Speak

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Melinda’s father Character Analysis

An insurance salesman, Melinda’s father is clueless and removed, although he pretends to be warm and jocular. Like Melinda’s mother, he has no idea of the trauma that Melinda has suffered, and yells at his daughter rather than attempting to understand her true feelings. He is removed and distant from both his wife and daughter, and he and Melinda’s mother frequently take their frustration with Melinda out on each other.

Melinda’s father Quotes in Speak

The Speak quotes below are all either spoken by Melinda’s father or refer to Melinda’s father. 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 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. 

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Part 2, Chapter 8 Quotes

Applesmell soaks the air. One time when I was little, my parents took me to an orchard. Daddy set me high in an apple tree. It was like falling up into a storybook, yummy and red and leaf and the branch not shaking a bit. Bees bumbled through the air, so stuffed with apple they couldn’t be bothered to sting me. The sun warmed my hair, and a wind pushed my mother into my father’s arms, and all the apple-picking parents and children smiled for a long, long minute.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Melinda’s mother, Melinda’s father
Related Symbols: Trees, Seeds, Plants, and Forests, Warmth and Sunlight
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

Triggered by the scent of apples, Melinda remembers a beloved scene from her childhood. This quote stands out as an unusual one within the novel—it lacks Melinda's usual blend of cynicism and pain, instead representing a moment of positivity and beauty. Given Melinda's hatred of the way that she has been growing up lately, it makes sense that she would be extremely nostalgic for her earlier childhood, as is shown here. Importantly, this memory also represents a time of connection between Melinda and her parents, during which they were an actual loving family, instead of simply three people living in the same house.

It's also worth noting that both trees and sunlight figure heavily into this treasured memory—two important and positive symbols within the narrative. Trees represent strength and rebirth to Melinda, while the sun represents the gradual thawing of her inner sense of frozenness. That they both show up within this passage makes clear how important the memory is to her, while also explaining her positive associations with these symbols. 

Despite the beauty and happiness contained within this passage, it is important to remember that to Melinda, this feeling of innocence and connection is completely lost. The memory is a good one, but she believes that she will never feel happy or whole again—so although she is recollecting a blissful moment in her past, the very act of doing so is deeply painful to her. 

Part 2, Chapter 11 Quotes

I bet they’d be divorced by now if I hadn’t been born. I’m sure I was a huge disappointment. I’m not pretty or smart or athletic. I’m just like them— an ordinary drone dressed in secrets and lies. I can’t believe we have to keep playacting until I graduate. It’s a shame we can’t just admit that we have failed family living, sell the
house, split the money, and get on with our lives.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Melinda’s mother, Melinda’s father
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

Stuck with her parents during winter break, Melinda vocalizes her anger at both herself and her parents. She first calls herself a "disappointment" for being like her parents, whom she believes are dishonest and secretive. She then goes even further, calling her relationships with her mother and father (and theirs with each other) a sham, implying that they are "playacting" as a family instead of actually being one. 

Beneath this venom and cynicism, however, it is important to understand Melinda's pain and loneliness. Her parents were unable to protect her from assault, and now they are unable to understand why she has become a shell of her former self. Melinda is deeply angry about this, believing that her parents' insufficiencies make them unfit to be parents.

Although she may seem like someone who pushes others away, what Melinda actually craves is connection and communication—and her parents seem unable to provide those things to her. Given this failure, the traumatized and desperate Melinda believes that it would be better to cut ties altogether to avoid any more pain and suffering. 

I almost tell them right then and there. Tears flood my eyes. They noticed I’ve been trying to draw. They noticed. I try to swallow the snowball in my throat. This isn’t going to be easy. I’m sure they suspect I was at the party. Maybe they even heard about me calling the cops. But I want to tell them everything as we sit there by our plastic Christmas tree while the Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer video plays.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Melinda’s mother, Melinda’s father
Related Symbols: Water, Ice, and Melting
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

On Christmas Day, Melinda's parents reveal that they've noticed her newfound love of drawing, and give her various art supplies. Although Melinda generally takes a cynical and hardened attitude towards her parents, here she experiences a moment of warmth towards them.

The passage is significant because it makes clear how desperate Melinda is to tell her parents about her assault--so desperate that even the smallest thoughtful gesture almost sends her over the edge. The quotation is also rich in symbolism, as Melinda feels a "snowball" in her throat—an image of solid water, in contrast with the "tears" in her eyes. The snowball represents how frozen and motionless Melinda has felt for months, while the tears symbolize the possibility of thaw and release.

The Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer video, while a vivid detail, also acts as an important symbol here. In a bit of tragic irony, an emblem of childhood and innocence plays on the screen as Melinda contemplates telling her parents about her sexual assault. The childlike past that the video represents contrasts with the mature, difficult reality of Melinda's present. 

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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Melinda’s father Character Timeline in Speak

The timeline below shows where the character Melinda’s father appears in Speak. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 6: Home. Work.
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Melinda begins to discuss her home life, which mainly involves avoiding her parents and ordering takeout. She says that, in general, her family communicates only through notes: her... (full context)
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
...while she has meals, and the other way to make them appear pristine for her parents. When her father comes home, Melinda flips the cushions so that “everything looks the way... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Memory and Trauma Theme Icon
...decides that she doesn’t want to try to redecorate because doing so would cause her parents to argue. (full context)
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Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
As her father pours himself a drink and microwaves leftovers, Melinda decides to nap rather than doing her... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 16: Dinner Theater
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Melinda’s parents scold her for her low grades and poor attitude. She imagines her mother as a... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 2: Closet Space
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Memory and Trauma Theme Icon
Melinda’s parents try to force her to stay after school for extra help from her teachers, but... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 6: Giving Thanks
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...a “turkeyberg” and comments that she feels as if she is on the Titanic. Her father, meanwhile, buys donuts so that the family will have something to eat. Melinda attempts to... (full context)
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Melinda hides in her bedroom and reads magazines as her parents fight. When she emerges, she sees her father chopping the frozen bird apart with a... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 8: Peeled and Cored
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Memory and Trauma Theme Icon
...a happy moment in her childhood, when she visited an apple tree orchard with her parents. She remembers her father holding her mother, and the warmth of the sun on her... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 11: Winter Break
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Memory and Trauma Theme Icon
With both her parents at work, school out, and two days till Christmas, Melinda’s mother tells her (via note)... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
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Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Melinda speculates that if she hadn’t been born, her parents would probably be divorced by now. She reflects that they must be disappointed in her,... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Memory and Trauma Theme Icon
...angel, Melinda remembers first grade, when her family lived in a smaller house and her parents were happier; her mother worked at a jewelry counter and “was home after school,” while... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Memory and Trauma Theme Icon
...are a TV for her room, skates, and a sketch pad with charcoals because her parents have noticed her drawing. Touched by the fact that they’ve noticed, she begins to cry,... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Memory and Trauma Theme Icon
...night of the party: how she snuck home later that night, but neither of her parents were in the house; in fact, her mother didn’t return until 2 AM, and her... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 12: Hard Labor
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
The next day Melinda goes to her father’s insurance office, but is angry about how much easier his life seems than that of... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Memory and Trauma Theme Icon
Furious with her father, Melinda is given the task of closing calendars into envelopes by licking them. She cuts... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 10: Clash of the Titans
Coming of Age Theme Icon
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Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
After having her absences reported, Melinda and her parents have a meeting with Principal Principal, as well as the guidance counselor. Her mother holds... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Memory and Trauma Theme Icon
Melinda’s father recalls the “sweet, loving little girl” who Melinda was “last year,” and threatens Principal Principal.... (full context)
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Melinda imagines her parents and the guidance counselor performing a song-and-dance routine about her. She giggles, and her parents... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 13: Riding Shotgun
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
...even admits that it “feels good” to understand her teachers. Her guidance counselor convinces her parents that she needs a reward, and so her mother takes her shopping. (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 14: Hall of Mirrors
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
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Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Memory and Trauma Theme Icon
...hers has been “burned off,” or torn off by the “thornbushes” that are her fighting parents, the horrible Rachel, her repressive school, and the faithless Heather. She tells herself that she... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 16: Bologna Exile
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
...a fridge full of her favorite junk foods. She considers talking to her mother and father (whom she calls Them), but worries that she will say the wrong thing. (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 2: The Wet Season
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Memory and Trauma Theme Icon
...to make an Easter Egg hunt in the house for her, and how before her grandparents died, the family would go to church. This year, however, Melinda ate lamb chops with... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 4: Genetics
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Memory and Trauma Theme Icon
...out as Ms. Keene discusses the last unit of biology: genetics. She thinks about her parents’ genes and families (her father’s relatives bet on football and smoke cigars, while her mother’s... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
...comments that she got her “‘I don’t want to know about it’ gene” from her father and her “‘I’ll think about it tomorrow' gene” from her mother. After Ms. Keene announces... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 14: Real Spring
Coming of Age Theme Icon
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Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Melinda’s father comes out and is impressed by her work. He tries to encourage her, but she... (full context)
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Her father offers to take her to the hardware store, but Melinda refuses—too many people for her... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 22: Pruning
Coming of Age Theme Icon
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Disgusted by her father, who is pretending to know more about the tree-pruning process than he does, Melinda takes... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 23: Prowling
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
...large lunch and then gets to work gardening for the entire afternoon. Her mother and father are impressed, and because of the warm night, the family eats together on the patio... (full context)