Study Guide

Speak Education

By Laurie Halse Anderson


Chapter 4
Mr. Freeman

"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?

Chapter 30
Melinda Sordino

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?

Chapter 35
Melinda Sordino

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.

Chapter 36
Melinda Sordino

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.

Chapter 49
Rachel Bruin

"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.

Chapter 55
Mom and Dad (Melinda's Parents)

"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.

Chapter 57
Mr. Freeman

"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.

Chapter 70
Melinda Sordino

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.

Chapter 89
Melinda Sordino

(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.