Speak

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Speak Part 1, Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
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 nine years, especially Rachel, continue to ignore and even bully her. Melinda describes being bumped in the hallways, and having her books thrown to the floor. She tries not to think about it, and tells herself that the bullying can’t go on forever.
In Melinda’s mind, a life of numbness and unhappiness is all that she can expect. She does not hope to regain her friends; only that eventually, everyone will leave her alone. This longing for invisibility is a deeply troubling one, and speaks to how damaged Melinda is.
Themes
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Memory and Trauma 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 mother leaves her money and instructions about what to eat, while she writes down whenever she needs “school supplies or a ride to the mall.” She focuses in on her mother, a workaholic who runs a struggling department store called Effert’s in the city. Melinda describes the bad neighborhood in which her mother works, and compliments her bravery.
Melinda’s workaholic parents are uncommunicative and distant both to Melinda and to each other. It is unsurprising, therefore, that their daughter associates adulthood with silence and coldness. That they connect with each other only through notes is a clear symbol of how fractured the family is.
Themes
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
As she eats dinner on her family’s white couch, Melinda relates how she turns the cushions one way to make a mess 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 he wants to see it” and runs upstairs so that she doesn’t have to interact with him.
Although Melinda’s family pretends to be happy and functional, they are in fact incredibly dysfunctional and isolated. Melinda believes that she, like the couch, must pretend to be pristine and undamaged even if she is a wreck underneath.
Themes
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
In her bedroom, Melinda describes how out of place she feels in it, having decorated it with her friends when she was in fifth grade. She describes its rose decorations and pink walls, and recounts the different ways that Rachel, Ivy, Nicole, and Jessica decorated their rooms when they were in fifth grade. The only things that she feels truly belong are her stuffed-rabbit collection from her childhood and her canopy bed (which she didn’t remove even when Nicole teased her). Despite her hatred of and discomfort in the room, Melinda decides that she doesn’t want to try to redecorate because doing so would cause her parents to argue.
Even in her own room, Melinda feels depressed and unsafe, as she remembers her friendships with girls who will no longer speak to her. The room is frozen in time, meant for a child, just as Melinda has frozen herself as she attempts to escape adulthood. A symbol of immaturity, Melinda hates her room even though she continually retreats to it, making clear her conflicted feelings about her childhood, and her future as an adult.
Themes
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
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As her father pours himself a drink and microwaves leftovers, Melinda decides to nap rather than doing her homework. She asserts that she is powerless against the “serious nap rays” emanating from her bed, and describes a kind of half-sleep that she can fall into, and where she can “stay for hours.” Instead of calling out to her father, she simply turns on the radio so that he knows she is home.
The half-sleep that Melinda describes is a symptom of depression, a mental illness that often causes deep apathy and listlessness. Melinda’s inability to even say hello to her father further signals the lack of connection between them, while her failure to do her homework emphasizes her immature irresponsibility and general apathy.
Themes
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
As she rests, Melinda bites her lips and looks in the mirror, disgusted by what she sees. She is particularly horrified by her mouth, which she says looks like it “belongs…to someone I don’t even know.” Her father, meanwhile, listens to the local news, flipping from channel to channel only to hear the same stories. Melinda describes her appearance, from her “muddy-circle eyes” to “black-dash eyebrows” to “piggy-nose nostrils.” She compares herself to a dryad, a tree goddess of ancient Greek mythology, but concludes that she definitely does not have “a dryad face.” She then takes down her bedroom mirror and puts it “in the back of my closet, facing the wall.”
Although Melinda’s wounds are mostly internal, her bitten-up mouth symbolizes her wounds in a visible and external way. Of course, Melinda herself is responsible for her mutilated lips, since she constantly bites and picks at them. The reason for her hatred of her mouth is not yet explained, though in a novel titled Speak it is possible to guess that she feels that she failed to express herself, that her mouth failed to speak. She hates not just her mouth, but her own appearance, a feeling that makes clear her deep self loathing. Her removal of the mirror, meanwhile, is highly symbolic; she detests herself so much that she can’t even bear to look at her own reflection.
Themes
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon