Speak By Laurie Halse Anderson Summary and Analysis Third Marking Period, Bologna Exile"-"A Night to Remember""

Summary

Since Melinda has no friends with whom to eat lunch, she needs a coping strategy. She asks her mom to buy food so she can bring her lunch to school and avoid the trauma of waiting alone in the cafeteria line. She tries to read while she eats, but mostly she observes her fellow teenagers, noticing how some students — like the Marthas — appear confident, while all around the lunch room there are other outsiders like her.

It snows eight inches, but school remains open. Melinda notices how depressed and worn out her teachers look and thinks it would be good for them to get a snow day and get away from their students. Hairwoman asks the class what Nathaniel Hawthorne uses snow to symbolize. Melinda thinks snow would mean silence — and cold.

One day after school Melinda retreats to her janitor's closet, not quite ready to go home. She falls asleep for several hours and wakes in a panic when she hears a basketball game going on down the hall. It's nearly 9 p.m. She races down the hall, but gets drawn into the game and watches the last few minutes from the sidelines. David Petrakis sees her and suggests she join him and his folks for pizza at his house. Melinda makes up an excuse not to go, and on her walk home imagines there are two Melindas inside her. One Melinda thinks she is an idiot for not hanging out with David and enjoying her life. The other Melinda tells her she needs to be careful and not to trust anyone.

That night she cannot sleep and crawls out her window onto the porch roof. Wrapped in blankets, staring at the moon, Melinda goes through the details of that night in August. She and Rachel and their friends got Rachel's brother to drive them to a party outside of town. There was music and some beer kegs in a barn. Melinda downed three beers quickly and then wandered out into the night, away from the others. A handsome senior boy that she named "Greek God" found her and danced with her. He kissed her then forced her onto the ground. Melinda tried to scream, but he covered her mouth and she was too drunk to do much else. He raped her and then she called 911. Traumatized, she couldn't say anything to the 911 dispatcher or anyone at the party. Everyone fled as the police arrived, and Melinda's friends were furious with her. She walked home alone to an empty house. Now she stands on the roof, her lips bleeding from where she has bitten them clean through.

Analysis

Melinda's character develops in these sections through her power of observation, her description of the "Two Melindas," and her ability to finally describe her rape.

First, Melinda's observations of her peers and her teachers help us see more qualities of her character, particularly her intelligence and her compassion. When observing the socializing that happens in the school cafeteria, Melinda recognizes various cliques. For example, she can see that the Marthas have taken another new student under their wing, but she can tell the new student does not have the right clothes to truly be accepted to the group. Through such observations, Anderson shows us that Melinda has an acute sense of the drama of high school life and keenly feels the sting of being on the outskirts. Additionally, Melinda shows compassion in her observation of her teachers. By observing that her teachers look tired and pale, Melinda understands that her teachers are real people who also become downtrodden and worn out by life.

Additionally, the introduction of the "Two Melindas" reveals the depth of Melinda's struggle with her decision to remain silent and cut off from life. The first Melinda yells at her for ruining all the fun she could be having; the second Melinda assures her that avoiding boys, even nice ones like David, is essential to survival. The "third" Melinda, the Melinda caught between the two, is torn. Anderson makes it clear that the only way Melinda will feel whole again is if she reconciles these two parts of herself and finds a way to balance her need for security with living a full, vibrant life.

Finally, Melinda, unable to reconcile her two selves, is forced to go through the details of that night in August. In doing so, she "speaks" for the first time by finally providing details about her rape. As she relives the events of that evening, Anderson unveils more of what happened that night and why Melinda chooses to deal with her rape without seeking the support of her friends and family. For instance, you see how excited and happy Melinda is at the start of the party and how Andy Evans cruelly takes that excitement and joy away from her by raping her. You also see how party attendees misconstrue her call to 911, causing her to become a social outcast. These circumstances exemplify the heavy burdens that make it so hard for Melinda to speak and why it is so necessary for her to do so in order to move beyond the events of that night.

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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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