Melinda Sordino is a freshman. The summer before she begins her first year in high school she attends a party where she was raped, she called the police but couldn’t speak when they answered. Some students got arrested and the party got broken up. She never told anyone what happened to her and her friends didn’t ask before they made her public enemy #1. Because of that, she entered school as an outcast, she had no friends. She also didn’t speak at all. She befriended a girl who had just transferred into the school and craved the popularity that some of the girls had. Melinda begins to take an art class that is therapeutic in that her struggles with creating the piece actually parallel the trials and tribulations that are occurring in her own life.
When she encounters the rapist for the first time at school, she refers to him as “IT” to the reader. We don’t know their relationship or even the gender of the person she is referring to. Freud’s theory of repression is based in the idea that, “repression is the involuntary, unconscious concealment of uncomfortable thoughts and desires in the unconscious.” Melinda definitely repressed those emotions and her PTSD. That repression expressed itself through her silence and the fact that she can’t even name the character, much less name what actually happened to her.
Barry states that, “Freud was not the discoverer of the unconscious: his uniqueness lies in his attributing to it such a decisive role in our lives. Linked with this is the idea of repression, which is the forgetting or ignoring of unresolved conflicts, unadmitted desires, or traumatic past events,” two of the three are definitely in Melinda’s realm of stress.
Another scene where we can see a connection to Freud is actually a collection of scenes from Melinda working on the construction of her tree. From the very first chapter, we see her working on a tree that she is assigned to represent. The tree’s growth and development follows the plot of the novel, and her tree changes as she does. She projects her own feelings and traumas onto the tree that she is creating and therefore doesn’t have to confront them herself. By the end, her tree is healthy and beautiful, and she even adds birds to background, flying away. Possibly symbolizing the lift that she has after admitting her experience.
Barry talks about the defense mechanism of projection by saying that it occurs, “when aspects of ourselves (usually negative ones) are not recognized as a part of ourselves but are perceived in or attributed to another.” this is definitely the case when it comes to how Melinda deals with her PTSD. She projects her emotions and what she is dealing with onto her artwork.