Laurie Halse Anderson

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Speak: Part 1, Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Melinda describes gym with loathing, recounting how she has to change in a bathroom stall and how Heather wears her gym clothes under her school clothes. She goes on to discuss her former friend Nicole, who is athletic and confident. Nicole, Melinda asserts, has a nice locker because she’s on the soccer team, and is comfortable enough to change bras in the locker room. She comments that Nicole must be strong, in order to not care what others say about her exposed body.
While Melinda and Heather are both clearly uncomfortable with their bodies, Nicole is the epitome of confidence and grace. Comfortable with herself and sure of her abilities—and physically strong—she is everything that the self-loathing, closed-off, hesitant Melinda is not.
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As the gym class plays field hockey on a muddy, cloudy day, an unenthusiastic Melinda continues to describe Nicole’s athletic skills, and good looks, the favoritism she receives from the coaches, and her friendliness. She marvels at the ease with which Nicole plays field hockey, and reflects that Nicole can do “anything” involving sports. She also notes somewhat bitterly that even boys watch Nicole “to learn to play better,” although “[i]t doesn’t hurt that she’s cute.” Despite being jealous, however, Melinda can’t hate Nicole, who is a genuinely kind person, even helping out the hapless Heather. “It would be so much easier,” Melinda says, to hate Nicole if she were “a bitch.”
Melinda’s detailed description of Nicole makes it clear how jealous she is of her former friend. She is most obsessed with how effortlessly Nicole seems to succeed. Since even getting out of bed in the morning is a huge task for Melinda, it is easy to understand why she would be incredibly envious of someone who seems to excel without even trying.
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