“By the time I was two, all my memories had words, and all my words had meanings. But only in my head. I have never spoken one single word.”
At the end of the first chapter, Melody reveals that, though we have been reading her voice, she has never spoken out loud. This ironic moment establishes the novel’s thematic preoccupation with voicelessness: Melody will go on to acquire a means of expressing herself, though she will still struggle to be heard.
“Everybody uses words to express themselves. Except me. And I bet most people don’t realize the real power of words. But I do.”
In this passage, Melody is commenting on how people who have no difficulty speaking don’t realize how much tacit power language allows them to wield. Melody’s lack of a voice to express herself means that she has a unique insight into the power that she has been denied. Ultimately, Melody will write her autobiography, thereby showing how precious language is to her.
“I don’t think they get paid very much, because they never stay very long. But they should get a million dollars. What they do is really hard, and I don’t think most folks get that.”
In this quote, Melody is referring to the difficult and often thankless work that aides provide to disabled students. The passage touches on the novel’s thematic concern with the necessity of an adequate support system for special needs children; it also speaks to the broader societal issue of not providing enough funding to make caregiving a stable source of employment.
“I wondered if she would teach able-bodied third graders the same way. Probably not. The more I thought about it, the angrier I got.”
Melody is referring here to the inappropriately rudimentary lesson plans Mrs. Billups gives the class. By speculating that Mrs. Billups would not act in such a condescending manner to able-bodied students, Melody is exposing Mrs. Billups double standard; because she assumes all the special needs students’ physical limitations mean they are also mentally undeveloped, she creates a lowest-common-denominator lesson plan that insults Melody’s intelligence.
“Here’s the thing: I’m ridiculously smart, and I’m pretty sure I have a photographic memory. It’s like I have a camera in my head, and if I see or hear something, I click it, and it stays.”
In this passage, Melody is revealing that, despite her physical impairments, she is a genius with a photographic memory. This quality not only allows her to be a part of the Whiz Kids quiz team but makes her a reliable narrator of her own story.
“‘It’s not so bad,’ Rose says quietly. But I heard her.”
This quote speaks to Rose’s susceptibility to peer pressure: After having run into Claire and Molly at the aquarium, Rose is embarrassed to admit that she is there with Melody and Melody’s family. When teased by Claire and Molly, Rose makes a weak defense of Melody, who hears her. Melody goes on to worry that Rose’s friendship is superficial, and the result of Rose’s guilt.
“‘Look at it this way,’ Mr. Dimming told Connor. ‘If Melody Brooks can win the first round, then my questions must not be difficult enough! We’re all going to rally to win the competition!’”
Instead of congratulating Melody for earning a perfect score, Mr. Dimming suggests that her success must be due to a flaw in his quiz. Mr. Dimming’s casual remark exposes his bias against Melody; her physical appearance has lead him to doubt her intelligence and to speak cruelly of her as though she won’t understand the meaning of his words.
“‘What was the hardest part about participating tonight?’”
While being interviewed for Channel Six News, Melody is asked this question; Melody undermines the reporter’s expectations when she answers that the hardest part was hoping she wouldn’t mess up. From the reporter’s smile, it is clear that she expects Melody to mention some difficulty related to her cerebral palsy, but Melody’s answer is no different from the answer any able-bodied kid would give. Even when she is being polite, the reporter’s ableist bias and attitude of condescension comes through.
“They all had to wait for me and Mom. We took our time.”
After having run into Linguini’s restaurant on the way in, on the way out, Melody’s teammates and their parents stand by and wait for Melody’s chair to be slowly moved down the steps. The team will later use Melody’s slowness as an excuse for not having invited her to breakfast on the day of the flight to Washington, preferring to exclude Melody for her disability rather than practicing patience and understanding.
“Maybe I’m not so different from everyone else after all.”
This revelation comes to Melody in the final chapter of the novel. She compares her concerns to those of an average fifth-grader and realizes that she, like everyone else, simply wants to make herself understood, wants to fit in, worries about what she looks like, and worries about whether a boy will ever like her. Despite the additional difficulties that her material circumstances present, she sees these existential needs as universal. She has longed to be seen as normal, but it is only in this moment that she is able to see herself as normal.
Out of My Mind Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Out of My Mind is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Catherine is Melody’s aide at Spaulding Street Elementary. When she isn’t attending university, Catherine comes to the school to assist Melody with tasks throughout the school day. Catherine speaks to Melody as though she is intelligent and...
Melody and her family went to the airport to head to D.C for the whiz kids competition when they found out that their flight had been cancelled. Later on, they find out that the rest of the team didn't inform them that they had left an hour...