Speak By Laurie Halse Anderson Summary and Analysis Fourth Marking Period, My Life as a Spy"-"Growing Pains""

Summary

Melinda is certain Rachel is crazy because she has gone to the movies with Andy Evans (aka Andy Beast). Melinda listens to Rachel gush about Andy throughout algebra class and after class ends, Melinda follows Rachel through the halls. Soon enough, Andy descends on Rachel and her friend Greta/Ingrid, and Rachel and Andy end up sitting together in the hallway. He teases Rachel by stealing her notebook; they kiss. Melinda feels sick as she watches the whole thing.

Melinda retreats to her closet to contemplate the situation. She is torn between wanting to leave Rachel to her fate and speaking to Rachel to protect her from harm. As she vacillates between the two ideas, Melinda stares at her Maya Angelou poster and knows Maya wants her to tell. So, Melinda writes an anonymous note warning Rachel that Andy has attacked a ninth grader.

In art, Mr. Freeman critiques Melinda's tree progress. He says the tree is not truly "alive" and that Melinda needs to put herself into it. She dumps her linoleum block in the trash, but Mr. Freeman brings it back to her and insists she keep trying. She gets back to work.

Analysis

Anderson exemplifies Melinda's continuing emotional growth in several ways: Melinda's internal dialogue about Rachel; her decision to write a warning note; and her experience in art class. First, Melinda feels torn about what to do about Rachel's developing relationship with Andy Beast. One side of her argues that she should just leave Rachel alone while the other side insists she should protect Rachel. By wrestling with her options and with a little symbolic help from Maya Angelou, Melinda chooses to do what is right and writes a note to Rachel.

Furthermore, the note becomes another sign of Melinda's internal growth. For instance, through this note, Melinda makes yet another step toward speaking up. Recall that her first step was describing her rape to herself while standing on her porch roof. Now she tells someone else about it, albeit anonymously, helping her get closer to sharing her pain with others.

Finally, Melinda's struggle with her tree project is also symbolic of her growth. As she outlines the various phases she has gone through in creating trees, she is really outlining her internal struggle with being raped. For instance, when she was most depressed and reserved, she was in her "Dead Period" when all her trees "looked like they had been through a forest fire." Now, as Melinda is trying to make sense of the new phase in her life, her tree is also struggling to take proper shape to express her developing confidence.

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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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