Speak Summary and Analysis of Part 3: Clash of the Titans - A Night to Remember


Despite Melinda’s belief that no one can see her sickness, she and her parents have been called into a meeting with the principal and a guidance counselor. Her mother yells at her for not speaking, telling her that she is creating unnecessary problems. Her guidance counselor, however, questions the stability of her family life, enraging both of her parents. In response to Melinda’s parents’ accusations against the school and its students, the guidance counselor suggests that Melinda has nice friends—the Marthas—at school. Melinda wonders how everyone can be so dense.

The consequence of the meeting is that Melinda has to attend Merryweather In-School Suspension (MISS). At MISS, students sit silently in a room with a faculty supervisor. When Melinda goes, the supervisor is Mr. Neck. There are two other students in MISS with Melinda, one with a tattoo of a cross on his shaved head and the other a pyromaniac, according to what he tells Melinda. Mr. Neck opens the door for a late arrival and Melinda is horrified to see that it is Andy Evans. He takes a seat next to Melinda.

In art class, Mr. Freeman shows Melinda a book about Picasso. At first, Melinda does not like the book, and is bored with Picasso’s paintings of naked women and blue scenes. However, when she reaches the chapter on Cubism, Melinda is shocked and impressed. She tries sketching a Cubist tree and Mr. Freeman tells her that she is finally moving forward with her art.

Melinda goes to every single class for a week, and the guidance counselor tells her parents that they should reward her for her good behavior. Her mother decides to take her shopping for new clothes, but insists they shop at Effert’s so that they can use her mother’s store discount. The day of the shopping trip, Melinda is stuck waiting at the bus stop while a blizzard blows through. Mr. Freeman drives by and offers her a ride. During the ride, he explains the need for emotion in art. He tells her to think about emotions, not trees, when she works on her project. As Melinda exits the car, Mr. Freeman tells her that he knows she has a lot to say and that he would like to hear it.

When Melinda arrives at the store, she is informed that her mother is on the phone. Melinda browses and tries on jeans alone. After selecting a pair of jeans, Melinda waits for her mother by examining herself in the three-way mirror. She remembers reading a story about a woman who was burned and had new skin sewed on. Melinda says she feels as if her skin has been burned off. She decides that she just needs to hang on long enough to let her skin graft. She is going to try hard to be more normal.

Ms. Keen, the biology teacher, informs Melinda’s class that the next test will focus heavily on seeds. Melinda, in her effort to become more normal, studies for the test and feels confident that she will do well. She is impressed by plants and their ability to reproduce, despite the incredibly particular conditions required for a seed to germinate, and all of the dangers they constantly face.

Because Melinda no longer has anyone to eat lunch with, she decides to change her cafeteria strategy. She asks her mother to buy food so that she can bring her own lunch and avoid standing alone in the cafeteria line. She tries to read at lunch, but instead finds herself observing the other students. A new girl from Oregon has taken Melinda’s spot at the Marthas’ table. Rachel/Rachelle has started experimenting with Arabic culture. Melinda notices other outsiders sprinkled around the cafeteria. She, however, is the only one who sits entirely alone.

It snows eight inches, but school remains open. Melinda thinks that the teachers need a snow day. In English, Hairwoman asks the class what snow symbolized to Hawthorne. Melinda believes Hawthorne intended for it to symbolize cold and silence. There is nothing quieter than snow.

One day after school, Melinda sneaks into her janitor’s closet to take a nap because she has had trouble sleeping at home. She sleeps longer than she intended and wakes up to the sound of cheerleaders at the last basketball game of the season. She leaves the closet to walk home, but is instead drawn in by the end of the game. Merryweather wins the game at the last second, and as people file out of the stadium she runs into David Petrakis. He invites her to pizza at his house, but Melinda invents an excuse not to go. On her walk home, she imagines a conversation between two different Melindas. One tells her that she should have gone. It was just pizza and she needs to let herself have fun. The other tells her that she made the right decision. David may have been lying about his parents being there, and it could have been dangerous. She thinks she should never trust anyone.

After the game, Melinda cannot sleep. She crawls onto the porch roof and replays the night from last August in her head. Rachel had blackmailed her older brother, Jimmy, into bringing her and her friends to a party with beer, cheerleaders, and seniors. Melinda told her parents she was sleeping at Rachel’s house, and Rachel’s mother thought that Jimmy was taking the girls roller-skating. The party was outside of town and Melinda felt out of place. She gulped down a few beers, even though she hated the taste, in an attempt to feel more at ease. Melinda walked outside and a senior approached her and started flirting with her. Melinda was excited and wished Rachel could see.

The senior asked Melinda to dance and proceeded to kiss her. Melinda was taken aback but too drunk to say anything. The senior then pushed her to the ground and raped her. Confused and scared, Melinda wandered into the house, picked up the phone, and dialed 911. Someone grabbed the phone from Melinda and yelled to the party that the police were on their way. As people frantically scattered, Melinda saw Rachel’s angry face. Someone slapped her. She walked home by herself to an empty house. Melinda’s thoughts return to the present when she sees blood in the snow and realizes that she has bit through her lip.


Melinda begins to use cognitive avoidance strategies to escape her problems. During her meeting with her parents, the principal, and the guidance counselor, Melinda imagines them as parts of a tap dance show. This makes her giggle and helps her to forget the reality of her situation. Similarly, Melinda once again imagines herself as a rabbit when Andy Evans sits next to her in MISS. She does not want to admit that it is actually she--human Melinda--sitting next to Andy.

Melinda is fascinated by Pablo Picasso and Cubism because the Cubist style represents a dream-like escape from reality. Cubism strikes Melinda for one other reason. Its fragmented style is similar to Melinda's loosely constructed thoughts that we see throughout the novel. Cubism helps Melinda to realize her thoughts are warped and fragmented when she looks in the three-way mirror and sees herself similarly disfigured, but it also allows her to come to terms with this—Picasso’s Cubist paintings are beautiful and masterful, even if fragmented.

It is not accidental that the first test that Melinda studies for is on plants and seeds. The connection between Melinda and plants has already been established by her tree assignment in art class. Melinda is impressed by the seeds because of their ability to grow in difficult situations. Melinda must do the same. The first sign of Melinda's growth is an attitude change. She decides to take action in her life by asking her mom for food and changing her cafeteria strategy. The fact that she is drawn in by the basketball game and almost agrees to join David and his friends shows an increased interest in outside activities, a sign of mental health.

This is also the first section of the book in which Melinda's trust issues become obvious. David Petrakis is a person who she admires and cares about. Yet, when he invites her to his house for pizza, she panics. At first the reader assumes it is social anxiety, but she hints it is more than that, and once we learn what happened at the party, the truth behind her fear becomes very clear. The fact that even someone as kind as David, who Melinda admires deeply, frightens her so much, shows just how much Andy damaged her ability to trust anyone.

The end of the Third Marking Period brings us to the full explanation of what happened to Melinda at the party over the summer. It is now clear why Melinda has trust issues and why Melinda cannot bring herself to explain why she called the police that night. The title of the chapter when she revisits the memory—“A Night to Remember”—emphasizes the trouble she has had moving past the event. Until this moment, she hasn’t let herself remember, and that has prevented her from finding a way to heal. It is also ironic because the expression is usually used for wonderful experiences, but for Melinda, it is referring to the worst night of her life. The loss of her virginity comes as a traumatic act of violence, and so she finds growing up and sexuality to be especially hostile.