Speak

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A transfer student from Ohio, Heather is everything that Melinda is not—perky, friendly, and obsessed with being popular. She is willing to be Melinda’s friend, however, because she initially doesn’t know that Melinda called the police at the party before school began (which other students think Melinda did to get everyone in trouble but in fact she did to try to report her rape). Throughout the book, Melinda watches as Heather desperately tries to fit in with the other students at her school, only to fail over and over. Although she clearly finds Melinda strange and frustrating, Heather also takes advantage of Melinda’s willingness to help her complete various tasks for the clique called the Marthas that she is trying to join. She finally ditches Melinda, telling her that she is too unfriendly and withdrawn, but later asks Melinda for help once again. When Melinda says no, she at last puts an end to the unhealthy and unequal friendship.

Heather Quotes in Speak

The Speak quotes below are all either spoken by Heather or refer to Heather. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Coming of Age Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Farrar Strauss Giroux edition of Speak published in 2011.
Part 1, Chapter 10 Quotes

I used to be like Heather. Have I changed that much in two months? She is happy, driven, aerobically fit. She has a nice mom and an awesome television. But she’s like a dog that keeps jumping into your lap. She always walks with me down the halls chattering a million miles a minute.
My goal is to go home and take a nap.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Heather
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

While spending time at Heather's house, Melinda reflects on the other girl's shallow, vapid personality. This quote highlights the importance of Heather as a character within the novel. Not only does Heather force Melinda to actually interact with someone throughout the narrative, but she also represents both Melinda's past self and her current disillusionment. Like it or not, Heather reminds Melinda of the innocent, enthusiastic person she used to be.

Rather than increasing Melinda's positive feelings towards Heather, however, this association only makes the protagonist feel more annoyed and hostile towards her semi-friend. She sees her old self as vapid, naive, and idiotic, and attributes all those traits to Heather as well.

Beneath this anger, however, is a deep sense of sadness, pain, and envy. As we often see within the book, Melinda longs for the person she used to be, her anger at her past self masking how much she misses her lost innocence. This mix of emotions makes her feelings towards Heather extraordinarily complex, but also helps to explain why she spends so much time with the other girl. 

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Part 1, Chapter 21 Quotes

I hide in the bathroom until I know Heather’s bus has left. The salt in my tears feels good when it stings my lips. I wash my face in the sink until there is nothing left of it, no eyes, no nose, no mouth. A slick nothing.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Heather
Related Symbols: Mirrors, Lips, Water, Ice, and Melting
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

After a humiliating encounter with Heather and the Marthas, Melinda's moment of anguish in front of the mirror perfectly encapsulates her self-hatred and deep depression. Melinda loathes herself so much that pain—the salt of her tears on her raw lips—feels good to her. Her assault, and her subsequent isolation by her peers, has left Melinda feeling worthless and invisible. She wishes to erase her face so that her appearance will match her internal devaluation—she will be a "nothing" inside and out. 

It is vital, too, that Melinda repeatedly washes her face in a clear effort to cleanse herself. She continues to feel guilt about her rape (a common sentiment for victims of sexual assault), and wishes to cleanse herself of those feelings. The novel often uses water to symbolize cleansing and rebirth, but here, Melinda wishes to use the restorative powers of water in order to completely erase herself. 

Part 2, Chapter 2 Quotes

It is getting harder to talk. 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. Sometimes my mouth relaxes around Heather, if we’re alone. Every time I try to talk to my parents or a teacher, I sputter or freeze. What is wrong with me? It’s like I have some kind of spastic laryngitis.

I know my head isn’t screwed on straight. I want to leave, transfer, warp myself to another galaxy. I want to confess everything, hand over the guilt and mistake and anger to someone else. There is a beast in my gut, I can hear it scraping away at the inside of my ribs. Even if I dump the memory, it will stay with me, staining me. My closet is a good thing, a quiet place that helps me hold these thoughts inside my head where no one can hear them.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Melinda’s mother, Melinda’s father, Heather
Related Symbols: Melinda’s Closet , Lips
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

As the school year progresses, Melinda notices alarming physical changes. What was previously an internal problem (Melinda's inability to talk about her assault) has now become a physical one. The parts of her body that allow her to speak (her throat, jaw, and lips), are becoming sore and difficult to use. By keeping her feelings and trauma bottled up, Melinda is harming herself both mentally and physically. That she relaxes somewhat around Heather, meanwhile, helps us to understand why she keeps the other girl around. Despite how annoying and shallow Heather can be, Melinda feels somewhat safe around her. 

The second section of this quote deals directly with Melinda's tortured feelings surrounding her sexual assault. She hates herself and her surroundings so much that she wishes "to leave" entirely. Her self-loathing stems from the fact that she feels stained and ruined by her trauma, and from her belief that she will never recover from what has been done to her. She has completely internalized these feelings, an action that causes both physical and emotional anguish.

At the end of the passage, Melinda calls her closet "a good thing" because it allows her to keep anyone else from hearing her tortured thoughts. What Melinda fails to understand, though, is that her torment is caused in large part by failing to share or communicate her inner pain. She believes that staying silent and alone is the only option, unaware that isolating herself is actually adding to her sense of trauma and depression. 

Part 3, Chapter 8 Quotes

I rock, thumping my head against the cinder-block wall. A half-forgotten holiday has unveiled every knife that sticks inside me, every cut. No Rachel, no Heather, not even a silly, geeky boy who would like the inside girl I think I am.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Heather, Rachel Bruin, David Petrakis
Related Symbols: Melinda’s Closet , Blood
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

After a disastrous Valentine's Day, Melinda crumbles inside her closet. Through most of her narrative, Melinda acts as if she doesn't care about the opinions of her peers. This passage, however, makes clear how false that attitude actually is. While she may pretend to be hardened and cynical, Melinda in fact feels "cut" every time that someone rejects or mocks her. Rather than being apathetic, Melinda actually cares far too much. An intelligent and emotionally attuned person, she tries to protect herself from the world with hostility, but is unable to do so.

It is interesting, too, that Melinda calls herself "the inside girl I think I am." Always aware of the differences between interior and exterior, Melinda understands that she is far more sensitive and observant than she lets on. Her idea of herself is different from the face she shows to the world; yet even as she hides this softer side of herself, she is desperate for someone else to access it. 

Part 3, Chapter 14 Quotes

I stumble from thornbush to thornbush— my mother and father who hate each other, Rachel who hates me, a school that gags on me like I’m a hairball. And Heather.
I just need to hang on long enough for my new skin to graft. Mr. Freeman thinks I need to find my feelings. How can I not find them? They are chewing me alive like an infestation of thoughts, shame, mistakes.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Melinda’s mother, Melinda’s father, Heather, Mr. Freeman, Rachel Bruin
Related Symbols: Trees, Seeds, Plants, and Forests
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:

In a moment of peak anguish, Melinda once again uses a botanical metaphor to express herself, thinking of all the obstacles and difficulties in her life as thornbushes ready to rip off her skin. Although it is frustrating to see Melinda remain silent and isolated, passages such as this help readers understand why she does so. To Melinda, everything in her life is hostile and sharp, ready to rip her to shreds. She does not feel safe with anyone, and so she can never release the terrible burden of her guilt and trauma. She is trying her best to heal from her sexual assault—to allow her "new skin to graft"—but everything in her life is making it more difficult to do so. 

This passage also makes clear Melinda's complicated relationship to emotion and appearances. Outwardly, Melinda is apathetic; she doesn't seem to care about school, friends, or life. Inwardly, however, Melinda is in constant torment, her guilt, shame, and regret eating her up inside. Given her inner pain, it makes sense that Melinda tries to remain as outwardly unfeeling as possible. If she ever lets out the powerful emotions inside of her, she is terrified of what will happen. 

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Heather Character Timeline in Speak

The timeline below shows where the character Heather appears in Speak. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 1: Welcome to Merryweather High
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
...by Mr. Neck, her future social studies teacher. Another isolated student, who introduces herself as “Heather from Ohio” (but whom Melinda describes as a “wounded zebra”), asks to sit with her.... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 3: Spotlight
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Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
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...disgusted and bewildered by the food offered in the cafeteria. She thinks about sitting with Heather, but contemplates that she could also “crawl behind a trash can” or throw out her... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 6: Home. Work.
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Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
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Two weeks go by “without a nuclear meltdown,” Melinda reports. The talkative Heather has been attempting to befriend her, while all her other former friends of the past... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 8: Fizz Ed
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...gym with loathing, recounting how she has to change in a bathroom stall and how Heather wears her gym clothes under her school clothes. She goes on to discuss her former... (full context)
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
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...Melinda can’t hate Nicole, who is a genuinely kind person, even helping out the hapless Heather. “It would be so much easier,” Melinda says, to hate Nicole if she were “a... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 10: Heathering
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Melinda goes to Heather’s house, which is pristine and perfectly decorated. They are greeted by Heather’s talkative mother, who... (full context)
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Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
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As Heather lectures her about being more involved, saying that ninth-graders need to become a part of... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 12: Devils Destroy
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...she brought sponges from home, and wants to add in a blanket and even potpourri. Heather, however, dressed in the school colors, forces her to attend the rally. Melinda decides that... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 15: Acting
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Although she wants to sleep during her Columbus Day vacation, Melinda instead goes over to Heather’s house, because Heather begged her and there’s “nothing on television anyway.” At the house, Heather’s... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
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After Melinda tells Heather that they cannot join the musical because “‘We are nobody,’” Heather begins to cry about... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 21: The Marthas
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Melinda mockingly describes the Marthas, the clique that Heather is trying to join. It is composed of three upperclassmen whom she refers to as... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
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Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Heather’s first project as a freshman probationary member is to decorate the faculty lounge for a... (full context)
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...exits. But she watches as the Marthas make fun of her lips and then force Heather to leave, pretending that they themselves decorated the lounge. (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 2: Closet Space
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Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
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...is sore, her lips raw, and her jaw clenched. Although she can sometimes talk around Heather, she finds herself unable to speak around authority figures. Acknowledging that there is something wrong... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 4: Job Day
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...test, she is given a bewildering array of options that include “forestry” and “mortuary science.” Heather, meanwhile, is delighted to be told that she should become a nurse; she plans her... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 10: Wombats Rule!
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Heather persuades Melinda to go to the Winter Assembly so that she does not need to... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 11: Winter Break
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After trying and failing to contact Heather, Melinda decides to pretend to be her friend instead, wondering what Heather would do if... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 15: Poster Child
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After receiving a note from Heather, Melinda goes to her house to find her sobbing about disappointing the Marthas at a... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 17: Model Citizen
Coming of Age Theme Icon
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Melinda reports that Heather has gotten a job as a model at a local department store (though Melinda believes... (full context)
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Melinda accompanies Heather to a bathing suit shoot, and Heather’s mother asks whether she too wants to be... (full context)
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Reflecting that she likes food too much to model, Melinda scoffs at Heather’s obsessive dieting. She watches as Heather attempts to model a swimsuit in a freezing cold... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 20: Naming the Monster
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
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Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Memory and Trauma Theme Icon
...her closet (rather than in art class where people watch her), Melinda works hard on Heather’s posters for two full weeks, drawing “basketball players shooting cans through a hoop” with a... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 22: Can It
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
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Melinda has started to sit with Heather at the edge of the Martha table for lunch. The Marthas have gone shopping, and... (full context)
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...Melinda runs to the bathroom to throw up and splash icy water on her face. Heather does not follow her. (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 6: Lunch Doom
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...a high school cafeteria is a place meant for “Teenage Humiliation Rituals,” Melinda sits with Heather, but not at the Marthas’ table; instead they sit close to the courtyard. Melinda imagines... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 8: Cutting Out Hearts
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...courage, Melinda opens the card, calling it “a white patch of hope”; it is from Heather to thank her for understanding their friendship breakup. She has included in the envelope the... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 14: Hall of Mirrors
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...“thornbushes” that are her fighting parents, the horrible Rachel, her repressive school, and the faithless Heather. She tells herself that she just needs to wait for her “new skin to graft,”... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 16: Bologna Exile
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
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...the Marthas interview a new member, and wonders if they are laughing at her; imagines Heather fat and middle aged; and observes Rachel, who is wearing harem pants and a headscarf... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 19: Prom Preparation
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In another turn of events, Heather has showed up at Melinda’s house, to Melinda’s mother’s delight. Feeling self conscious about her... (full context)
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Heather finally gets to the point: she wants Melinda to help her decorate the Holiday Inn... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 20: Communication 101
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Feeling empowered by standing up to Heather, planting marigolds, and asking her mother if she can redecorate her bedroom, Melinda attributes her... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 23: Prowling
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After napping, Melinda takes the bike out at night, riding by Heather, Nicole, and Rachel’s houses. It is prom night, and she imagines Rachel’s parents waiting up... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 24: Postprom
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...all about prom drama. In addition to various scandalous pieces of gossip, she learns that Heather is not in school that day because everyone hated her decorations so much. Melinda imagines... (full context)