SPEAK by Laurie Anderson
Pages 3-24 “Welcome to Merryweather High” through “Heathering”
1. How does Melinda feel the first day of high school? Why do her fears seem more
intense than that of others? Analyze why she says, “I am Outcast.”
2. Examine the meanings of “clans” and the prevalence of high school cliques.
3. Identify Melinda’s former clan and explain what has happened to it.
4. Discuss the “first ten lies they tell you in high school.” Compare with the first-day
orientation in at WHS. Is this true?
5. Who is Melinda’s ex-best friend? How does she treat Melinda? How would you feel
and what would you do in a similar situation?
6. Identify Melinda’s teachers and her characterization of them. What does this reflect?
7. Who is Heather? Identify her “plan” and explain Melinda’s reaction.
8. How does Mr. Freeman assign art projects for the year? What is Melinda’s? How does
she feel about it?
9. Describe Melinda’s home life.
Pages 24-46 “Burrow” through “Nightmare”
1. Discuss Melinda’s “place of refuge” and how she describes it.
2. What happens to Melinda when she attends the pep rally? Why do you think she
doesn’t report the harassment to the school officials? Identify a time you or someone you
know had a similar experience.
3. What does Melinda reveal about the preceding summer?
4. Explain the paradox of the cheerleaders as Melinda views them.
5. What does Melinda paint the week after the pep rally? Why is this significant?
6. What happens when Melinda visits Heather on Columbus Day? What do you think this
reveals about Heather?
7. Contrast the homes and families of Heather and Melinda.
8. How do Melinda’s parents react about her grades? How would your parents react in a
9. Trace the significant events in Melinda’s life following the confrontation with her
10. Who are the Martha’s? Why are they important to the story? Are you or anyone you
know a “Martha?” Explain your answer.
11. What will happen between David Petrakis and the social studies teacher?
12. Analyze the significance of Melinda’s nightmare about IT. What does IT symbolize?
13. Will Melinda continue to remain silent about what happened at the party?
Pages 49-68 “Go ___(Fill in the Blank)!” through “First Amendment, Second Verse”
1. What does the social studies class debate? Why? Who challenges the teacher? How do
you feel about the teacher’s response?
2. Describe Thanksgiving Day at Melinda’s home. Explain why you agree or disagree that
her family’s interaction is symptomatic of a dysfunctional family.
3. Describe the art project Melinda creates from turkey bones. Why does she do this?
How do Mr. Freeman and Ivy react?
4. Who is David Petrakis? What significance do you think he has in Melinda’s life?
5. Explain the metaphor on p. 66, “Ninth grade is …a zit-cream commercial before the
Feature Film of Life.” Write your own metaphor about ninth grade.
Pages 69-92 “Wombats Rule!” through “Dark Art”
1. Analyze the Melinda’s statement about her parents, “I bet they’d be divorced by now if I
hadn’t been born.” What does this statement reflect about her self-esteem.
2. Explain how Melinda feels about Christmas. How does she spend her Christmas
vacation. Also examine Melinda’s references to her secret and what this reveals about
her relationship with her parents.
3. What athletic ability does Melinda reveal? How does the coach react and what is
Melinda’s response? Why do you think she feels this way? What is the comparison she
makes between basketball and life.
4. How would you describe the relationship between Heather and Melinda?
5. Who is IT? What effect does his appearance have on Melinda? What do you think has
happened that makes Melinda react so intensely?
6. Discuss the school conference with Melinda’s parents and the aftermath. What about
her suicide attempt? What does it indicate? What do you think about her mother’s
Pages 95-116 “Death of the Wombat” through “”Clash of the Titans”
1. What is the current name for the Merryweather mascot? Why has it been changed? If
you could change the name of your school mascot, what would it be? Why?
2. How does Melinda react to the symbols in The Scarlet Letter, especially the reference to
Hester’s “A”? What do you think this reveals about Melinda?
3. What does Heather tell Melinda when she dissolves their friendship? How does it affect
Melinda? Explain how you would feel if a “friend” of yours did this.
4. What does Heather do as a “final blow” to Melinda? What does this cause Melinda to
5. What happens to Melinda on Valentine’s Day? What two things cause the conference
with Melinda’s parents in the principal’s office? What do the adults want Melinda to
do? What does she do?
6. Complete the following: “True friendship is…” “False friendship is…”
Pages 116-137 “Miss” through “A Night to Remember”
1. What is the result of the conference with Melinda’s parent? What is the most traumatic
result of this?
2. Who gives Melinda a ride to the store where her mother works? What does he tell her
just before they part? Do you think this is important?
3. What is Mr. Freeman’s effect on Melinda, inside and outside the art class? Do you
agree with the statement “When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a
4. How does Melinda view herself? (self-image) What are her survival techniques after
5. Why does Melinda refuse to go with David to his house after the ball game? How does
she feel? Why do you think she feels this way?
6. What happened to Melinda the night of the party? Why do you think she has never told
7. Write a metaphor or simile for “rape” or “despair.”
Pages 141-168 “Exterminators” through “Real Spring”
1. Explain the debate over the name of the school mascot.
2. Discuss the interaction between Melinda and Ivy.
3. Read over “Ten More Lies…” Do you agree or disagree?
4. What does Melinda learn about Rachel? How does she react? What does she finally
do? What would you do?
5. What does Melinda write her extra-credit report about? Explain why she does or does
not improve her grade. How do you feel about the teachers actions?
6. What happens when Andy Evens finds Melinda alone in the art room? What do you
think would have happened if Rachel had not appeared? What would you have done if
you were Melinda?
7. What happens when Melinda is home sick? Why is this significant?
8. Explain the significance of Melinda’s work in the yard.
9. How you feel about anonymous notes? Explain.
Pages 168-198 “Fault” through “Final Cut”
1. What does Melinda write on the bathroom wall? Why do you think this is significant?
How also does she begin to assert herself and find her “inner voice?”
2. Why does Heather come to Melinda’s house? What is the result? Why is this
3. What steps has Melinda taken to improve her life?
4. What happens when Melinda talks to Rachel? Describe the interaction between Rachel
and Melinda when Melinda tells her about the rape.
5. What does Ivy show Melinda in the girls’ bathroom? What does this tell you about
6. How does Melinda compare her survival with the diseased tree?
7. Explain what happens in the final confrontation between Melinda and Andy.
8. What happens in the denouement (resolution)? If you were Melinda would you feel
optimistic or pessimistic about your future?
9. What is the symbolism of Melinda’s final portrayal of her tree in art class?