Speak By Laurie Halse Anderson Summary and Analysis Second Marking Period, Rent Round 3"-"Dark Art""

Summary

Melinda's guidance counselor calls her mom to warn her about Melinda's upcoming report card. Melinda's parents fume at her, but she continues to ignore their attempts to find out why she is doing so poorly in school. They decide to ground her. Melinda finds a paperclip and scratches her wrist; her mom tells her to knock it off.

Melinda and Heather spend their lunch time sitting at the periphery of the Martha table. Heather is in trouble with the Marthas because they do not like the posters she had Melinda draw and are upset that she, Heather, brought in beets for the canned food drive. One of the Marthas spots Andy Evans and you learn that Andy is, in fact, IT. Andy comes over to talk to the Marthas and plays with Melinda's hair while he does so. She runs away to hide in the bathroom and vomits. Heather does not come looking for her.

Mr. Freeman is depressed. In protest of budget cuts, he has not done any paperwork and now the administration is upset with him for giving all his students As. He sits grimly in front of his painting, but doesn't do any work. Melinda works on carving yet another linoleum block and ends up putting a gash in her thumb. After Mr. Freeman helps her clean up her thumb and her chisel, he uses the chisel to put a giant slash through his canvas.

Analysis

Through Melinda's cutting herself, the naming of IT, and Heather ignoring Melinda's freak out, you see Melinda fall deeper into her feelings of isolation and despair. First, Melinda's use of a paperclip to scratch her wrist symbolizes her hopelessness. Much like Melinda's nail-biting and lip-biting, scratching herself is another way she tries to express physically the pain she feels emotionally. However, just as with these other physical signs of distress, her message is not being received. Instead of seeing Melinda's scratches as a cry for help, Melinda's mom warns her to simply stop it as she doesn't have time for such behavior. Thus the theme of silence, and the problems that silence causes, continues to develop.

Secondly, the reader finally learns the name of IT (it's Andy Evans) and about his reputation. The Marthas gossip about Andy and see him not only as a notorious flirt and womanizer, but as desirable because of his looks and charm. Through this characterization of Andy, you see that while other girls have heard negative rumors about him, he retains a positive reputation. The Marthas' negative remarks about him, however, foreshadow that he has hurt other girls.

Finally, Heather's behavior toward Melinda reveals just how much she and Melinda use each other rather than see each other as true friends. For Melinda, Heather is a screen, protecting her from feeling like a complete outcast at school. For Heather, Melinda is a life raft, a friend she clings to until she can find someone better. Thus, it is not surprising that when the Marthas insult Melinda's posters and when Melinda flees when Andy shows up at lunch that Heather does nothing to support her. Heather's dismissal of Melinda, however, makes Heather less useful as a stand-in friend for Melinda and further heightens her sense of isolation.

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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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