Melinda reveals that Mr. Freeman is in trouble, because he gave out A’s to every one of his students when the school board refused to give him the supplies he needed to teach. He has also stopped working on his painting, the art room is cold, and his face is a shade of purple-gray. He sits on his stool, “a blue broken cricket husk.” No one talks to him; they just try to stay warm and work on their projects.
Melinda continues with the linoleum squares and accidentally cuts herself with the chisel. Mr. Freeman rushes over with a Kleenex to staunch the flow of blood. Then, he washes the chisel and comes back to her table to return it. Before he hands it to her, he looks at his painting and with one stroke that makes his students gasp, he rips the entire canvas of his painting, ruining it.
Melinda’s report card is mostly C-‘s and D’s along with her evaluation of her attitude and her clothes. Her only A is Art and now it is not the peaceful sanctuary it once was.
The sense of depression fills everything around Melinda, adding to her own despair. The weather is cold and dark; the clothes everyone wears are turtlenecks where they can hide their faces; and Mr. Freeman is in trouble and is so depressed he ruins the painting he has been working on all year. No wonder everything seems to be purple-gray. And in the midst of it all is Melinda, whose pain runs so deep that the reader wonders if she will ever find her way out of it.
Principal Principal arbitrarily vetoes the student body choice of the wombat as the school mascot and instead chooses the hornets. He says they better represent the Merryweather school spirit than wombats do. Of course, the wombat costume would have taken money from the prom committee’s budget, which the seniors totally do not support. It would be better to have a prom at the Holiday Inn ballroom than the school gymnasium! Melinda thinks it’s a mistake, because she has visions of the opposing teams making giant fly swatters out of papier-mâché to humiliate Merryweather. Then, she tells us that she is allergic to hornets whose sting makes her skin bubble with hives and closes up her throat.
There is Melinda’s usual subtle sarcasm in this chapter when she makes fun of Principal Principal’s decision to change the wombats to the hornets, the seniors believing a prom is more important than a new mascot uniform and Melinda imagining giant fly swatters. However, there is a deeper commentary going on underneath her sarcasm as well. She is appalled that the student body vote is meaningless and that a prom, which lasts but one night, could take precedent over that vote (of course, voting for a wombat was just students acting ridiculous, but Melinda would still believe that choice was given to them in the first place and should be honored).
She also has much more sense than either Principal Principal, the cheerleaders, or the seniors. She sees the big picture when she imagines the giant flyswatter – why open the school up to even more humiliation from opposing schools than just being beaten all the time?
Melinda’s final comment is the personal reflection she continues to express to us. This high school and the students in it, who are obviously silly and petty about the decisions they make, have chosen to label her an Outcast and she finds herself becoming “allergic” to it and them more and more everyday. She still has no voice with which to speak about anything that happens to her or around her.
Celis, Christine. "TheBestNotes on Speak".
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