Out of My Mind

Out of My Mind Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Underestimating Melody’s Abilities (Motif)

A common motif in Out of My Mind is the idea that Melody is underestimated by everyone around her. Melody strives to convince her peers and teachers that she is intelligent and capable, yet her talent is repeatedly underestimated by Mr. Dimming and her classmates. Melody is often dismayed by this adversity, though she also uses it as a motivation to prove people wrong.

Disregard for the Disabled (Motif)

Another motif is the idea that disabled characters are ignored and dismissed as unimportant by the main school students and faculty. This motif arises when it is revealed that room H-5 is given slow computers that the regular children no longer want, when Melody and her special needs classmates face prejudice and mockery in inclusion classes, and when Melody arrives at Linguini’s restaurant only to discover that there is no wheelchair ramp.

Sydney the Snowman (Symbol)

The Styrofoam snowman that room H-5 decorates every winter, and the range of reactions it evokes, symbolizes the diversity of Melody’s special-needs class. To Melody, the snowman encapsulates the monotony and boredom she experiences in a class that must serve all students with disabilities, no matter how far-ranging their education levels are. However, the students’ attitudes toward Sydney range, with some students being just as tired of its presence as Melody is, while others, such as Maria, love the snowman and are happy to decorate it again each Christmas. The fact that some students loathe the snowman while others love it mirrors how these students have been grouped together out of convenience rather than because they are at a similar education level.

Realities of Living with Developmental Difficulties (Motif)

Throughout the novel, Melody discusses the realities of living with cerebral palsy. The narration does not shy away from detailing how Melody and her room H-5 classmates require assistance to use the toilet, eat, bathe, and move through the world. The often-frustrating reality of coping with Melody’s needs also arises when her parents often become stressed out.

Ollie the Goldfish (Symbol)

Melody’s short-lived pet goldfish Ollie functions as a symbol for the confinement Melody experiences in her paralyzed body and the freedom she seeks. Frustrated with his confinement within his tiny fishbowl, Ollie jumps out, only to die on the table. Ollie’s failed attempt at freedom is a symbol for Melody’s own effort to use expressive language to escape the claustrophobic space of her mind. The risk Ollie takes is paralleled in the way Melody exposes herself to disappointment and social rejection.

Five Stone Steps (symbol)

The five stone steps that Melody’s mother must pull Melody’s wheelchair up at Linguini’s restaurant serves as a symbol for the mainstream public’s disregard for making public space accessible to all people. While the steps are an example of the hostile architecture that disabled people encounter in public spaces, the steps also have symbolic significance, as her difficulty getting up them contrasts sharply with the ease with which Melody's quiz team traverse the stairs.