Speak

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Speak Part 4, Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Melinda zones 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 relatives mostly grow “rocks and poison ivy”), and remembers when she used to pretend that she was a princess, believing that her parents had abducted her from a faraway King and Queen. After she accidentally mistook a rental car her father was taking to the airport for a royal limousine come to take her away, she realized that she didn’t actually want to go away from her own mother and father. She scans the window for limos, chariots, or carriages, commenting, “Now, when I really want to leave, no one will give me a ride.”
As is often the case in Melinda’s biology classes, she begins to daydream and to think back to her childhood. This time, she flashes back to a less-than-happy memory in which she became upset over the prospect of losing her mother and father. In the present day, however, this memory is ironic to Melinda because she would do anything to be taken away from her family and her life, and yet is trapped within it.
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
Rather than pay attention, Melinda sketches “a willow tree drooping into water” to tape on the inside of her closet; she considers moving in there “full-time.” She realizes that her leaves look good—“Ivy was right.” David, meanwhile, is drawing a family tree; Melinda decides to draw a family stump. She 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 that they will have a quiz tomorrow, Melinda wishes that she’d paid attention, that she’d been adopted, and that David wouldn’t be annoyed when she asked to copy his notes.
As her biology class discusses family and genetics, Melinda can only think about all the bad attributes that she has received from her parents, once more signaling her disdain for and disconnection from them. She wishes yet again to withdraw, and thinks wistfully of her closet, which is filled with things that she actually cares about.
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
Melinda reports “10 More Lies They Tell You in High School,” including “You will use algebra in your adult lives”; the last lie is, “We want to hear what you have to say.”
As always, Melinda is a sharp and astute observer. Her cynicism, however, makes her distrust everything around her, while her belief that her voice is worthless keeps her silent and isolated.
Themes
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon