Discussion Topic

Melinda's development and challenges in the third marking period of Speak

Summary:

In the third marking period of Speak, Melinda continues to struggle with her trauma and social isolation. She becomes more withdrawn, her grades drop, and she skips school frequently. However, she also begins to find solace in art class, where she starts to express her emotions through her artwork, indicating a slow but emerging path towards healing.

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What quotes from the Third Marking Period of Speak show Melinda's progression?

In some ways, Melinda’s third quarter could be considered her rock bottom; however, there are moments when readers do see Melinda making effort to work through her emotional trauma.

This section of the book does have some harsh emotional lows for Melinda. One of those lows is when Heather “breaks up” with Melinda. Heather is starting to become more social and more popular and has realized that her relationship with Melinda is hurting her chances at more social growth. This essentially leaves Melinda with no friends at all. She responds by consistently skipping school, and she gets in a fair amount of trouble for it.

Despite experiencing some low moments in the chapter, there are some glimmers of hope that show that Melinda is working through her emotional trauma in positive ways. At the start of the chapter "Riding Shotgun," readers get a good quote that shows some of Melinda's positive progress.

I am a good girl. I go to every single class for a week. It feels good to know what the teachers are talking about again.

This quote shows that Melinda is aware of how following the rules and doing "normal" things can help make her feel good.

A bit later in quarter 3, readers get the following quote near the end of a chapter.

Jeans that fit, that's a good start. I have to stay away from the closet, go to all my classes. I will make myself normal. Forget the rest of it.

This quote shows that Melinda is definitely trying to will herself back into the person that she used to be. She's trying to avoid the antisocial behaviors that she was previously doing, and she believes that acting normal will help her mind and emotions return to a pre-rape state. We will even see Melinda break out of her shell and act like a happy and cheerful high school student in this section:

We won, beating the Coatesville Cougars 51–50. The cheerleaders weep. The coaches embrace. I get caught up in the excitement and clap like a little girl.

The moment is enough to get David to approach her and ask her to a party. She isn't ready for that, but the post–basketball game cheeriness indicates that there is a glimmer of hope for Melinda.

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How does Melinda change during the third marking period in Speak?

In Anderson’s Speak, Melinda is a complex character who goes through great transformation in the novel. In the beginning of the third marking period, Melinda is still very isolated and struggling internally with what happened to her at the party in the summer. However, she is still not ready to face the events of the party and how she was raped. She still does not want to talk about it with anyone. Consider what her silence represents. Also, how does she seek ways to avoid her own feelings and thoughts? She is withdrawn and silent both at home and at school. She likes to skip school and avoid the awkward glances, conversations, and relationships with peers. When she does go to school, she often separates herself in class and lunch from others. Also, consider how Melinda reflects back on happier times in her life when she was young, innocent, and happy. Why does she wish she could rewind time?

By the end of the third marking period, consider how Melinda has begun to face her personal pain and conflict. She is wading through parts of her relationships with Heather and David, but she is still struggling with feelings of rejection and disappointment almost daily. Trace the different interactions Melinda has that help her learn to engage again with others. Who brings her a little bit of happiness again? As school officials and her parents seek to help Melinda, she continues to find escape and solace in art class. How does her art teacher encourage and validate her? Also, Melinda finally connects with a school project on seeds in biology class; reflect on the various aspects of seeds that Melinda finds intriguing. Does she compare herself to seeds and growth? Finally, by the end of the period, readers find Melinda reliving the night she was raped. Is she is beginning to confront her fears?

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In the novel Speak, how does Melinda change as a student?

I don't think that it can be said that Melinda changes as a student over the course of the novel.  When the novel starts, Melinda is on her way to the first day of high school.  Her first quarter grades are not good, and her grades continue to stay poor from grading quarter to grading quarter.  If anything, Melinda's grades actually get worse as her school year goes on.  Her parents go through a range of tactics to help.  They want to be helpful and encouraging, but their frustrating eventually begins to show, and they become angry at Melinda's increasingly poor grades.  Her parents do attempt to have Melinda seek out a tutor, but Melinda doesn't do this.  What her parents fail to understand is that Melinda isn't in need of a tutor.  She needs a therapist.  Short of that, she needs somebody to understand what she went through the previous summer.  In her words, Melinda needs "to hand over the guilt and mistake and anger to somebody else."  Her emotional turmoil is the reason behind her dwindling grades.  It is not until the very end of the book that readers get a sense that Melinda's grades and life as a student will get better.  Andy has finally been caught, everybody knows what he did to Melinda, and she begins telling Mr. Freeman her story.  She has finally been given the chance to speak.  

"You get an A+. You worked hard at this." He hands me the box of tissues. "You've been through a lot, haven't you?"

The tears dissolve the last block of ice in my throat. I feel the frozen stillness melt down through the inside of me, dripping shards of ice that vanish in a puddle of sunlight on the stained floor. Words float up.

Me: "Let me tell you about it."

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In the novel Speak, how does Melinda change as a student?

Although Melinda was once a good student, her schooling takes a serious hit after the trauma of being raped at the house party over the summer. In her freshman year, Melinda does not study, participate, or put in any effort to her academics. Simply put, she does not have the emotional energy to do so. 

Rather than acting concerned about her obvious shift in personality (from outgoing and positive to reclusive and moody), Melinda's parents spend a great deal of their time obsessing about her grades and threatening, begging, and bargaining with her to put more effort into her schoolwork. 

Nevertheless, about halfway through the novel, Melinda's grades are still horrible: a "D, C, B-, D, C-, C, A," as Ms. Connors points out to her in their meeting, with a GPA of 1.7. Unfortunately, much like Melinda's parents, Ms. Connors fails to see that Melinda is truly suffering and is only interested in improving her grades so that she may draft Melinda to the school's basketball team (another activity Melinda has no interest in).

Ultimately, the only class that truly engages Melinda is Mr. Freeman's art class (which is also the only class she is doing well in). Through her artwork, Melinda finds a way to express her pain and to finally face what happened to her. 

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What were some of the changes that take place in Melinda from the start to the finish of the book, Speak?

I would focus on how Melinda changes after the night at the party and the 911 call.  From being a part of the normative crowd, she ends up retreating into a realm of silence and moving from the light.  The normally talkative individual retreats into a world of not speaking.  Her physical appearance changes into one that is marred by a lack of hygiene as well as health problems presenting itself. I think that being able to identify these particular changes brings to light the idea that Melinda experiences two violations.  The first is what “it” did that night and the second is the fact that no one believes her or believes in Melinda.  This changes everything for her and causes her to change in every way possible.  It is also responsible for the change that sees her immersing herself in artistic expression and finding solace in the world that lies outside the norm, one where she becomes attune to the suffering of others through her own silence.  When she does “speak,” it is a moment where a voice is reclaimed, with a timbre that was absent from her even before the attack, another testament to her change.

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In the novel Speak, what are things that change in Melinda Sordino?

When the novel begins, Melinda is a broken person. The rape has scared and scarred her a great deal. Additionally, nobody knows about it; therefore, everybody just assumes that Melinda ruined the party for no good reason. As a consequence, she is completely ostracized from most of the student body. She has completely turned inward and even physically hurts herself as a way of dealing with her inner pain.

As the school year progresses, Melinda begins to gain more confidence in herself and in her ability to speak out. It's a slow process, but things like watching daytime talk shows actually provide her help. For example, Melinda does wrestle with knowing exactly whether or not she was indeed officially raped, and it is Oprah's show that helps Melinda to correctly identify that she was indeed raped.

I would say the other main contribution to Melinda finding the courage to speak is her former friend Rachel. Rachel has tried to distance herself from Melinda, but Melinda continues to care for Rachel. When Rachel begins dating Andy, Melinda knows that her friend is in danger, and that helps Melinda find the courage to speak out.

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Why is it becoming difficult for Melinda to speak in the second marking period of Speak?

Melinda's mental issues are beginning to affect her physically - we call this psychosomatic. She describes the physical difficulty she has with speaking in this section of the text-

My throat is always sore, my lips raw. When I wake up in the morning my jaws are clenched so tight I have a headache...Every time I try to talk to my parents or a teacher, I sputter or freeze.

Interestingly she does not always feel this way-

'Sometimes my mouth relaxes around Heather, when we're alone.'

Melinda is probably suffering from what is often labelled as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She is not able to verbalise her worst and biggest torment. As the events play on her mind she becomes more withdrawn and is losing the ability to communicate. It is only through the last encounter with Andy Evans in her closet when she can make him feel as vulnerable as she did, that Melinda begins to recover.

His lips are paralysed. He cannot speak. That's good enough.

Me: 'I said no.'

Once she has finally made Andy hear these words, she is able to stop punishing herself and is ready to tell others of what really happened to her and to move on -

It wasn't my fault. And I'm not going to let it kill me. I can grow.

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What happens to Melinda in the third marking period in Speak?

In the third marking period, Melinda struggles with depression. We learn that she cuts classes and loses interest in her studies. Unbeknownst to the adults in her life, Melinda is afraid and frequently mired in a state of anxiety.

On her way to school one day, she stops at the town bakery and decides to purchase two doughnuts. Upon emerging from the bakery, she's approached by Andy Evans (the senior who raped her last summer).

Seemingly unperturbed, Andy smiles and offers Melinda a bite from his doughnut. Frightened and disturbed by the senior's nonchalant behavior, she runs away.

After a while, she stops and decides that she will no longer attend classes. It's clear that Andy's presence brings back troubling memories for Melinda.

Her decision to cut classes is cemented after Heather decides to break off their friendship. Melinda is heartbroken at Heather's brusque announcement, but the latter is adamant. In fact, Heather maintains that she can't be seen eating with someone who keeps cutting classes.

Later, Melinda hits rock-bottom when there are no Valentine's wishes waiting from David Petrakis, a fellow classmate. Instead, Melinda finds a card from Heather, along with the friendship necklace she had gifted Heather the previous Christmas.

Because of these developments, Melinda's grades suffer. She is forced to attend a counseling session with her parents, guidance counselor, and the principal. However, one bright spot remains: Mr. Freeman expresses enthusiasm about Melinda's personal growth and encourages her to "speak" whatever she's feeling through her art.

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