I have entered high school with the wrong hair, the wrong clothes, the wrong attitude. And I don’t have anyone to sit with. I am Outcast.
As Melinda begins her freshman year of high school, she reacts to her new environment with pessimism and dread. On one level, this quote reflects how sorely Melinda sticks out within the conformist world of… (116 more words in this explanation)
This is where you can find your soul, if you dare. Where you can touch that part of you that you’ve never dared look at before. Do not come here and ask me to show you how to draw a face. Ask me to help you find the wind.
The art teacherMr. Freeman welcomes freshmen to his art class, using extremely passionate and imagistic language to engage them in the subject he teaches. At first, Melinda judges her teacher's manner as overly enthusiastic and… (170 more words in this explanation)
My room belongs to an alien. It is a postcard of who I was in fifth grade.
As she introduces readers to her childlike bedroom, Melinda reveals both her distance from her past self, and her longing for a time of innocence (fifth grade). By calling herself an "alien," Melinda makes clear… (130 more words in this explanation)
I look for shapes in my face. Could I put a face in my tree, like a dryad from Greek mythology? Two muddy-circle eyes under black-dash eyebrows, piggy-nose nostrils, and a chewed-up horror of a mouth. Definitely not a dryad face. I can’t stop biting my lips. It looks like my mouth belongs to someone else, someone I don’t even know.
I get out of bed and take down the mirror. I put it in the back of my closet, facing the wall.
While contemplating herself in the mirror of her bedroom, Melinda feels a surge of loathing.The protagonist often comments negatively about her own appearance, but this quote is one of the most vivid examples of her… (189 more words in this explanation)
I used to be like Heather. Have I changed that much in two months? She is happy, driven, aerobically fit. She has a nice mom and an awesome television. But she’s like a dog that keeps jumping into your lap. She always walks with me down the halls chattering a million miles a minute.
My goal is to go home and take a nap.
While spending time at Heather's house, Melinda reflects on the other girl's shallow, vapid personality. This quote highlights the importance of Heather as a character within the novel. Not only does Heather force Melinda to… (145 more words in this explanation)
The cheerleaders cartwheel into the gym and bellow. The crowd stomps the bleachers and roars back. I put my head in my hands and scream to let out the animal noise and some of that night. No one hears. They are all quite spirited.
As a pep rally rages around her, Melinda experiences a moment of raw anguish and isolation.This passage puts Melinda directly in contrast with the other students at her school. While they scream with school spirit… (184 more words in this explanation)
I hide in the bathroom until I know Heather’s bus has left. The salt in my tears feels good when it stings my lips. I wash my face in the sink until there is nothing left of it, no eyes, no nose, no mouth. A slick nothing.
After a humiliating encounter with Heather and the Marthas,Melinda's moment of anguish in front of the mirror perfectly encapsulates her self-hatred and deep depression. Melinda loathes herself so much that pain—the salt of her tears… (112 more words in this explanation)
It is getting harder to talk. My throat is always sore, my lips raw. When I wake up in the morning, my jaws are clenched so tight I have a headache. Sometimes my mouth relaxes around Heather, if we’re alone. Every time I try to talk to my parents or a teacher, I sputter or freeze. What is wrong with me? It’s like I have some kind of spastic laryngitis.
I know my head isn’t screwed on straight. I want to leave, transfer, warp myself to another galaxy. I want to confess everything, hand over the guilt and mistake and anger to someone else. There is a beast in my gut, I can hear it scraping away at the inside of my ribs. Even if I dump the memory, it will stay with me, staining me. My closet is a good thing, a quiet place that helps me hold these thoughts inside my head where no one can hear them.
As the school year progresses, Melinda notices alarming physical changes.What was previously an internal problem (Melinda's inability to talk about her assault) has now become a physical one. The parts of her body that allow… (212 more words in this explanation)
Cooking Thanksgiving dinner means something to her. It’s like a holy obligation, part of what makes her a wife and mother. My family doesn’t talk much and we have nothing in common, but if my mother cooks a proper Thanksgiving dinner, it says we’ll be a family for one more year. Kodak logic. Only in film commercials does stuff like that work.
In the midst of a disastrous Thanksgiving, Melinda reflects on why her mother cares so much about the holiday. While many teenagers feel hostilely towards adults—particularly their parents—Melinda articulates a deep cynicism here regarding her… (128 more words in this explanation)
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.
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… (199 more words in this explanation)
I bet they’d be divorced by now if I hadn’t been born. I’m sure I was a huge disappointment. I’m not pretty or smart or athletic. I’m just like them— an ordinary drone dressed in secrets and lies. I can’t believe we have to keep playacting until I graduate. It’s a shame we can’t just admit that we have failed family living, sell the
house, split the money, and get on with our lives.
Stuck with her parents during winter break, Melinda vocalizes her anger at both herself and her parents. She first calls herself a "disappointment" for being like her parents, whom she believes are dishonest and secretive… (142 more words in this explanation)
I almost tell them right then and there. Tears flood my eyes. They noticed I’ve been trying to draw. They noticed. I try to swallow the snowball in my throat. This isn’t going to be easy. I’m sure they suspect I was at the party. Maybe they even heard about me calling the cops. But I want to tell them everything as we sit there by our plastic Christmas tree while the Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer video plays.
On Christmas Day, Melinda's parents reveal that they've noticed her newfound love of drawing, and give her various art supplies. Although Melinda generally takes a cynical and hardened attitude towards her parents, here she experiences… (145 more words in this explanation)
I open up a paper clip and scratch it across the inside of my left wrist. Pitiful. If a suicide attempt is a cry for help, then what is this? A whimper, a peep? I draw little windowcracks of blood, etching line after line until it stops hurting. It looks like I arm-wrestled a rosebush.
Mom sees the wrist at breakfast.
Mom: “I don’t have time for this, Melinda.”
By now almost entirely unable to speak, Melinda escalates her self-harm, this time cutting shallow lines in her wrist with a paper clip. Even this attempt, though, cannot adequately communicate her pain. Indeed, Melinda mocks… (191 more words in this explanation)
I rock, thumping my head against the cinder-block wall. A half-forgotten holiday has unveiled every knife that sticks inside me, every cut. No Rachel, no Heather, not even a silly, geeky boy who would like the inside girl I think I am.
After a disastrous Valentine's Day, Melinda crumbles inside her closet. Through most of her narrative, Melinda acts as if she doesn't care about the opinions of her peers. This passage, however, makes clear how false… (128 more words in this explanation)
The next time you work on your trees, don’t think about trees. Think about love, or hate, or joy, or rage— whatever makes you feel something, makes your palms sweat or your toes curl. Focus on that feeling. When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time.
Mr. Freeman tries to encourage Melinda as she attempts over and over again to create a piece of art about a tree. He urges her to give herself over to an emotion—a hard task for… (118 more words in this explanation)
I stumble from thornbush to thornbush— my mother and father who hate each other, Rachel who hates me, a school that gags on me like I’m a hairball. And Heather.
I just need to hang on long enough for my new skin to graft. Mr. Freeman thinks I need to find my feelings. How can I not find them? They are chewing me alive like an infestation of thoughts, shame, mistakes.
In a moment of peak anguish, Melinda once again uses a botanical metaphor to express herself, thinking of all the obstacles and difficulties in her life as thornbushes ready to rip off her skin. Although… (163 more words in this explanation)
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.
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… (159 more words in this explanation)
I open my mouth to breathe, to scream, and his hand covers it. In my head, my voice is as clear as a bell: “NO I DON’T WANT TO!” But I can’t spit it out. I’m trying to remember how we got on the ground and where the moon went and wham! shirt up, shorts down, and the ground smells wet and dark and NO!— I’m not really here, I’m definitely back at Rachel’s, crimping my hair and gluing on fake nails, and he smells like beer and mean and he hurts me hurts me hurts me and gets up
and zips his jeans
In this passage, at last, Melinda describes the details of her sexual assault. Her recounting makes clear the trauma at the root of her inability to speak: during the actual moments of her rape, Melinda… (155 more words in this explanation)
His lips move poison and she smiles and then she kisses him wet. Not a Girl Scout kiss. He gives her the notebook. His lips move. Lava spills out my ears. She is not any part of a pretend Rachelle-chick. I can only see third-grade Rachel who liked barbecue potato chips and who braided pink embroidery thread into my hair that I wore for months until my mom made me cut it out. I rest my forehead against the prickly stucco.
Melinda's worst nightmare comes true as her rapist, Andy Evans, begins dating her ex-best friend, Rachel Bruin. This passage offers an aching contrast between adulthood and childhood. In the present, Melinda sees a girl who… (86 more words in this explanation)
This looks like a tree, but it is an average, ordinary, everyday, boring tree. Breathe life into it. Make it bend— trees are flexible, so they don’t snap. Scar it, give it a twisted branch— perfect trees don’t exist. Nothing is perfect. Flaws are interesting. Be the tree.
While encouraging Melinda to continue working on her tree project, Mr. Freeman articulates one of the central beliefs at the core of the novel: that rather than attempting to escape the flaws and traumas in… (132 more words in this explanation)
I am a deer frozen in the headlights of a tractor trailer. Is he going to hurt me again? He couldn’t, not in school. Could he? Why can’t I scream, say something, do anything? Why am I so afraid?
Even as she continues to heal and come out of her shell, Melinda still becomes frozen and powerless when she encounters Andy Evans. So traumatized that even the sight of him robs her of agency… (101 more words in this explanation)
When I close the closet door behind me, I bury my face into the clothes on the left side of the rack, clothes that haven’t fit for years. I stuff my mouth with old fabric and scream until there are no sounds left under my skin.
After having seen Andy Evans, Melinda literally retreats into her childhood, heading to the back of her bedroom closet to scream. It is of course symbolic that Melinda chooses to take out her frustration, rage… (117 more words in this explanation)
I just want to sleep. A coma would be nice. Or amnesia. Anything, just to get rid of this, these thoughts, whispers in my mind. Did he rape my head, too?
Sick and delirious, Melinda admits how exhausting it is to constantly deal with her anger, depression, frustration, and trauma day after day. Since she cannot communicate with anyone, the only people she can talk to… (161 more words in this explanation)
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.
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… (158 more words in this explanation)
I reach in and wrap my fingers around a triangle of glass. I hold it to Andy Evans’s neck. He freezes. I push just hard enough to raise one drop of blood. He raises his arms over his head. My hand quivers. I want to insert the glass all the way through his throat, I want to hear him scream. I look up. I see the stubble on his chin, a fleck of white in the corner of his mouth. His lips are paralyzed. He cannot speak. That’s good enough.
Me: “I said no.”
After Andy Evans attempts to rape Melinda a second time, she tells him no, and then defends herself with a shard of glass from a mirror in her closet. One of the most significant acts… (193 more words in this explanation)
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.
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… (158 more words in this explanation)
“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.”
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… (190 more words in this explanation)