Speak

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Warmth and Sunlight Symbol Icon
Just as water and ice symbolize how dead and frozen Melinda feels, warmth and sunlight represent moments in which she feels as if she might be alive inside after all. As winter turns to spring, and Melinda begins to move past her trauma, she spends more and more time outside, a shift that represents her re-engagement with the world around her. Because of her deep identification with trees and plants, warmth and light are especially important to Melinda because they allow plants to grow and thrive. It is also significant that the art room, Melinda’s refuge throughout the year, is the warmest, lightest place in school. Finally, when Andy attempts to rape Melinda for a second time in her closet, he does so with the light on (in contrast to the night when he raped her at the party). Light is a force of enlightenment and truth – it reveals – and Andy’s attempt to assault Melinda reveals the truth about him to the whole school.

Warmth and Sunlight Quotes in Speak

The Speak quotes below all refer to the symbol of Warmth and Sunlight. 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 2, Chapter 8 Quotes

Applesmell soaks the air. One time when I was little, my parents took me to an orchard. Daddy set me high in an apple tree. It was like falling up into a storybook, yummy and red and leaf and the branch not shaking a bit. Bees bumbled through the air, so stuffed with apple they couldn’t be bothered to sting me. The sun warmed my hair, and a wind pushed my mother into my father’s arms, and all the apple-picking parents and children smiled for a long, long minute.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Melinda’s mother, Melinda’s father
Related Symbols: Trees, Seeds, Plants, and Forests, Warmth and Sunlight
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

Triggered by the scent of apples, Melinda remembers a beloved scene from her childhood. This quote stands out as an unusual one within the novel—it lacks Melinda's usual blend of cynicism and pain, instead representing a moment of positivity and beauty. Given Melinda's hatred of the way that she has been growing up lately, it makes sense that she would be extremely nostalgic for her earlier childhood, as is shown here. Importantly, this memory also represents a time of connection between Melinda and her parents, during which they were an actual loving family, instead of simply three people living in the same house.

It's also worth noting that both trees and sunlight figure heavily into this treasured memory—two important and positive symbols within the narrative. Trees represent strength and rebirth to Melinda, while the sun represents the gradual thawing of her inner sense of frozenness. That they both show up within this passage makes clear how important the memory is to her, while also explaining her positive associations with these symbols. 

Despite the beauty and happiness contained within this passage, it is important to remember that to Melinda, this feeling of innocence and connection is completely lost. The memory is a good one, but she believes that she will never feel happy or whole again—so although she is recollecting a blissful moment in her past, the very act of doing so is deeply painful to her. 

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Part 3, Chapter 19 Quotes

Slush is frozen over. People say that winter lasts forever, but it’s because they obsess over the thermometer. North in the mountains, the maple syrup is trickling. Brave geese punch through the thin ice left on the lake. Underground, pale seeds roll over in their sleep. Starting to get restless. Starting to dream green.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker)
Related Symbols: Trees, Seeds, Plants, and Forests, Birds, Water, Ice, and Melting, Warmth and Sunlight
Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:

As the narrative progresses, Melinda's voice becomes slightly more hopeful. Emotionally frozen during the winter months, she begins to thaw as the weather turns towards spring. This passage illustrates the close relationship between Melinda's emotions and the changing of the seasons. The signs of spring—water thawing, birds returning, seeds growing—all have intensely symbolic and positive meanings for her. Water melts, just as her inward iciness melts as well. Birds fly free, just as Melinda hopes to one day be free of her trauma. Seeds grow from the cold ground, just like Melinda wishes to be reborn, and to come back from her trauma as strong as she was before. 

Like the "restless" seeds that are "dream[ing] green," Melinda too is starting to become restless, dreaming her way out of her cold, frozen shell. To her, spring is a metaphor for renewal and rebirth, processes in which she hopes to take part as well. Her close association with nature makes the tree an excellent subject for Melinda's artwork. Just as she uses natural metaphors to describe her own internal journey, so too will she use a representation of her tree to express her hidden emotions.  

Part 4, Chapter 22 Quotes

I crouch by the trunk, my fingers stroking the bark, seeking a Braille code, a clue, a message on how to come back to life after my long undersnow dormancy. I have survived. I am here. Confused, screwed up, but here. So, how can I find my way? Is
there a chain saw of the soul, an ax I can take to my memories or fears? I dig my fingers into the dirt and squeeze. A small, clean part of me waits to warm and burst through the surface. Some quiet Melindagirl I haven’t seen in months. That is the seed I will care for.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker)
Related Symbols: Trees, Seeds, Plants, and Forests, Water, Ice, and Melting, Warmth and Sunlight
Page Number: 188
Explanation and Analysis:

Melinda returns to the scene of her rape and experiences a feeling of emotional release as she crouches by a tree. This passage represents one of the most intense instances of Melinda's identification with plants, trees, and nature. Recognizing that she has been frozen in place for months, Melinda here decides that she wants to come back, and to grow once more. 

At first, Melinda wonders whether she can cut away her trauma and terrible memories, but quickly realizes that this is not a real option. Instead, she decides that she must nurture the seeds of the person she used to be, until she can slowly grow into someone else. 

Communing with nature is a restorative act for Melinda. It helps remind her of who she is and who she wants to be, and gives her hope for the future. Although she acknowledges that she is "screwed up," Melinda is more optimistic and sincere here than we have ever seen her before. Returning to the scene of her trauma has had a healing effect on her, and gives both the protagonist and the readers hope that she may indeed continue to heal in the future. 

Part 4, Chapter 26 Quotes

IT happened. There is no avoiding it, no forgetting. No running away, or flying, or burying, or hiding. Andy Evans raped me in August when I was drunk and too young to know what was happening. It wasn’t my fault. He hurt me. It wasn’t my fault. And I’m not going to let it kill me. I can grow.
I look at my homely sketch. It doesn’t need anything. Even through the river in my eyes I can see that. It isn’t perfect and that makes it just right.

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Andy Evans
Related Symbols: Trees, Seeds, Plants, and Forests, Birds, Water, Ice, and Melting, Warmth and Sunlight
Page Number: 198
Explanation and Analysis:

Having finally created a tree that expresses her true self and her hidden trauma, Melinda is at last able to admit the truth to herself and to the readers, and explain what happened in clear terms. She at last cleanses herself of her guilt, acknowledging that her rape was not her fault, and that she will no longer remain frozen from the pain of the experience.

Creating art has indeed become a healing experience for Melinda, as a representation of her imperfect life, and her continued potential for growth. Although she has longed to escape throughout the narrative, Melinda now understands that flight is not possible; the only way she can continue living is to acknowledge her trauma and to continue growing as a person.

Melinda describes her tears as she finishes the sketch by saying that there is a "river" in her eyes. Throughout the novel, metaphors of freezing and ice have described Melinda's cold and static emotional state. Now, as she at last emerges, her "river" of tears represents the fact that she has thawed internally, and is ready to face the world again as a person with agency and a voice. 

“You’ve been through a lot, haven’t you?”
The tears dissolve the last block of ice in my throat. I feel the frozen stillness melt down through the inside of me, dripping shards of ice that vanish in a puddle of sunlight on the stained floor. Words float up.
Me: “Let me tell you about it.”

Related Characters: Melinda Sordino (speaker), Mr. Freeman (speaker)
Related Symbols: Water, Ice, and Melting, Warmth and Sunlight
Page Number: 198
Explanation and Analysis:

As Melinda and Mr. Freeman look at her tree sketch, Mr. Freeman reveals that he has at least guessed that Melinda has been through a traumatic experience. Always the most empathetic and understanding adult in the book, he is about to become the first person to whom Melinda fully tells her story. Given that his philosophy of art as self-expression has allowed Melinda to make her emotional journey, it makes sense that he should be the first to hear from her newfound voice.

Natural metaphors abound in this passage, as the last of Melinda's iciness melts away under Mr. Freeman's warmth and attention. The combination of fighting off Andy, making her tree, and Mr. Freeman's sympathetic ear have freed her from her frozen trauma. By "melting," Melinda is finally able to tell her story, and to reemerge into the world as a flawed but healing person who trusts others and is able to ease the burdens of her past by sharing them with those around her.

These are the final words of the novel—an optimistic ending for what is often a dark and upsetting book. By ending her narrative with Melinda telling her story to Mr. Freeman, author Laurie Halse Anderson is telling her readers that, just like Melinda's, their stories matter, and that there are those in the world who will listen to and understand them. 

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Warmth and Sunlight Symbol Timeline in Speak

The timeline below shows where the symbol Warmth and Sunlight appears in Speak. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 4: Sanctuary
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
...her art teacher Mr. Freeman is friendly and open-minded; his classroom, meanwhile, is full of warmth and light. Even the radio is playing Melinda’s “favorite station.” A dark spot, however, is... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 8: Peeled and Cored
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Memory and Trauma Theme Icon
...apple tree orchard with her parents. She remembers her father holding her mother, and the warmth of the sun on her hair. To the dismay of David, she bites her apple,... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 14: Coloring Outside the Lines
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...strong old oak with a wide scarred trunk” and leaves that reach up to the sun. Although she can imagine the tree perfectly, she thinks that the trees she carves look... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 3: Escape
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
...could shop with her mother without talking to her. She sits in a shaft of sunlight, taking off her winter clothes and imagining that she is a bird. Real birds sing... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 14: Real Spring
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
Melinda reports that it is May at last, and that it’s finally stopped raining—the sun is out, and the weather warm. On a Saturday, with her mom at work and... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
...They both look at the plants in the yard, and as a cloud covers the sun, Melinda shivers. He points out that the tree in their yard is sick, and will... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 22: Pruning
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Memory and Trauma Theme Icon
On a warm and sunny Saturday morning, Melinda watches as arborists come to cure the sick tree outside... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Appearance versus Reality Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Memory and Trauma Theme Icon
...into the dirt, she imagines a “small, clean part of me” that is waiting “to warm and burst through the surface.” She imagines that her old self is like a seed... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 23: Prowling
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
...gardening for the entire afternoon. Her mother and father are impressed, and because of the warm night, the family eats together on the patio without a single fight. (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 25: Prey
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
On a warm day in algebra class, Melinda realizes with a start that she doesn’t want to hide... (full context)