Laurie Halse Anderson

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Speak can help.
Current Battle Ends 2/28
We'll make guides for February's winners by March 31st—guaranteed.
Current Battle Ends on 2/28/2021
Time Remaining

Speak: Part 2, Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Melinda’s biology class with Ms. Keene is scheduled for a frog dissection, and David Petrakis is thrilled (he is considering becoming a doctor). Melinda is nauseated by the smell, and watches in horror has David pins the frog’s hands and feet, and waits for Melinda to slice “her” open. The dissection triggers Melinda’s trauma; suddenly she can “feel the cut, smell the dirt, leaves in my hair.” Overwhelmed by her traumatic memory, she faints, and hits her head on the table.
Another routine biology activity—dissecting a frog—becomes traumatic for Melinda. She identifies with the frog’s vulnerability, powerlessness, and violation, and she flashes back to a mysterious memory related to Kyle Rodgers’ party. Ultimately this memory proves so overwhelming that Melinda blacks out—a clear sign of its power over her.
Memory and Trauma Theme Icon
Melinda needs stitches, and is taken to the hospital by her mother. As the doctor shines a light into her eyes, she wonders whether the examination will reveal the mess within her brain. Melinda wishes only for sleep, desperately trying to put her trauma out of her mind. “The whole point of not talking about it,” she explains, “is to make it go away.” She knows, however, that it won’t, and wonders whether brain surgery might help.
Despite her desperate wish for invisibility and unconsciousness, Melinda cannot escape from her traumatic memories. Her silence, a coping mechanism, does no good; even if she doesn’t talk about it, she still thinks about it constantly. Her desire for medical intervention makes even clearer how tortured Melinda is by these memories.
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
Memory and Trauma Theme Icon