Discussion Topic

Melinda's actions and motivations regarding Rachel in Speak

Summary:

In Speak, Melinda's actions and motivations regarding Rachel are driven by her desire to protect her former friend from the trauma she herself endured. Despite their strained relationship, Melinda warns Rachel about Andy, showing her concern and bravery in attempting to prevent Rachel from experiencing the same harm.

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Why did Melinda spy on Rachel in Speak?

Laurie Halse Anderson's novel Speak tells the story of Melinda Sordino, a high school freshman who was raped at a party the summer before she began high school.

The night of the party, Melinda called 911 in a panic after she was sexually assaulted by Andy Evans, a popular senior at her high school. She was too afraid to say anything to the operator, however, and hung up. When the police showed up at the party, everyone knew Melinda had called them (though they didn't know why), and this makes her an outcast at school. As the school year begins, all her former friends have turned on her, and she's left to work through her trauma alone.

The one person Melinda longs to confide in is her best friend, Rachel Bruin; however, despite their years of friendship, Rachel cuts Melinda out of her life after the party. When the school year starts, Rachel has reinvented herself. She now goes by "Rachelle" and hangs out with a new, cooler crowd. Melinda is understandably upset by Rachel's actions, but when Rachel begins dating Andy Evans, Melinda keeps a close eye on her former friend, worried Andy might hurt her too.

Melinda agonizes over whether or not to tell Rachel that Andy raped her. On one hand, she's never told anyone about the assault and she's still angry at Rachel. At the same time, she's also genuinely concerned for her friend:

"I can't escape the arguments circling my head. Why worry about Rachel/Rachelle? (He'll hurt her.) Had she done a single decent thing for me this whole year? (She was my best friend through middle school, that counts for something.) No, she's a witch and a traitor. (She didn't see what happened.) Let her lust after the Beast; I hope he breaks her heart. (What if he breaks something else?)"

Eventually, Melinda tells Rachel the truth, but Rachel reacts badly and does not believe her. Later, at the prom, however, Rachel breaks up with Andy after his he refuses to keep his hands to himself. At the end of the novel, news about Andy's attack on Melinda spreads through the school; Rachel calls Melinda's house and leaves a message for her, suggesting that she now believes her.

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What does Melinda do upon learning about Rachel in Speak?

The original question was pared down to one question.  It is through Rachel's association with Andy that Melinda begins the process of speaking out.  Up to this point, Melinda had remained in silence.  It was her way of voicing dissent.  Yet, as David reminds her, little can come out of being silent in terms of change.  When Melinda learns of Andy dating Rachel, she realizes that she must speak out if she wishes Rachel to avoid what happened to her.  Essentially, Melinda is confronted with a choice to remain silent and permit him to win again or speak out in order to stop a rapist.  When Melinda learns about how much Rachel and Andy are dating and are serious in terms of going to prom together, she speaks out.  Initially, she places a note in Rachel's locker about Andy.  Then, she speaks to Rachel about him. She talks to Rachel in the library.  While the librarian shushes her, Melinda eventually does speak, writing on a piece of paper that she was raped by Andy.  It is in this action of speaking out where Melinda experiences some of her greatest growth.  In recognizing what Rachel might go through is what she did go through, Melinda speaks out.

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