Speak By Laurie Halse Anderson Summary and Analysis Third Marking Period, Riding Shotgun"-"Germination""

Summary

After Melinda attends all her classes for an entire week, her guidance counselor suggests to her parents that she deserves a reward. They settle on the reward of clothes shopping, but tell Melinda she has to get new clothes at her mother's store, Effert's. Melinda is not looking forward to shopping with her mom, let alone at her mom's unstylish store, but she needs new clothes, so she goes along with it. While waiting for the bus after school to go to the store, Mr. Freeman sees her and offers to give her a lift in his Volvo.

On the ride to Effert's, Mr. Freeman and Melinda talk about art and she asks him what she is supposed to feel in order to get emotion into her art. He tells her to focus on her feelings, not the tree, as she is creating. He assures her that she is worthwhile and that he wants to know what is on her mind.

At the store, Melinda's mom is still working, so Melinda picks out jeans and tries them on alone. While standing in front of the dressing-room mirrors, Melinda examines herself. She remembers a movie about a woman who survived a fire and had new skin grafted onto her body. Melinda feels as if she is also waiting for her new skin to take hold, and she vows to try to be more normal.

In biology class, Ms. Keen informs the students their next test will focus on seeds. Melinda throws all her effort into studying and discovers she admires plants. She likes how plants create more seeds than will grow and is impressed by seeds' ability to germinate when so many conditions need to be just right.

Analysis

Here, Anderson presents three instances of Melinda's taking steps toward changing her life and facing the trauma that haunts her. The first step Melinda takes is discussing emotions with Mr. Freeman. While Melinda does not speak directly about her feelings, she is the one who initiated the conversation about emotions. In doing so, she establishes a closer connection to Mr. Freeman. Mr. Freeman observes Melinda's anxiety on the subject of feelings, so he assures her he will support her is she needs it. Through this exchange, Melinda makes a tenuous step toward sharing her pain.

Melinda's next step toward change is the metaphor she comes up with while trying on new jeans. While remembering the film she saw about the burn victim, she gets to thinking about what it would be like to have a new skin. Through the metaphor of new skin, she is able to start thinking about a new life for herself.

Melinda's study of seeds underscores the new-skin metaphor, because seeds symbolize hope, growth, and the promise of new life. Melinda's study of seeds reveals their tenacious character: Seeds need special conditions and a lot of luck to survive and turn into mature plants. Melinda admires plants and their seeds and in them finds qualities she would like to see in herself — bravery, expansiveness, vivacity. These sections mark a potential turning point in Melinda's life as she moves slightly away from her depression and engages with the possibility that she has control over changing the way she is dealing with her trauma.

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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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