The main character in Speak is Melinda Sordino.She is in her freshman year of high school. The main conflicts of this story are between Melinda and Andy, Melinda and Rachel, and Melinda and the world. The conflict between Melinda and Andy Evans is fact that he raped her at a party over the summer. She is traumatized by the event and he doesn't think he did anything that she didn't want. The conflict between Melinda and Rachel Bruin, her ex-best friend is about the party and Andy. Rachel stops being friends with Melinda because Melinda called the cops at the party after she was raped. Rachel hadn't known that Melinda was raped. They are conflicted about Andy because Rachel is dating him and when Melinda tells her that she was raped by Andy Rachel doesn't believe her. Rachel thinks that Melinda is jealous because Rachel gets to go out with Andy. Melinda is worried that Rachel will get hurt like she did. She is worried even though Rachel rarely talks to her anymore. The students at the school are mad at Melinda for calling the cops because there were several arrests made on the night of the party. Melinda has troubles with the teachers and staff of the school because she cuts classes and is failing almost all of her classes. Her parents are worried about her, but they work alot and aren't really there to help her. The conflicts are resolved when Andy attacks Melinda again and Melinda speaks out to protect herself. She yells and screams and fights back. After that Rachel calls her wanting to talk, Andy gets caught in the act of attacking her and Melinda shares her story with Mr. Freeman.
The lesson in this story is that you have to speak out to be heard. Melinda had to learn to open up and speak out about what Andy had done to her, so that the same thing wouldn't happen to Rachel, or anyone else. David taught Melinda alot about speaking up when he told of Mr. Neck for people intolerant and xenophobic.
The first of four important scenes from this book is the chapterette entitled "First Amendment" (pgs. 53-57). David speaks out about the racist, xenophobic way Mr. Neck is teaching the class one day. Mr. neck opens a debate about why his son, a natural born American in a long line of Americans, can't get a job, but an immigrant can. When one brave student suggests that Mr. Neck's son is not as good a worker as the immigrant, Mr. Neck closes the debate. David makes a short speech about our country doesn't distinguish by race and Mr. Neck tells him sit down and be wuiet. David sits down, stares at the American flag for a few seconds then packs his stuff and leaves. David spoke up and his parents backed him up by hiring a lawyer and taping classes to make sure that Mr. Neck behaved and taught unbiasedly.
The second of four important scenes is from page 155 to page 159. Melinda refuses to give a five minute oral presentation on suffragettes. Instead she copies her essay and hands a copy to each student in the class and stands up front for five minutes. Mr. Neck doesn't approve and gives her a D. She also has to go to the guidance counselor's office, the principal's office and MISS (Merryweather In-School Suspension). David tells her after that she's going about disagree with Mr. Neck all wrong: "You can't speak up for your right to be silent"(pg. 159). David is telling Melinda that she needs speak up to speak up. She can't stand up just to be silent.
A third important scene is the chapterette entitled "Oprah, Sally Jessy, Jerry, and Me"(pgs. 164-165). This scene shows an example of what Melinda thinks the three talk show hosts would say to her if she told her story on their shows. It show three different points of view, but all of them support her. She was raped, and Andy should be punished for what he did to her.
Melinda and Rachel's conversation in the chapterette "Communication 101" (pgs. 180-184) is my last important scene. Melinda finally tells Rachel what happened to her. Rachel believes her until Melinda says that it was Andy that raped her. Rachel doesn't believe her than because she thinks that Melinda is jealous that she is going out with Andy, the popular senior boy. The scene is an important step for melinda because she finds the courage to speak up about what happened to her. It's Rachel's fault that she doesn't believe Melinda. Melinda also struggles with speaking up and standing up for herself. All people at some point have to make a decision to speak out or sit down.
Melinda's struggle to find friends is universal to all people. At some point all people have to try to find people to connect with, or a group of others to hang out with.
Some aspects of American culture portrayed in Speak are rape/violent acts -- whether to speak up or be silent, friends -- old and new, depression, and high school, and they all tie into each other.
The language use for dialouge in this book is very small. Melinda doesn't say much, and only snippets of conversation are told. Melinda language use for dialouge is functional. She'll answer with short answers when she has to. Her internal monolouge is very articulated though. She uses descriptive words that make the scenes come to life. Melinda has a sarcastic tone, and she uses sarcastic humor.
For most of the book Andy Evans has power over Melinda because she is scared of him. Her fear makes her shrink into herself and become separated from other people. Melinda gains back power when she decides that she no longer wants to hind. When Andy attacks her in her closet and she fights back, screaming and yelling as long as she can, she has regained power. And suddenly Andy has no pwer over her.
My first quote is by David. It is said to Mr. Neck, the history teacher: "If the class is debating, then each student has the right to say what's on his mind" (pg.56). David is standing up for his first amendment right, freedom of speech. Mr. Neck opened up a debate and everyone in the class should have the right to say what's on their mind, whether Mr. Neck agrees or not.
The second quote is actually a thought of Melinda's: "A five-hundred word essay on symbolism, how to find hidden meanings in Hawthorne. The whole class yells at Rachel/Rachelle in the hall. That's what you get for speaking up" (pg. 102). Melinda doesn't speak up sooner than the end of the year because she sees people like Rachel speak what they think and get yelled at. She doesn't think that people will believe her, and she doesnt want more people to hate her than already do.
"You can't speak up for your right to be silent" (pg. 159). David points out to Melinda that she isn't really standing up for anything. She's not getting a point across if she doesn't say anything. Melinda needed to realize that, while handing out copies of her paper to get out of reading it allowed is an interesting way of getting out of an oral presentation, she is going against everything the suffragettes were about. Her report was about how the suffragettes fought for women's right, but she didn't fight for what she wanted (to not speak in front of the class). She just found a clever way to try to get out of it.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I enjoyed the humor in it and the plot was very interesting. It's a difficult book to read, but it has so many deep things to say about high school, teenage relationships, depression, rape and violence, and the way people relate one another. It was interesting to read and I will enjoy reading it again.