Explain the significance of Mrs. V’s approach to Melody’s condition. How do her expectations of Melody differ from other people’s?
In contrast to the way most people underestimate Melody’s abilities, Mrs. V recognizes that Melody is intelligent and capable. By practicing tough love rather than coddling Melody, Mrs. V is able to help Melody develop the ability to flip herself over and crawl. Mrs. V also correctly guesses that Melody is capable of higher-than-expected mental functions, which enables Melody to build a rich vocabulary and knowledge base. Mrs. V’s approach serves an example of how a person’s abilities are largely determined by what people expect of them; since Mrs. V expects more, Melody achieves more.
What is the significance of the novel’s title?
Like most effective titles, Out of My Mind is open to multiple interpretations. In one sense, the story is being told out of Melody’s head. In another sense, the title speaks to Melody’s frustration at not being able to speak or use her limbs to their full potential. The frustration Melody experiences causes her to “go out of her mind,” an idiomatic expression meaning she loses her grasp on her own sanity. To manage the frustrations that would otherwise become tangled in her mind, Melody gets the words out of her mind by writing her autobiography.
The word “retarded” is used a number of times in Out of My Mind. Why might the author have chosen to include such an offensive and outdated term?
Since Out of My Mind is directed at a young readership, one might expect the author to not have included an offensive term that children are typically discouraged from using. But early in the novel, Melody comments that people must think she is retarded; she then addresses the term, acknowledging that she doesn’t like it. Instead of replacing the word with a euphemism, the fact that “retarded” infiltrates Melody’s voice reflects the extent to which the word pervades contemporary culture. Later in the novel, Claire refers to room H-5 as the retard class; this reflects how the word is still a term of abuse that seeks to demean people with developmental difficulties. It should be noted that Claire is characterized as lacking any virtue: there is nothing admirable about her or her use of the term.
How would Melody’s life have been different if she had been born prior to the 1980s?
If Melody had been born prior to the 1980s, she would have faced more challenges than she does in the early 2000s. For instance, the Medi-Talker device that allows her to talk relies on computer technologies that weren’t developed until after the 1990s. Without a Medi-Talker, Melody’s facility with language would have been limited to what she could point to on her analog communication board. And while contemporary societal awareness of cerebral palsy is limited, in the 1980s there would have been even less understanding of the congenital disorder.
In what ways did Out of My Mind fulfill the conditions necessary to be considered young adolescent realistic fiction?
Out of My Mind belongs to a genre of literature known as realistic fiction, or realism. Unlike stories that contain magic and fantasy, realistic fiction seeks to depict the world as it is: this includes a realistic point of view and characters that seem to be drawn from life. Out of My Mind fulfills the condition of realistic fiction by representing reality as accurately as possible, meaning that Melody encounters the prejudices and limitations a person with disabilities would likely experience. Instead of allowing Melody to escape into a fantasy world, Draper keeps Melody’s story realistic, thereby shedding light on the contemporary societal issue of ableism and giving readers a window into Melody’s experience.