What are seven ways Melinda is mistreated in Speak?

Quick answer:

Melinda endures many forms of mistreatment throughout the book. It all adds up to a very sad life for a fifteen-year-old girl.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Melinda is abused and mistreated throughout most of the book. One of the things that I think has to be included in this list is Melinda's rape. It did happen before the book begins, but readers will come to know that Andy Evans raped Melinda at the end of the summer party. He sexually took advantage of a drunk girl before she even started high school. I would say that is severe mistreatment. He attempts to do it again near the end of the book.

Another form of mistreatment comes from other students. Melinda is shunned by people that know about her being the reason for the cops breaking up the party. If they don't shun her for that reason, then they don't hesitate to let her know that they remember she is the reason the party was ended.

"Aren't you the one who called the cops at Kyle Rodger's party at the end of the summer?"

The verbal mistreatment escalates to blatant name calling as well when one girl calls Melissa an "asshole."

"My brother got arrested at that party. He got fired because of the arrest. I can't believe you did that. Asshole."

That same girl then pulls Melinda's hair from behind.

The girl behind me jams her knees into my back. They are as sharp as her fingernails. I inch forward in my seat and stare intently at the team. The girl with the arrested brother leans forward. As Heather shakes her pom-poms, the girl yanks my hair. I almost climb up the back of the kid in front of me. He turns and gives me a dirty look.

It is also important to note the Melinda physically mistreats herself in two ways too. She chews her lips and scrapes her arms with paper clips.

I open up a paper clip and scratch it across the inside of my left wrist. Pitiful. If a suicide attempt is a cry for help, then what is this? A whimper, a peep? I draw little window cracks of blood, etching line after line until it stops hurting. It looks like I arm-wrestled a rosebush.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Though Melinda is mistreated throughout the book, the reader doesn't find the reason for the mistreatment until near the end. Up to this point, readers can only guess why many of the adults and children are treating her so badly.

The book opens with Melinda on the school bus on her first day of high school. She says she is desperate to tell someone her secret, but when she looks at her old best friend Rachel, Rachel mouths "I hate you" to her. Her old friends continue to ignore her and Melinda finds herself having to sit by herself in lessons and at lunch, leaving her open to even more abuse. On one lunch break a boy hits Melinda with some mashed potato. Everybody laughs, including Rachel. At a pep rally some people recognize Melinda as someone who called the police at a party and they beat her up.

The students behavior towards her begins to have a negative effect on her grades and self-esteem, which goes unrecognized by the adults. Her teachers see her as "trouble," and her parents demand that she gets better grades. Ignored, Melinda begins self-harming by biting through her lip.

At the end of the "Third Grade Marking Period," the reader finds out that in the summer Melinda was raped by a boy called Andy at a party. She calls the police on him, but when people at the party find out the police are coming they slap her and call her names.

Andy tries to rape her again in a school cupboard, but this time Melinda defends herself by holding a shard of glass to his throat. The story ends with Melinda finding the courage to tell a teacher what has happened to her.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial