
What Melinda says when Andy tries to rape her the second time. We can see how much she has grown because she refuses to be a silent victim anymore.
"Welcome to the only class that will teach you how to survive […]. Welcome to Art." (4.3)
That's Mr. Freeman, of course. Do the things Melinda learns in art class in fact teach her to survive? Can you think of a specific example?
An apple tree growing from an apple seed growing in an apple. I show the little plantseed to Ms. Keen. She gives me extra credit, David roles his eyes. Biology is so cool. (30.12)
In biology class Melinda learns to look closely at nature. Or her close attention to nature makes her a natural at biology. Seeing the sprouted apple seed seems to sooth Melinda. Why might this be?
They offer me a deal. If I volunteer to teach Basketball Pole how to swish a foul shot, I will get an automatic A in gym. I shrug my shoulders and they grin. I couldn't say no. I couldn't say anything. I just won't show up. (35.12)
Melinda learns that she's a talented athlete, good with a ball. Sports don't play a huge role in her recovery, but knowing she's good has to give her a much needed self-esteem boost.
His room is cool central. He keeps the radio on. We are allowed to eat as long as we work. He bounced a couple of slackers who confused freedom with no rules, so the rest of us don't make waves. It's too fun to give up. (36.2)
We here at Shmoop are outraged at these shenanigans. OK, seriously, we don't see why people can't be comfy while they learn.
"How do you know what he meant to say. I mean, did he leave another book called 'Symbolism in My Books'? If he didn't then you could just be making all of this up." (49.11)
This is Rachel talking, but Laurie Halse Anderson also made these arguments about Nathaniel Hawthorne's <em>Scarlett Letter</em>, the book Rachel is talking about. Check out "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory" section for more.
"I don't know where you picked up that slacker attitude, but you certainly didn't learn it at home. Probably from the bad influences up here. (55.22)
You don't know the half of it, Dad. But that's part of the problem isn't it? Dad is at least on the right track, but he doesn't know where to turn for answers, or how to get Melinda to talk to him. Maybe he's even afraid to learn the truth.
"You're imagination is paralyzed" [Mr. Freeman] declares. "You need to take a trip. […] You need to visit the mind of the great one." (57.1)
Mr. Freeman is talking about Spanish artist Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), whose work really inspires Melinda. The great thing about art is that generation after generation can interact with it.
Maya taps me on the shoulder. I'm not listening. […] I need to do something about Rachel, something for her. Maya tells me without saying anything. (70.6)
An unspecified book by Maya Angelou is banned by the school board. Maybe that's why Melinda doesn't seem to have actually read her work. Yet, she imagines Maya Angelou giving her some really good advice. The advice actually comes from inside Melinda.
(We wonder if the book that the school board banned was Angelou's autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, in which Angelou describes being sexually abused.)
I look at my homely sketch. It doesn't need anything. Even through the river in my eyes I can see that. It isn't perfect and that makes it just right. (89.10)
This is Melinda with her final tree. She considers it "homely," a word with many meanings, including ugly, plain, and unpretentious. She's come to believe that art isn't always about beauty, or some elusive definition of perfection.
"This is where you can find your soul, if you dare. Where you can touch that part of you you've never dared look at before." (4.5)
The novel makes a running argument for the power of art to transform the artist and those who look at art.
Definitely not a dryad face. I can't stop biting my lips. It looks like a mouth that belongs to someone else, someone I don't even know. (6.10)
Dryads are female spirits of nature, who live in trees and are in charge of forests and groves. Melinda sees them as beautiful, unlike the way she sees herself now that her face has been transformed by her reaction to the trauma.
My contact folds in half under my eyelid. Tears well in my right eye. (9.9)
When you see someone having an issue with their eyes, glasses, or contacts in a book, it's probably a sign they are about to go through a metaphorical change in vision.
I steal a pad of Hairwoman's late passes. I feel much, much better. (11.7)
Stealing passes and skipping classes are things Melinda would never have considered doing a year ago. She does them now because she feels compelled to be alone with her problems.
It is getting harder to talk. My throat is always sore, my lips raw. When I wake up in the morning, my jaws are clenched so tight I have a headache. (24.3)
Melinda doesn't just decide to stop talking. She experiences real, physical symptoms of stress that stop her. She does decide to keep quiet, but some of it is out of her control.
Jeans that fit, that's a good start. I have to stay away from the closet, go to all my classes. I will make myself normal. Forget the rest of it. (59.8)
Melinda is deciding to take control of her transformation and guide it in a more positive direction. She'll be compelled to talk about the rape as part of it. Forgetting doesn't seem to be an option.
Me: "Can you buy me some seeds? Flower seeds?" (77.22)
Melinda finds lots of peace in the transformation of seeds to flowers and plants. Nature gives Melinda a model she can try to copy.
I dig my fingers into the dirt and squeeze. A small clean part of me waits to warm and burst through the surface. Some quiet Melindagirl I haven't seen in months. That is the seed I will care for<em>.</em> (85.13)
Melinda's at the spot where she was raped. She is able to use her knowledge of seeds growing to make peace with the spot. This seems important for her journey back to health.
Kids stare at Andy, but nobody stops to talk. He follows Greta-Ingrid and Rachel down the hall. […] Greta-Ingrid spins around and tells Andy exactly what he should do with himself. (88.2)
Andy is changing in the eyes of the students at Merryweather High now that his crimes are becoming public knowledge instead of unconfirmed rumors.
The tears dissolve the last block of ice in my throat. I feel the frozen stillness melt down through the inside of me, dripping shards of ice that vanish in a puddle of sunlight on the stained floor. Words float up. (89.15)
Again we see tears as part of Melinda's process of transformation. In this scene, the tears are healing and the help open a space for Melinda to tell Mr. Freeman her story.
I get out of my bed and take down the mirror. I put it back in my closet, facing the wall. (6.11)
Not being able to look at one's own face in the mirror is a sign of deep sadness.
My goal is to go home and take a nap. (10.10)
The more depressed Melinda gets, the more she needs to sleep. Paradoxically, the more depressed she gets, the harder it is to sleep at night when she's at home.
The salt from my tears feels good when it stings my lips. I wash my face until there is nothing left of it, no eyes, no nose, no mouth. A slick nothing. (21.20)
This is how Melinda feels after Siobhan Falls, a mean Martha, callously talks about Melinda's bitten lips like she's not even in the room.
I almost tell them right then and there. Tears flood my eyes. They've noticed I've been trying to draw. They notice. I try to swallow the snowballs in my throat. (33.9)
More tears – these tears seem a sign of happiness and sadness at the same time. Melinda is happy her parents are that aware of her and sad she can't express the truth of her heart to them.
She says suicide is for cowards. This is an uglynasty Momside. She bought a book about it. Tough love. Barbed velvet. Silent talk. (43.10)
Melinda thinks about Mom's reaction to the scratches Melinda makes on her wrists with a paperclip. Melinda isn't exactly suicidal. Mom is trying to find help for Melinda in books. Sadly, the books she reads don't help her recognize what Melinda is going through.
Mr. Freeman steps back, as if he has just seen something new in his own picture. He slices the canvas with my chisel, ruining it with a long, ripping sound that makes the entire class gasp. (45.6)
Mr. Freeman is happy and inspirational, but he also shows his own sadness, depression, and anger. It's not 100% clear why Mr. Freeman slashes his masterpiece, but Melinda appreciates that he shows his emotions dramatically in public.
It was the friendship necklace I had given Heather in a fit of insanity around Christmas. Stupid stupid stupid. How stupid could I be? I hear a cracking inside me, my ribs are collapsing in on my lungs, which is why I can't breathe. (53.11)
Heather's Valentine's Day meanness hit Melinda very hard. This is partly because she's convinced herself the envelope taped to her locker is a real valentine, either from a friend who wants to make up or David Petrakis, her lab partner.
I stumble down the hall […] till I find my very own door and slop inside and throw the lock, not even bothering to turn on the lights, just falling falling a mile downhill to the bottom of my brown chair, where I can sink my teeth into […] my wrist and cry like the baby I am. (54.11)
This is Melinda after she gets the horrible we're-not-friends Valentine from Heather. Melinda stays true to her pattern. When she's sad she isolates herself and inflicts pain on herself.
It's like smelling the perfect Christmas feast and having the door slammed in your face, leaving you there in the cold. (85.1)
This is Melinda after she tells Rachel that Andy raped her and Rachel doesn't believe her. Melinda thought she'd feel so much better after telling Rachel, but Rachel doesn't react the way Melinda wants. Still, Melinda sounds slightly less sad than normal here as if telling does give her some relief.
[…] WHAMMO! – a thought slams into my head: I don't want to hang out in my little hidy-hole anymore. (88.1)
Here, near the end of the novel, we see Melinda waking up, moving away from sadness. Sadness is a useful emotion for her, but she's ready to feel it less than she has been.
I don't want to be cool. I want to grab her by the neck and shake her and scream at her to stop treating me like dirt. She didn't even bother to find out the truth – what kind of friend is that? (9.10)
Melinda blames Rachel for turning against her so easily, but she never really holds it against her. The other seven or so years they were friends is what Melinda dwells on.
"My brother got arrested at that party. He got fired because of the arrest. I can't believe you did that. Asshole." (12.10)
It's true that people really did get in trouble when Melinda called the police. But they got in trouble because they get caught breaking the law. Nobody wants to take personal responsibility. Much easier to find someone to blame.
There is a beast in my gut, I can hear it scraping away at my ribs. Even if I dump the memory, it will stay with me, staining me. (24.4)
Shame seems to be a big part of why Melinda doesn't tell. She feels like the rape is alive in her, has somehow become part of her, like a punishment for making wrong choices like drinking beer and kissing a senior.
I want to confess everything, to hand over the guilt and mistake and anger to someone else. (24.4)
Melinda is thinking of herself as a criminal here. It takes all school year for her to understand that she is instead the victim of Andy's criminal act.
BunnyRabbit bolts, leaving fast tracks in the snow. Getaway, getaway, getaway. Why didn't I run like this before when I was a one-piece talking girl? (47.14)
Melinda's blaming herself for not trying harder to escape Andy, or for not recognizing him as a violent predator. In a way, this is good because she's planning ways to escape him. The best way would be to report him, but she's not thinking along those lines.
"She's jerking us around to get attention." (54.12)
Mom thinks Melinda is being deliberately difficult and asking for attention in a spoiled, immature way. Why do you think she rushes to this conclusion, instead of assuming something happened to Melinda to make her need extra attention?
"We have your location. Officers are on the way? Are you hurt? Are you being threatened" Someone grabbed the phone from my hands and listened. A scream – the cops were coming. […] Rachel's face so angry in mine. Someone slapped me. (64.18)
Melinda tries to report the rape, but the drunken, angry partiers stop her. It's horrible that nobody recognizes her distress, not even Rachel. She would have showed physical signs of Andy's attack for sure.
Was I raped? (76.3)
Whoa. It kinds of shocks us to hear Melinda ask the question. This is after Melinda dares to remember the details of that night. We didn't realize how much she blames herself for what happened.
Sally Jessy: "I want this boy held responsible. He is to blame for this attack. You do know it was an attack, don't you? It was not your fault." (76.5)
Luckily, Melinda has talk show hosts to help clear up her questions. Do you think daytime talk shows are helpful?
There's more. Different pens, different handwriting, conversations between some writers, arrows to longer paragraphs. (84.9)
Melinda's anti-Andy graffiti gets a big response. This is the main way we, and Melinda and Ivy, learn that Andy's made a career of victimizing the girls at school. This helps Melinda understand that the rape isn't her fault.
"I never raped anybody. I don't have to. You wanted it just as bad as I did. But your feelings got hurt, so you start spreading lies, and now every girl in school is talking about me like I'm so kind of pervert. (87.8)
If Andy has said stuff like this to Melinda earlier in the school year, she might have believed it on some level. Now she knows better.
There is no avoiding it, no forgetting. No running away, or flying, or burying, or hiding. Andy Evans raped me in August when I was drunk and too young to know what was happening. It wasn't my fault. […] And I'm not going to let it kill me. I can grow. (89.9)
Melinda understands that while she's not responsible for being rape, she is responsible for taking control of her recovery from it.
When the pep rally ends, I am accidentally knocked down three rows of bleachers. (13.5)
Translation: Mean kids at the pep rally push Melinda down the bleachers. This is after one girl pokes and knees her throughout the rally. This is an assault. Heather and others who watch contribute by not helping.
IT sees me. IT smiles and winks. Good thing my lips are stitched together or I'd throw up. (22.2)
Smiling and winking can be forms of violence as this moment vividly illustrates.
I have to slice open her belly. She doesn't say a word. She is already dead. A scream starts in my gut – I can feel the cut, smell the dirt, leaves in my hair. (38.4)
In biology class, Melinda is reminded of her own experience when she starts to dissect a frog. This won't be the last time Melinda sees reflections of herself in the world of plants and animals. Melinda is now hyper-aware of violence.
I open a paperclip and scratch it across the inside of my left wrist. Pitiful. If a suicide attempt is a cry for help, then what is this. A whimper, a peep? I draw little windowcracks of blood, etching line after line until it stops hurting. (43.87)
<em>Speak</em> doesn't answer the questions Melinda poses. How would you go about finding information on people who cut their bodies? Why does pain make Melinda stop feeling pain, as that last sentence suggests?
[Andy] twirls my ponytail in his fingers. […] I mumble something idiotic and run for the bathroom. I heave lunch into the toilet, then wash my face with the ice water that comes out of the Hot faucet. (44.23)
Like winks and smiles, touching somebody else's hair can be a form of violence, or at least an invasion of some people's personal boundaries. A rapist touching his victim's hair is definitely violence. Notice the very physical reaction Melinda has to this attack.
When Mr. Neck isn't looking, Andy blows in my ear. (56.11)
I want to kill him. (56.12)
Andy seems to consider being a violent predator a full-time job. Melinda is starting to feel more than fear and disgust of Andy. She's starting to feel like returning his violence.
I'm definitely back at Rachel's, crimping my hair and gluing on fake nails, and he smells like beer and mean and he hurts me hurts me hurts me and gets up
and zips his jeans
and smiles. (63.15-17)
This is Melinda remembering how she felt as she was raped. Very violent stuff. Melinda remembers these details after turning down pizza with David Petrakis and his parents, because she's afraid he'll try to hurt her. Why does David's invitation push Melinda to remember?
I reach in and wrap my fingers around a triangle of glass. I hold it to Andy Evans neck. […] I push just hard enough to raise one drop of blood. […] I want to insert the glass all the way through his throat. I want to hear him scream. (87.20)
Melinda uses violence to defend herself. This is a scary but empowering experience for her.