One theme of Speak is finding one's voice. Another theme in the novel is identity. The story can also be viewed as speaking out against violence and victimization. Melinda feels guilty, even though she was a victim of sexual assault. Yet, by seeing other victims, like Rachel, Melinda is able to speak. Some see Speak as a story of recovery. According to Latham, writing/narrating her story has a therapeutic effect on Melinda, allowing her to "recreate" herself.
Post traumatic stress disorder
One interpretation of Melinda's behavior is that it is symptomatic of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of her rape. Like other trauma survivors, Melinda's desire to both deny and proclaim what happened produces symptoms that both attract and deflect attention. Don Latham and Lisa DeTora both define Melinda's PTSD within the context of Judith Herman's three categories of classic PTSD symptoms: "hyperarousal", "intrusion", and "constriction". Melinda displays hyperarousal in her wariness of potential danger. Melinda will not go over to David's house after the basketball game, because she is afraid of what might happen. Intrusion is depicted in the rape's disruption of Melinda's consciousness. She tries to forget the event, but the memories keep resurfacing in her mind. Constriction is illustrated in Melinda's silence and withdrawal from society. Latham views Melinda's slow recovery as queer in its diversion from the normal treatment of trauma. Melinda's recovery comes as a result of her own efforts, without professional help. Further, DeTora notes the connection between trauma and "the unspeakable".