The chapter opens with Melinda being yanked from study hall by Hairwoman and forced to complete her missing homework. The teacher threatens to involve her parents, which Melinda recognizes is not good. Unfortunately, she doesn’t realize for a while that study hall had been moved to the library and by the time she gets there, she’s late - again! The librarian is very understanding, however, and doesn’t bust her.
Later, Mr. Neck tracks Melinda through the cafeteria to demand a paper she has not finished for him and she avoids him by going around a couple making out by the door. By the time he has broken up the PDA, she is in the Senior Wing - “where No Freshman Has Gone Before.” She turns a corner, opens a door and steps into the darkness to keep Mr. Neck from finding her. It is an old janitor’s closet now used for old storage. Melinda realizes that it is abandoned - it has no purpose and no name and so is the perfect place for her. Right after she discovers the closet (a place that will become her hiding place), she steals a pad of late passes from Hairwoman and her plan is hatched. She feels ever so much better.
In this chapter, Melinda is obviously under siege from her teachers for late assignments. It is another piece of evidence proving how depressed she has become. Her grades had always been good in the past, but now she is not even doing her homework. Finding the abandoned closet is a godsend for Melinda, because now she has a hiding place when the world presses down on her. It makes the title more apparent - like a rabbit, she has created a burrow where her predators can’t find her. No wonder she has a collection of stuffed rabbits - she is just like them in her fear. Everyone and everything has become stronger than her. She also has a stolen a pad of hall passes which she can forge when she wants to cut class. She’s smart enough to know how to play the angles, at least for awhile, but no doubt, it will all catch up to her eventually.
The Homecoming Pep Rally allows Melinda to plan to fix up her closet. Her plan is to walk toward the auditorium with the rest of the students and then duck into a bathroom until the coast is clear. However, she is spied by Heather who is “bursting with Merryweather Pride” and grabs her arm to take her to the rally. Melinda decides it won’t kill her to go, so she follows along.
Once they find seats with students Heather knows, people around them overhear Heather introduce Melinda and we are finally told what happened during the summer that made Melinda Outcast - she had called the police at Kyle Rodger’s end-of-the-summer party. One girl becomes very angry, because her brother was one of the ones who were arrested at the party and he lost his job because of it. In her head, Melinda hears the voice that protests that no one understands what really happened, but her actual voice is silent as her throat seems to squeeze shut. She had worked very hard to forget that party and everyone hates her for what she had to do. She looks to Heather to defend her, but even she doesn’t offer any comfort. So, Melinda, while the crowd is screaming for the team, puts her head in her hands and screams to let out some of the emotion that night.
She observes in her pain that everyone is roaring their approval for the same boys who got detention in elementary school for beating the crap out of kids. Coach Disaster (again her name) spits into the microphone and no one understands what he says, while the girl behind Melinda knees her in the back and yanks her hair. Her final thought in this chapter is that the cheerleaders are better at scoring than the football team.
This chapter is very important, because we finally know why the other students hate Melinda so much. She had betrayed them, in their minds, because she called the police and many of them were busted at a summer party. However, her mental protest that she had to do it and that she can’t tell them what really happened, is a sign that something much more serious happened there than just a police bust and whatever it is, it has devastated Melinda’s life.
It is also significant that Heather fails to defend her, even though she hadn’t even lived there that summer. Obviously, she is more concerned about being accepted by the popular kids than she is about Melinda’s feelings. She has seemed superficial previously in the story, but now we see just how superficial she really is. Other students, at least, openly deride Melinda by calling her names or kneeing her in the back, but Heather has acted like she wants her to be her friend. So much for friendship!
Celis, Christine. "TheBestNotes on Speak".
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