Summary and Analysis
Fourth Marking Period, The Beast Prowls"-"Real Spring""
Melinda stays after school to work on her tree project. Mr. Freeman shows her how to draw a giant tree in three strokes. After Mr. Freeman gets called to a meeting, Melinda works alone and is surprised when the lights flicker on and off. Andy comes into the room and Melinda freezes in terror. He asks her if she has seen Rachel; Melinda remains silent and panicked. Rachel walks in, followed shortly by Ivy. After Rachel and Andy leave, Ivy says that Andy is a total creep. Melinda flees the scene and goes home to hide and weep in her closet.
Melinda decides she needs a day off after her latest encounter with Andy. She pretends to be sick, but ends up having a real fever. She spends the day nestled on the couch, watching TV, and imagines what various talk show hosts would say about her rape. All of them insist that she is not to blame, even though she was drunk, and that Andy is a total jerk who needs to be held accountable.
May brings warm weather and an end to the seemingly endless rain. Melinda spends a Saturday morning outside, raking out leaves from beneath the shrubs lining the front of her house. Her dad admires her progress and says he will buy some leaf bags. He invites her to come to the hardware store with him, but she doesn't feel like it. She does, however, ask him to pick up some flower seeds.
In these sections, Anderson helps us see Melinda's development through the theme of naming, her imaginary interaction with talk show hosts, and her desire to grow flowers. To begin, Melinda's relationship to her rapist, Andy Evans, has evolved throughout the novel as shown by the different ways she names him. Recall that when she first met him at the summer party, she nicknames him "Greek God." After the rape, she minimizes him to two letters: IT. Then she uses his full name, Andy Evans, indicating she is more willing to confront what happened to her. From there, she moves on to call him Andy Beast, suggesting she is not only willing to face him but to call him what he is — a horrible animal, a beast. However, when he confronts her in the art room, she reverts to calling him IT, which reveals just how terrified she still is of him. Andy's shifting names stand in contrast to other characters that Melinda names, like David Petrakis, whom Melinda always calls by his full name, making him seem more stable and complete. Thus, Anderson uses Melinda's naming habits to show her feelings toward those around her.
Furthermore, while Melinda's latest encounter with Andy shakes her, it does not sidetrack her steady journey to recovery. Melinda deals with Andy by pretending famous talk show hosts, like Oprah and Jerry Springer, are commenting on her rape. Through their encouragement of her and their rancor toward Andy, Melinda begins to understand that she truly did not deserve what happened to her. Melinda's imaginary therapy session gives her the stamina to continue growing, represented by her new interest in gardening and yard work. Anderson uses Melinda's day of yard work, followed by her request for flower seeds, to symbolize Melinda's own "spring cleaning" of her soul. She is like the small, green plants she finds suffocating under decaying leaves; through participating in hard, rewarding work, Melinda starts to clear the rotting "leaves" out of her troubled soul.