Laurie Halse Anderson

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Speak: Part 3, Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Melinda cuts school once again, and after falling asleep on the bus, ends up at Lady of Mercy Hospital. She moves from room to room, marveling that the “hospital is the perfect place to be invisible.” She watches as people grieve in the heart-attack floor waiting room, and rejoice in the maternity ward (although when too many people ask her questions there, she has to leave). She ends up in the hospital cafeteria eavesdropping on a group of doctors. Afterwards she moves to an adult surgery wing, and then steals a hospital gown; she imagines going to sleep in a hospital bed, and comments that “[i]t is getting harder to sleep at home.”
Melinda’s trip to the hospital feels like a somewhat random occurrence, but in fact is a significant event within the novel. In the hospital, she sees a place of healing, calm, and understanding, unlike the fraught, hectic, and threatening world of high school. She feels safe there, ignored by all around her, and even wishes that she could be a patient.
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After seeing a patient bleeding at the neck, Melinda returns the gown. There is nothing wrong with her, she thinks. “These are really sick people, sick that you can see.” Having decided that she doesn’t belong in the hospital, she leaves to take the bus home.
While the patients at the hospital have visible wounds and treatable traumas, Melinda’s damage is internal. She believes that this fact invalidates her own psychological scars, and leaves the hospital feeling ashamed. No one else in the novel has recognized Melinda’s mental illness, and so Melinda herself also does not recognize it as legitimate, instead blaming herself for her behavior in a cycle of increasing despair.
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