Speak By Laurie Halse Anderson Summary and Analysis First Marking Period, Name Name Name"-"Nightmare""

Summary

Once again, Merryweather High changes its mascot. This time the school switches from the Devils to the Tigers, which has the Ecology Club in a frenzy. The Eco Club suggests that the new name is demeaning to an endangered species. In Spanish class, the class learns that linda means pretty, so Melinda's classmates start calling her Me-no-linda, adding to her sense of isolation.

Heather, on the other hand, is working hard to feel less isolated and has been accepted into a clique, "The Marthas," on a trial basis. The Marthas are preppy girls who spend their time doing volunteer work. They make Heather decorate the faculty lounge by herself and Heather begs Melinda to help her. When The Marthas arrive to judge Heather's work, Melinda slips out and overhears The Marthas call her creepy. She runs away to the bathroom and tries to wash her face and her entire self down the drain.

Then, one day, Melinda sees IT in the hallway. He winks and smiles at her. She wants to throw up.

Analysis

In these sections the theme of naming recurs through the school's ever-changing mascot, Melinda's experience in Spanish class, and her first sighting of IT. First, through the school's fluctuating identity, Anderson offers commentary on the problem of naming. Like Melinda, the school can not settle on what it is supposed to be; unlike Melinda's problems, however, the school's problems offer comic relief, exposing the arguments over mascots as silly and entirely separate from real students' real experiences of high school. What does it matter what the school is called if it is a place where students like Melinda suffer daily ridicule and exclusion?

Naming appears to be problem again, this time in Melinda's Spanish class. Linda means pretty in Spanish, but classmates come up with a new taunt: Me-no-linda. Through her classmates' manipulation of her name, Melinda suffers another loss of control. She loses even more control over her identity; now, not only is she unsure of herself, but others are using her name as a weapon against her. Thus, Anderson shows us how both naming and being named has influence. Just as Melinda uses her nicknaming habit to exert control over others in her life, she is subject to others' power to nickname her, as well.

Finally, there is yet another student to whom Melinda has given a nickname: IT. Anderson doesn't reveal who IT is, but Melinda's visceral revulsion upon seeing him suggests that he was the cause of her pain over the summer. By calling him IT and not by his name, Melinda shows that she is still unable to name what happened to her, let alone the person who hurt her. Through the various ways names are employed or manipulated, Anderson adds to the theme of naming, showing that both what people give names to and what people avoid naming can have power.

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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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