Speak By Laurie Halse Anderson Summary and Analysis First Marking Period, Heathering"-"Devils Destroy""

Summary

Melinda takes the bus to Heather's house and they hang out, eating popcorn and watching television. Heather is determined to worm her way into popularity and tries to get Melinda to participate in her plans by making goals for the year. Melinda dismisses Heather's plans and is only interested in going home and taking a nap, though part of her admires Heather's normalcy.

At school, Hairwoman makes Melinda spend study hall in her classroom making up English homework and Melinda arrives late to study hall, clearly upset. A librarian helps her out by writing her a late pass. Later that day, after avoiding Mr. Neck in the lunchroom, Melinda flees to the Senior's Wing where she finds an abandoned janitor's closet. It has shelves, an old chair and desk, and clearly has not been used for years. She decides it is the perfect place for her, so she steals some late passes from Hairwoman for future use.

Melinda plans to tidy up her janitor's closet instead of going to a pep rally one day, but Heather snags her before she can escape. At the pep rally, Heather has them sit by her friends on the school newspaper and before long, a girl recognizes Melinda. The girl asks Melinda if she is the one who called the police at a party over the summer, and Melinda is unable to explain why she had to do so. The students around Melinda become silent and hostile, and not even Heather sticks up for her.

Analysis

In these sections, you learn more about Heather and Melinda's relationship, Melinda's quest for peace, and more allusions to the troubling event that has changed Melinda's life.

First, Melinda and Heather's interactions reveal that they are using each other for different reasons. Heather, as a new student, has latched on to Melinda as a means to achieving the social life of her dreams — one filled with popularity and friends. For Melinda, Heather is a distraction from her own life as she shares none of Heather's enthusiasm or goals.

Melinda finds another sanctuary in her discovery of the abandoned janitor's closet. She likes that it "has no purpose, no name," allowing her to use it avoid both herself and social interactions. Her discovery, coupled with her other attempts to escape contact (for example, her desire to take a nap rather than hang out with Heather) suggests that not only have her friends ostracized her, but that she also seeks isolation as a means to avoid dealing with issues in her life.

Those issues become clearer from more hints about what happened over the summer. These sections reveal not only that Melinda called the police to come out and break up a teenager's party, but also that no one knows the real reason why she did so. In Melinda's inability to defend herself against the girl's bullying, you see that Melinda is also unable to deal with what happened to her and labels her discomfort as an "animal noise" in her stomach. By employing this metaphor, Melinda avoids naming the problem, much as she avoids honest interaction with her teachers by nicknaming them. Thus, the theme of naming expands; it is not only a means of control for Melinda, but also a means to avoid thinking about what happened to her.

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At the end of the novel, what is the final touch that Melinda adds to the picture of her tree?




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