Melinda feels useless in art class, and Mr. Freeman tells her that her “‘imagination is paralyzed.’” He invites her to read about Picasso, whom he calls “‘A Great One.’” She is pessimistic, but comments that looking at books will be more useful than watching the snow outside.
Mr. Freeman believes, correctly, that Melinda’s frozen art work is indicative of how frozen she is internally. Yet even so, in art class, unlike her other classes, Melinda still feels compelled to engage, and chooses looking at the book instead of disengaging and staring at the snow.
After beginning her assignment skeptically, Melinda is bewitched when she gets to Cubism, marveling at the way that Picasso slices up the world and rearranges it. She wonders what the world looked like to Picasso, and even wishes that he had gone to high school with her. She does not, however, find a picture of a tree.
For someone like Melinda, who feels that she is broken and fractured, the work of Picasso is inspirational. He painted the outside world in a fragmented and dissected way, mirroring how Melinda feels internally.
Inspired, Melinda draws “a Cubist tree” which looks like “glass shards” and “lips with triangle brown leaves.” Mr. Freeman is pleased and impressed.
In creating a Cubist work, Melinda begins to express her emotions; she can create a drawing that looks as broken as she feels. The image she creates, which connects her lips (and therefore her silent voice) to shards of glass foreshadows the broken mirror that will help her find her voice at the end of the novel.