Melinda goes through three phases in her high school year, as her trees do in art class. Melinda’s trees start out being childish, only scratching the surface, and not portraying emotion. Melinda cannot accept her rape at this point, so she shuts all of her emotions out. Melinda goes through a phase of visualization next, and sees the tree she wants to draw, and the person she wants to be. Melinda wants to be a person who can overcome wounds and pains and can still stand strong. Melinda finally goes through a phase where she finally accepts what has happened to her, and is starting to heal. Melinda is starting to become the strong tree, but she is still growing. She is very close to being strong, but she has just started and needs to toughen up.
In the start of the story, the trees Melinda sketches in art class are very superficial and lifeless, but once she starts to acknowledge to herself the actuality of her sexual abuse and starts healing, her trees come to life. Melinda's artwork becomes a metaphor for her emotional development because she finds how she can express herself when she is drawing a tree for her art class. Art class helps Melinda begin to confront her trauma and begin to heal. Melinda is excited by her art assignment to make her subject “say something, express an emotion, speak to every person who looks at it” (12). Melinda is desperate to express herself, and art provides an outlet for her pain. She starts painting watercolors of trees that have been struck by lightning, so they appear nearly, but not completely dead (30-31). These paintings show Melinda’s first efforts to express her feelings about her trauma and the damage that her spirit has suffered. She has difficulty drawing a healthy, normal tree (32), probably because she is unable to imagine feeling normal ever again. By the end of Anderson’s novel, Melinda is able to draw a