Speak

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Mirrors Symbol Icon
At the beginning of Speak, Melinda despises mirrors. She thinks her reflection looks ugly in her bedroom mirror, and covers up the mirror in her closet with a poster of Maya Angelou. In fact, whenever Melinda sees her reflection in the novel, she notices her flaws and is disgusted by herself. This hatred of her own image symbolizes Melinda’s deeper self-loathing. She believes, on some level, that it was her fault that Andy Evans raped her, and until she comes to understand that the assault was not her fault, she will always hate herself for what she perceives as her own weakness and stupidity. In the end, however, Melinda uses a mirror as a weapon, shattering the one in her closet in order to threaten Andy as he attempts to rape her. She has, metaphorically at least, regained control over her own image.

Mirrors Quotes in Speak

The Speak quotes below all refer to the symbol of Mirrors. 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 1, Chapter 6 Quotes

I look for shapes in my face. Could I put a face in my tree, like a dryad from Greek mythology? Two muddy-circle eyes under black-dash eyebrows, piggy-nose nostrils, and a chewed-up horror of a mouth. Definitely not a dryad face. I can’t stop biting my lips. It looks like my mouth belongs to someone else, someone I don’t even know.
I get out of bed and take down the mirror. I put it in the back of my closet, facing the wall.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker)
Related Symbols: Trees, Seeds, Plants, and Forests, Mirrors, Lips, Blood
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

While contemplating herself in the mirror of her bedroom, Melinda feels a surge of loathing. The protagonist often comments negatively about her own appearance, but this quote is one of the most vivid examples of her deep self-hatred. Melinda has essentially internalized all of the hatred and harm that she receives from her peers, and is projecting it back onto herself. In fact, in biting her lips until they bleed, Melinda has actually begun to self-harm, physically punishing herself both for her traumatic past and her current isolation, even though she is blameless in regards to both. The fact that she "can't stop" biting her lips only further emphasizes her feelings of powerlessness, illustrating for readers how out-of-control she feels, even within her own body. 

Throughout the book, Melinda will associate herself closely with trees. Here, though, she doesn't think that she is good enough to be a tree nymph, a "dryad," thus cutting herself off from the healing and rebirth that trees symbolize within the novel. 

Last, Melinda's admission that she "doesn't even know" her own reflection, and her decision to hide her mirror, illustrate how far Melinda is alienated from her own appearance. Inside, she is traumatized and wounded; her appearance, however, does not display those truths. Unable to verbally communicate her true internal state, Melinda hates her body for not expressing that state physically. 

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Part 1, Chapter 21 Quotes

I hide in the bathroom until I know Heather’s bus has left. The salt in my tears feels good when it stings my lips. I wash my face in the sink until there is nothing left of it, no eyes, no nose, no mouth. A slick nothing.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Heather
Related Symbols: Mirrors, Lips, Water, Ice, and Melting
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

After a humiliating encounter with Heather and the Marthas, Melinda's moment of anguish in front of the mirror perfectly encapsulates her self-hatred and deep depression. Melinda loathes herself so much that pain—the salt of her tears on her raw lips—feels good to her. Her assault, and her subsequent isolation by her peers, has left Melinda feeling worthless and invisible. She wishes to erase her face so that her appearance will match her internal devaluation—she will be a "nothing" inside and out. 

It is vital, too, that Melinda repeatedly washes her face in a clear effort to cleanse herself. She continues to feel guilt about her rape (a common sentiment for victims of sexual assault), and wishes to cleanse herself of those feelings. The novel often uses water to symbolize cleansing and rebirth, but here, Melinda wishes to use the restorative powers of water in order to completely erase herself. 

Part 4, Chapter 25 Quotes

I reach in and wrap my fingers around a triangle of glass. I hold it to Andy Evans’s neck. He freezes. I push just hard enough to raise one drop of blood. He raises his arms over his head. My hand quivers. I want to insert the glass all the way through his throat, I want to hear him scream. I look up. I see the stubble on his chin, a fleck of white in the corner of his mouth. His lips are paralyzed. He cannot speak. That’s good enough.
Me: “I said no.”

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Andy Evans
Related Symbols: Melinda’s Closet , Mirrors, Lips, Blood
Page Number: 195
Explanation and Analysis:

After Andy Evans attempts to rape Melinda a second time, she tells him no, and then defends herself with a shard of glass from a mirror in her closet. One of the most significant acts in the book, Melinda's defeat of Andy has huge narrative and symbolic implications. 

Andy has entered Melinda's closet, the one place where she felt safe—even before attempting to physically assault her again, he has already violated her. Subsequently, although Melinda screams no, he continues to try to rape her, proving that he would have done so over the summer whether or not she protested. 

Throughout the book, Melinda detests mirrors and her reflection, but here, however, a mirror becomes her most vital tool, as she uses a broken shard to threaten Andy. Although he has metaphorically broken her, Melinda is still able to fight back, using pieces of her own fractured identity to defend herself.

With his life in danger, Andy goes completely silent; as Melinda tells us, "He cannot speak." By raping her the previous summer, Andy took away Melinda's voice and her agency. Now, not only has she taken those things back, but she has temporarily silenced her assaulter, the man responsible for her anguish and isolation. She has made him utterly powerless, and she uses this opportunity to utter the sentence that she has been longing to say for months: "I said no." 

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Mirrors Symbol Timeline in Speak

The timeline below shows where the symbol Mirrors 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
Appearance versus Reality 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... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 21: The Marthas
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
...good when it stings my lips.” Afterwards, she washes her face and looks in the mirror, imagining that she can scrub her face until nothing is left. (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 2: Closet Space
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Memory and Trauma Theme Icon
...teachers, but she responds by hiding in her closet. As she redecorates, she covers its mirror (which she hates) with a poster of Maya Angelou (author of I Know Why the... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 14: Hall of Mirrors
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Examining herself in a three-way mirror at the store, Melinda adjusts it so that she can see “reflections of reflections, miles... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 19: A Night to Remember
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
Her memories still blurry, Melinda recalls dialing the phone and calling 911. Seeing her reflection in the window, she was struck dumb—her face is streaked with tears, and her lips... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 11: The Beast Prowls
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Memory and Trauma Theme Icon
...comes in, saying that she’s been waiting for Andy outside. She wears a necklace with mirrors on it. Andy gets up, ripping Melinda’s paper in the process. Ivy, meanwhile, walks in... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 25: Prey
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
Memory and Trauma Theme Icon
...a block of wood—the base of her bird sculpture. She uses it to break the mirror behind the poster of Maya Angelou. Grabbing a shard of glass, she holds it to... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 26: Final Cut
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
...end of the school year, she’s popular. Her hand, cut by the glass from the mirror, was stitched up at the hospital, and Rachel is trying to reach out to her.... (full context)