Why does Melinda draw trees in the novel Speak?
Melinda identifies with trees. They are also frozen and cannot speak.
In art class, Melinda is pleased that she is asked to draw a tree. She thinks that trees are easy, because she learned to draw one in second grade. Unfortunately, her second-grade version is not appropriate. Although she later feels like Mr. Freeman seems to appreciate her like no one else, even her first attempt at art is a failure.
Could I put my face in a tree, like a dryad from Greek mythology? Two muddy-circle eyes under black-dash eyebrows, piggy-nose nostrils, and a chewed-up horror of a mouth? Definitely not a dryad face. (p. 17)
Melinda usually draws trees in Mr. Neck’s class, because she finds him offensive and frightening. He belittles her, targets her, and completely misunderstands her. Her trees are an attempt to retreat inside herself, like the dryad, and be comfortable.
When Melinda studies seeds in biology, she seems extra interested. She begins to come out of her shell. She even gets extra credit for bringing a special apple seed to her teacher.
A tree also literally saves Melinda. Melinda is trying to make a turkey-bone sculpture in art class. It is actually used to defend herself when Andy tries to attack her again.