Laurie Halse Anderson

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Speak: Part 3, Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Commenting that a high school cafeteria is a place meant for “Teenage Humiliation Rituals,” Melinda sits with Heather, but not at the Marthas’ table; instead they sit close to the courtyard. Melinda imagines the snow behind her, and feels the wind through her shirt. She ignores Heather, instead listening to the ambient noise of the cafeteria and pretending that it is a giant hornet hive. She snaps back into focus, however, when Heather tells her that she doesn’t think that they should be friends anymore because Melinda is too depressed. In fact, she believes that Melinda needs “professional help,” and adds that the two of them were never really friends anyway. Melinda tries to think of a clever or mean response, but is unable to do so. She knows that Heather is choosing her own social status over their friendship. Realizing that Heather is her only real friend, Melinda tries to salvage the relationship, but is unable to do so as Heather becomes increasingly condescending and insulting, telling Melinda that she has “‘a reputation.’” She ends by telling Melinda that they can’t sit together anymore and walking back to the Marthas without looking back.
Friends betraying other friends is a common enough occurrence in high school, but to Melinda, Heather’s abandonment is nothing short of devastating. It is important to remember that Melinda has been abandoned by her closest friends as the book opens, and that she still is deeply traumatized by that betrayal. Although she does not feel nearly as strongly about Heather as she did about Rachel, Melinda still considers Heather her only tie to the rest of the school. Heather’s decision, meanwhile, is understandable—Melinda is a deeply depressed person, and puts little effort into their friendship—but the way she communicates with Melinda is unforgivably insensitive. She shows no empathy for or understanding of Melinda’s condition, and appears concerned only with how Melinda is affecting her own image.
Communication versus Silence Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Isolation, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon