Speak Study Guide

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1. Speak Study Guide English I CP II

2. Question #1 Trojans -> Blue Devils -> Tigers -> Wombats -> Hornets The Trojans are sexual (condoms) with “evil” implications. The Devils aren’t sexual, but are still “evil.” The Tigers are still violent. The school board made these choices. The student choice – the Wombats – is the only innocent choice. The Hornets, chosen by the principal, become the “horny” hornets, another sexual mascot.

3. Questions #2-3 She feels out of place and isolated; therefore, she doesn’t feel good about herself. This style emphasizes Melinda’s silence.

4. Question #4 Art will allow Melinda to express her emotions and find her soul. Slicing the picture shows the effect of Mr. Freeman’s suppressed anger and the result of being silenced from freely expressing himself. Mr. Freeman is talking about art, but this statement can also be applied to life. Melinda has to be confident and strong enough to stand alone in order to find the strength she needs to speak up and talk about her experience. This is personal advice since Melinda has been very lethargic and passive. She needs to get out and experience life, and make it her own. She needs to breathe life into her own life. She needs to understand that it’s okay to have imperfections.

5. Questions #5-6 Melinda is growing and changing, so the room decorated in 5th grade no longer reflects who she is. However, she is growing and changing so constantly, she doesn’t know what her identity actually is. “Right People” shows the power of popularity and image in high school. Heather wants to be accepted and wants to find friends.

6. Questions #7-8 Without a name, the narrator could be anyone, even the reader herself or a close friend of the reader. She has no identity, and at the high school, students without an image are worthless, nothing. It’s getting more difficult for her to talk (50-51). She describes a “beast” inside of her trying to get out (51).

7. Question #9-10 This shows perseverance. Melinda is growing through the story because she didn’t show this trait before. She is slowly discovering who she is. The turkey memorial hints at the idea of avoiding something because of its appearance (you don’t want to look at a problem, a person, etc. because of the way it looks).

8. Question #11 Melinda sets up the Christmas tree and remembers when she told her parents she knew about the Santa Claus myth: “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” (70). This reveals that Melinda’s parents, like her, keep bad things (like a failed marriage) hidden from everyone else in order to keep up appearances. This might explain why Melinda is so reluctant to reveal her secret – her parents can’t deal with the truth because they are too immersed in their lies. Melinda has become accustomed to not dealing with emotions and keeping them silent so as not to disrupt the household.

9. Question #12 Melinda’s parents buy her drawing supplies because they had noticed that she had been drawing. She is touched because she has felt invisible for so long and they’ve finally noticed her. She feels this might be an opportune moment to share her secret, but as she begins to relive that night, she chokes because the emotions are still too deep. She is unable to talk about it and even unable to thank her parents.

10. Question #13-14 Dissecting the frog revives Melinda’s memories of her secret. She equates the frog to herself because the frog has been victimized, just as Melinda was. The frog’s legs are spread out and pinned down while Melinda is supposed to cut open the frog’s belly. Neither the frog nor Melinda is able to cry out. Melinda imagines she is the frog, and becomes transported to another time and place – the location of her own incident (81). Melinda states that “the whole point of not talking about it, of silencing the memory, is to make it go away. It won’t (82). This silence is harmful rather than helpful. The problem will not be resolved unless she talks about it. “Words are hard work!” (85).

11. Questions #15-16 It is most likely caused by stress. Melinda may have developed a habit of biting or licking her lips, which would cause dry lips. By naming the thing that is bothering her, Melinda is finally beginning to come to terms with her experience. The fact that she has never spoken about it is finally taking a toll on her. The sections starts with Melinda feeling good about herself for helping Heather with the posters. She feels confident and productive. When IT approaches, her mood changes to panic. The pace of her thoughts quickens – this is indicated by a lack of punctuation.

12. Questions #17-18 The closets provide safety, comfort, isolation, and a place to escape. Her tree looks dead because that symbolizes the way she feels about her social life, her relationship with her parents, and herself.

13. Questions #19-20 During Mr. Neck’s “debate,” he shoots down the ideas of every student. He will not allow the students to express their opinions, so why try? If you do speak up, you will only be ignored. When Rachel/Rachelle criticizes the teacher for overanalyzing Hawthorne’s essay, Hairwoman assigns an essay on symbolism for the entire class. Melinda thinks: “That’s what you get for speaking up” (102). Speaking up is associated with being punished. She finds a card taped to her locker. She thinks that it might be from David since they have become closer through being lab partners. Heather actually left the envelope. Melinda experiences despair as she opens the card: “I hear a cracking inside me, my ribs are collapsing in on my lungs, which is why I can’t breathe” (110). Heather has completely rejected Melinda’s offer of friendship. And, the card isn’t from David, as she had hoped.

14. Questions #21-22 For her art project, Melinda feels a great deal of pressure to make the tree as natural looking and full of emotion as possible. The doodle is relaxed and fun to draw. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Emotions that are not dealt with can make a person sick, physically and mentally. Melinda does have an illness, but it’s in her mind. She doesn’t view herself as normal and she views herself as an outcast, which can also indicate sickness.

15. Questions #23-25 Andy Evans is Melinda’s biggest threat. He is the one person who forces her to deal with the emotions she has tried to repress. Her defense mechanism is to transform herself into BunnyRabbit; she hopes that she won’t be noticed if she remains still, just like a rabbit would do. The egg represents the fragility of the situation, and how detrimental it would be for her to act upon her emotions. Even though it is important to deal with them, reacting irrationally could have devastating results. Melinda could be referring to herself – or to teenagers in general. There are many elements seeds need to grow and many obstacles that could prevent them from growing (126). Essentially, if it does not receive the proper nurturing, it will die. The same is true for people. Them is a pronoun like “IT.” So, Melinda’s parents have acquired the same associations.

16. Questions #26-27 Melinda was raped at the party. Did she do everything possible to stop this from happening? Spring symbolizes rebirth and growth. It brings change and an opportunity to begin again. Spring could foreshadow Melinda’s growth as an individual. This could mean that she is on the verge of a change that will ultimately change her life.

17. Questions #28-29 If the students had learned about sex at an earlier age, Melinda would have been better prepared for the situation that summer. The students would have most likely learned about Date Rape and the importance of telling someone about it immediately. It may be because rape victims experience a series of emotions afterward (like PTSD victims). These include denial and confusion. They wonder if they could have done more to have prevented the event from happening.

18. Questions #30-31 Melinda exhibits an air of confidence while playing tennis. She hasn’t shown this through the course of the book. However, at the end of the section, she contradicts that confidence: “Maybe I can get Dad to practice with me a few times. It would be the only glory of a really sucky year if I could beat someone at something” (170). Melinda is still lacking confidence. Heather asks for Melinda’s help with prom decorations after Heather abandoned Melinda. Melinda is generally a kind person who wants to help anyone she can; however, in this situation, Melinda finally stands up for herself. She is growing and changing, and she is starting to have more confidence in her feelings and emotions.

19. Questions #32-34 Earlier in the section, Melinda reminds Rachel of the fun they had as kids trying to melt cheese in the fireplace (181). Rachel’s melting shows that she, too, has been hurt. Rachel accuses Melinda of being a “liar!” (184). Rachel is in denial. She is a freshman in a relationship with a senior; the relationship is serious because he is older and more mature, but also because of the pressure on students to be popular. Rachel is very popular because of her relationship with Andy. This may also be Rachel’s first relationship and she may be experiencing a type of romantic attention that she has never experienced before. Rachel may feel that Melinda is jealous. When Ivy takes Melinda to the bathroom where they wrote that Andy Evans is a guy to stay away from, they see the responses that have been left by other girls. The responses are long and there are many. Melinda knows that this will help bring Andy down, and perhaps show Rachel that Melinda was not lying about being raped.

20. Questions #35-36 If Melinda is the tree and her secret about Andy Evans is the disease that is killing her branches, Melinda would be able to persevere and grow if she only got rid of the secret that is killing her. She goes back to the place where she was raped. It is both positive and negative. Negatively, she experiences physical signs of her fear, anxiety , and horror: “My heart thuds as if I were still pedaling up the hill. My hands shake” (188). As she explores the scene further, she crouches by a tree trunk, “[her] fingers stroking the bark, seeking a Braille code, a clue, a message on how to come back to life after my long undersnow dormancy” (188). Sitting next to the tree and realizing that she has survived, despite her confusion, is positive.

21. Question #37 Andy Evans traps her because he blames her for the rumors about him. Physically, Melinda experiences the following: “He grabs my wrists” (194), “…his teeth knock against my cheekbone” (194), “An explosion in my head and blood in my mouth. He hit me” (194), “He grabs me, pulls me away from the door, one hand over my mouth, one hand around my throat…His body crushes me” (195). Emotionally, Melinda experiences the following: “Maya Angelou looks at me. She tells me to make some noise” (194). – Because M.A. represents Melinda’s subconscious, this shows that Melinda is finally trying to deal with her emotions. She is working through her silence. “My heart wobbles” (194). – Melinda feels fear and anxiety. “He fumbles to hold both my wrists in one hand. He wants a free hand. I remember I remember. Metal hands, hot knife hands” (194). – Melinda has blocked out the worst part(s) of her experience. Reliving this experience in some way is forcing her to remember, which helps her to deal with her emotions regarding the attack. “I said no” (195). – Melinda is finally able to speak. Yay!

22. Questions #38-40 Melinda is searching for tree limbs because trees represent strength and stability. Melinda is reaching for these aspects of her own personality – she is reaching within herself to find the characteristics that will help her to defend herself against her biggest fear and her worst enemy. Mr. Freeman wants to paint a sunrise over the grade wall. Sunrises represent a new beginning, rebirth, change, and new perspectives. With the sunrise comes the new day that is free of mistakes. Melinda decides to add birds to her tree project. This is the perfect final touch because birds typically symbolize freedom. Now that Melinda is free from the secret she held in for so long, she is able to fly through life and onto new challenges.

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