Speak

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Speak Part 2, Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Melinda’s guidance counselor calls her mother to report her terrible grades. Melinda sarcastically comments that she should get the counselor a thank you card. Her parents once again scream at her over dinner as Melinda attempts to ignore them, instead conjugating irregular Spanish verbs, daydreaming, and looking at the snow outside. She calls her parents Mount Dad and Mount Saint Mom, watches them erupt, and wishes that the storm would bury her house. Her parents question her bad attitude and behavior and ground her, but Melinda doesn’t speak a word, believing that “[t]hey don’t want to hear anything I have to say.”
As usual, Melinda’s parents use the worst possible techniques to try to communicate with her. Melinda, however, is completely disconnected with them, refusing to talk to her parents because she believes that they are incapable of listening. She views them as hypocrites who only pretend to care about her. Once again, she imagines disappearing (though this time in her fantasy her whole house disappears with her).
Themes
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 does her homework and shows it to her parents. Afterwards, however, she writes a runaway note and goes to sleep in her bedroom closet. Her mother finds her, gives her a pillow, and closes the door, not even attempting to speak to her. In the closet, Melinda uses a paper clip to scratch her wrist, calling her self-harm a “[p]itiful” suicide attempt, and a “whimper” for help. She watches as “little windowcracks of blood” appear, and doesn’t stop scratching until “it stops hurting.” When her mother sees the wrist, she acts dismissively once again, telling her daughter, ‘”I don’t have time for this, Melinda,’” and adding that “suicide is for cowards.” Melinda does not respond.
Although Melinda attempts to play the good student for an evening, even this effort proves too much for her. Melinda’s decision to sleep in her closet symbolizes a complete regression to childhood, while her self-harm once again indicates the depth of her self-hatred and her loneliness. Though this behavior is clearly a desperate call for attention and understanding, Melinda’s mother reacts in a wholly dismissive fashion, seemingly unable to understand that there is something deeply wrong with her daughter. Melinda’s parents seem to act as if Melinda’s behavior is directed against them—possibly because her parents are constantly angering each other—rather than a sign of a real need for help.
Themes
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