Speak Character Analysis Essay

Melinda is the protagonist of Speak. She begins ninth grade friendless and depressed. After Melinda calls the police at a party in August, her former friend group ditches her and disintegrates. The remainder of the student body dislikes her for being a snitch. No one, however, knows Melinda’s biggest secret, the reason she dialed 911 over the summer--a senior named Andy Evans raped her while she was drunk at the party. Horrified and upset in the aftermath, the first thing Melinda thought to do was to call for help. She spends the school year reliving the party, facing the reality of what happened, and growing into a new, healthier person. By the end of ninth grade, Melinda finds her voice and learns to speak.

Also known as IT or Andy Beast to Melinda, Andy is the primary antagonist in Speak. He is a sleazy, but attractive, senior boy with a reputation for inappropriate behavior with girls. He rapes Melinda at a party the summer before her first year of high school. Throughout the year, he continues to torment Melinda with comments referencing their previous encounter. Near the end of the school year, he begins dating Rachel. Rachel publicly leaves him at prom after discovering that he raped Melinda. At the end of the novel, he tries to rape Melinda a second time, but Melinda screams and he is caught.

David is Melinda’s lab partner in biology class. He is brilliant, confident, and assertive, qualities that Melinda wishes she had. He hires a lawyer and threatens to sue Mr. Neck for a xenophobic classroom debate. He is one of the few characters who sees past Melinda's reputation early in the novel. Melinda develops a small crush on David.

Heather is Melinda’s first friend in the ninth grade. Heather has just moved from Ohio and like Melinda, does not have any friends when she begins high school. Heather is self-absorbed and obsessed with integrating herself into the social scene. She joins a clan known as “the Marthas” but does not fit in well. She becomes the leaders’ minion, not their friend. She dumps Melinda as a friend because she believes Melinda is hurting her social reputation. However, it is clear by the end of the novel that Melinda, not Heather, will be able to grow and successfully pursue friendships sophomore year.

Mr. Freeman is Melinda’s eccentric art teacher. He assigns his students a yearlong project in which they must work with a single object for the entirety of the class. Mr. Freeman is a talented artist and teacher who is angered by the school board's stifling of his class. He is the only person in Melinda’s life to notice her depression and to encourage her to tell her story, something that Melinda eventually does do for him at the end of the novel.

Also known as Rachelle or Rachel/Rachelle, Rachel is Melinda’s former best friend. Rachel hates Melinda after Melinda calls the police at a summer party to which Rachel’s brother had brought them. Rachel begins spending time with the foreign exchange students and changes her looks, her attitude, and her name to Rachelle. In the spring, she starts dating Andy Evans, and Melinda tries to warn her of the danger of being with him. Rachel is the first person Melinda tells about the rape. Although Rachel seems at first to not believe Melinda, she publicly leaves Andy at prom because of it. She reaches out to Melinda at the end of the novel.

Melinda’s mother works as a manager at Effert’s, a downtown clothing store that keeps her constantly busy. She is stressed and continually says that she does not have time for Melinda’s poor behavior. Like Melinda’s father, she does not notice Melinda’s depression and thinks that Melinda's silence and low grades are part of a childish game for attention.

Melinda’s father works as an insurance salesperson. Melinda is resentful that although his job is not as demanding as her mother's, her father is not helpful around the house. Like Melinda’s mother, he does not notice that Melinda is depressed, although he is very angry that she has let her grades drop and regularly skips class. He doesn't understand what has changed.

Mr. Neck is Melinda’s history teacher. He dislikes Melinda from the moment he discovers her lost in the hallway on the first day of school. After a classroom debate on whether the United States should have closed its borders in 1900, David Petrakis hires a lawyer and threatens to sue Mr. Neck and the school for civil rights violations. Mr. Neck is forced to behave for the rest of the year, but still gives Melinda a “D” for an extra credit assignment after she refuses to present it in front of the class.

Ivy is one of Melinda’s former friends. She is artistic and helps Melinda in art class. They are able to reconnect during their time spent in Mr. Freeman’s room and over their dislike for Andy Evans.

Nicole is one of Melinda’s former friends. She is a very talented athlete, and in Melinda’s gym class. At the end of the novel, Nicole and the girls from the lacrosse team hear Melinda’s screams from the janitor’s closet. They rescue her from Andy Evans and spread word of the attack.

Hairwoman is the name that Melinda gives to her crazy-haired English teacher. Hairwoman succeeds in engaging her students in the writing process by assigning fun essay topics. She is not as successful, however, in convincing them to look for symbolism in Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.

Meg n’ Emily n’ Siobhan are the three leaders of the Martha clan. They strive for perfection, run community service projects, and wear matching outfits. They are judgmental and mean to both Heather and Melinda.

Greta-Ingrid is the name Melinda gives to Rachel’s new, exchange-student best friend who looks like a Swedish supermodel. She and Rachel become obsessed with Andy Evans at the same time. Despite Melinda's dislike of Greta-Ingrid, she feels obliged to warn both her and Rachel about the danger of Andy Evans.

Mr. Stetman is Melinda’s good-natured algebra teacher. He loves algebra deeply, and it breaks his heart that his students don't understand why it matters. He works to engage them by providing examples of real world algebra applications.

Ms. Keen is Melinda’s biology teacher. Melinda thinks she could have been a brilliant scientist, and doesn't understand why she is a teacher instead. She successfully gets Melinda interested in seed and plant growth.

Principal Principal is the average high school principal. Melinda continually pokes fun at his ineptness.

Melinda Sordino

The protagonist of Speak, Melinda begins high school (and the novel) traumatized by a rape that occurred at the hands of upperclassman Andy Evans at a party the summer before. She has not told… (read full character analysis)

Andy Evans

A popular and handsome upperclassman, Andy Evans raped Melinda at a party the summer before Speak begins. He is the main antagonist of the book, and spends much of the narrative harassing Melinda in various… (read full character analysis)

Melinda’s mother

Overworked and distracted, Melinda’s mother is aware that her daughter has suddenly become withdrawn and depressed, but has no idea why. Rather than attempting to understand and connect with Melinda, her mother instead reacts… (read full character analysis)

Melinda’s father

An insurance salesman, Melinda’s father is clueless and removed, although he pretends to be warm and jocular. Like Melinda’s mother, he has no idea of the trauma that Melinda has suffered, and yells at… (read full character analysis)

Heather

A transfer student from Ohio, Heather is everything that Melinda is not—perky, friendly, and obsessed with being popular. She is willing to be Melinda’s friend, however, because she initially doesn’t know that Melinda called the… (read full character analysis)

Mr. Freeman

Melinda’s free-spirited, kind, warm art teacher, Mr. Freeman is the only adult whom Melinda respects or trusts. He tells his students to use art to express their emotions, and helps Melinda to once again find… (read full character analysis)

Rachel Bruin

Although she and Melinda used to be best friends, Rachel now hates Melinda, believing (like the other students at their high school) that Melinda called the police on a summer party in order to get… (read full character analysis)

Ivy

A former member of the Plain Janes, Melinda’s middle school friend group, Ivy is never as cruel to Melinda as Rachel is. In fact, she and Melinda begin to become friends after spending a great… (read full character analysis)

David Petrakis

Like Ivy, David Petrakis becomes an ally of Melinda’s, after beginning the year as her biology lab partner. Generally considered a genius, David is also a principled and moral person, qualities that he… (read full character analysis)

Nicole

Like Ivy and Rachel, Nicole used to be a part of Melinda’s friend group, the Plain Janes, in middle school. She is now a talented athlete, and her strength and confidence represent to Melinda… (read full character analysis)

Greta-Ingrid

Greta-Ingrid is one of Rachel’s new foreign exchange student friends, whose name Melinda intentionally fails to remember. She is incredibly beautiful and, like Rachel, appears to have captured the interest of Melinda’s rapist Andy Evans… (read full character analysis)

Mr. Neck

A bullying bigot, Mr. Neck is Melinda’s social studies teacher, often singling her out for mistreatment because of her silence and sullenness. When his son doesn’t get a job as a firefighter, Mr. Neck goes… (read full character analysis)

Minor Characters

Guidance counselor

Melinda’s guidance counselor means well, but is unable to find out why she is cutting classes and is unable to make friends. Yet another powerless and unhelpful adult, the guidance counselor only makes matters worse in attempting to talk to Melinda’s parents about her problems.

Principal Principal

Melinda considers Principal Principal so incompetent that she refuses to even learn his name. Frequently fooled and mocked by students, Principal Principal tries and fails to connect with Melinda and to understand what is wrong with her.

Hairwoman

Melinda names her English teacher Hairwoman because she cannot see her face through her thick hair. Obsessed with The Scarlet Letter and creative writing, Hairwoman continually tries to get her students excited and inspired about English, although she often comes across as clueless and incompetent.

Ms. Keen

One of the few adults whom Melinda does not dislike, Ms. Keen is her smart and interesting biology teacher. Melinda is especially interested in her units about plants and trees, because of her art project on the subject.

Mr. Stetman

Like Ms. Keen, Mr. Stetman, Melinda’s algebra teacher, is kind, hardworking, and genuinely excited about his subject. Melinda, however, puts no effort into understanding algebra, and frequently earns terrible grades in his class.

Ms. Connors

Melinda’s gym teacher, Ms. Connors is impressed by her skill in basketball and tennis, but disappointed that Melinda’s terrible grades will not allow her to join the basketball team.

Spanish teacher

Melinda’s Spanish teacher attempts to use immersion to teach her students Spanish, but fails; she is yet another adult who fails to communicate with the high schoolers around her.

Librarian

Kind and understanding, the Librarian gives Melinda a late pass after she cries in the library. Melinda ends up taking advantage of this, stealing an entire pad of late passes in order to cut class.

Heather’s mother

Another clueless adult, Heather’s mother is friendly but phony. She encourages Heather’s friendship with Melinda, and seems concerned that her daughter hasn’t made more friends.

Coach Disaster

Because the school’s football team is so awful, Melinda renames the football coach Coach Disaster.

Basketball Coach

Like Ms. Connors, Basketball Coach is impressed by Melinda’s ability to make baskets, but disappointed that she cannot join the girls’ team. They offer to let her help coach the boys’ team in exchange for an A in gym, and while she says yes, she never actually follows through.

Kyle Rodgers

Although Kyle Rodgers never appears in the novel, it was at his party that Andy Evans raped Melinda.

Jessica

A former member of the Plain Janes (Melinda’s old friend group), Jessica has since moved to Nevada.

Raven Cheerleader and Amber Cheerleader

Melinda makes fun of the cheerleaders at her school, especially two blonde seniors whom she names Raven Cheerleader and Amber Cheerleader. At the end of the book, however, she sees Amber Cheerleader saying goodbye to Mr. Freeman, and realizes that she may have misjudged her.

Basketball Pole

One of the players on Merryweather High’s basketball team. His real name is Brendan Keller.

Hana

An exchange student from Egypt; Rachel’s friend.

Todd Ryder

A sleazy yearbook photographer, Todd Ryder uses his position for popularity — only the cool kids who hang out with him get good pictures.

Brendan Keller

A player on the boys basketball team who Melinda agrees to teach to shoot free-throws after impressing her gym coaches with her skill. Melinda refers to Brendan, privately, by the name "Basketball Pole," and doesn't actually show up to coach him.

Hoyt-Disick, Gabrielle. "Speak Characters." LitCharts. LitCharts LLC, 4 Sep 2015. Web. 12 Mar 2018.

Hoyt-Disick, Gabrielle. "Speak Characters." LitCharts LLC, September 4, 2015. Retrieved March 12, 2018. http://www.litcharts.com/lit/speak/characters.

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