Study Guide

Speak Violence

By Laurie Halse Anderson


Chapter 13
Melinda Sordino

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.

Chapter 22
Melinda Sordino

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.

Chapter 38
Melinda Sordino

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.

Chapter 43
Melinda Sordino

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?

Chapter 44
Melinda Sordino

[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.

Chapter 56
Melinda Sordino

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.

Chapter 63
Melinda Sordino

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?

Chapter 87
Melinda Sordino

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.