Symbols in 'The Hate U Give': Critical Analysis Essay

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 Starr’s complicated life in both Garden Heights and Williamson leads her to be a part of the different worlds. This leads her to believe that the two worlds cannot collide because of the harboring fear that her community has been facing since a century ago. Starr cannot let her “Garden Heights” life be labeled as stereotypical, but rather as a cry for help in the public. Unfortunately, her life in “the ghetto” has proven to be difficult as a horrible murder has happened to one of her best friends named Khalil. The situation that has suddenly arisen around Khalil became an eye-opener to how the black community was oppressed by privileged white people. As Starr continues on her journey to find her voice, many significant events and trauma around Garden Heights have become a beacon of justice.

In the opening scene, Starr was forced to be at a party in Garden Heights. She was reunited with a childhood friend of hers named Khalil, who turns out to be a drug dealer in the short time they haven't seen each other. A sudden drive-by shooting happened during the party, and Starr and Khalil fled the scene. Unfortunately, they were caught by a cop who accused Khalil of being a drug dealer and hiding drugs in his car. In that chapter, we were given Starr’s raw emotions as well as the original account of what truly happened instead of being biased as to what exactly happened on the night of the shooting. The raw emotion of panic was given life to how horrible Garden Heights was, where shootings were extremely common and unsafe.

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In chapter 4, there was this foreshadowing to later events on how Starr will become a voice to be heard in the screams of justice, “Omg Starr was named to be a light in the darkness”.

Starr has two father figures. Together they created the contrast between “Garden Heights” and “Williamson”. Starr’s dad is a Garden Heights father, while Uncle Carlos is a “Williamson” fatherly figure. This shows the difference between the two worlds Starr has to live in. Without one, the other cannot be complete. Starr decides at the end of the book that both sides are one, which led to her powerful voice. She is not “ghetto” or “a fake white person”. She is simply a human being who was treated unfairly because of the huge amount of racism against black people. The government has made a decision not to listen to the oppressed minorities as shown when Starr went to the police to give her testimony. During the police interrogation, Starr was a witness in the murder of Khalil and was used as testimony on the night of the incident. From the way that the police were talking, it seemed like they weren’t concerned about finding Khalil’s justice at all.

At Khalil’s funeral, Khalil is laid across the coffin like a mannequin, which horrified Starr as the corpse didn’t have any essence of the ‘real’ Khalil at all. This led to the advance of Miss April Ofrah. which used Khalil’s dead body as a symbol of how the black community was treated despite being a human beings like other communities. In death, Khalil can’t speak for himself, and now other people are labeling him as much as they please because of their perspectives. Now that he’s dead, everyone else can choose how they define him, whether it’s by stereotypes or they we trying to bring false rumors about what they believe.

Starr’s mom then tells her a story of her birth. When Lisa got pregnant at 18, she decided that she was going to give her baby the best that she can give, “‘Uh huh. I was eighteen when I had you. Still a baby myself, but I thought I was grown. Wouldn’t admit to anybody that I was scared to death. Your nana thought there was no way in hell I could be a good parent. Not wild Lisa. I was determined to prove her wrong. I stopped drinking and smoking went to all of my appointments, ate right, took my vitamins, the whole nine...Like I was saying, I did everything right. I remember being in that delivery room, and when they pulled you out, I waited for you to cry. But you didn’t...But one of the nurses took my hand’--Momma grabs my hand again--’ looked at me right in the eye, and said, ‘Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing the right.’” (Chapter 9 pg. 153-154). This very conversation compares the unjust legal system highlights and pregnancy for the lack of control of the situation. This makes Starr realize that she can only tell the truth, which is a factor, but the outcome she has no control over it, “Lisa’s encouragement to continue “doing right” emphasizes that Starr can only keep doing her best with the things she can control.” (SparkNotes).

Devante sayings how thug life isn't as what people think, chap9

On the father side of things, Maverick pulls out an album by Tupac and decides to ask Starr what she thinks Thug Life really is. Starr answers that it was about the minorities and how they were oppressed. Maverick asks Starr to think about why Khalil and others sell drugs, which is to get money. Maverick then preaches about how drugs even became a matter of money in the first place, “‘Now, think about this,’ he says. ‘How did the drugs even get into our neighborhood? This is a multibillion-dollar industry we talking ‘bout, baby. That shit is flown into our communities, but I don't know anybody with a private jet. Do you?’ …. ‘Exactly. Drugs come from somewhere, and they're destroying our community,’ he says. ‘You got folks like Brenda, who think they need them to survive, and then you got the Khalils, who think they need to sell them to survive. The Brendas can’t get jobs unless they are clean, and they can't pay for rehab unless they got jobs. When the Khalils get arrested for selling drugs, they either spend most of their life in prison, another billion-dollar industry, or they have a hard time getting a job and probably start selling drugs again. That's the hate they're giving us, baby, a system designed against us. That's Thug Life.’” (chapter 10, 168-169). Starr realizes that speaking out will help her community and by staying silent, she’s allowing other people to shape her and her entire community. This is one of the wake-up points for Starr Carter.

Kenya talks sense to Starr about how Starr would defend Williamson and not Garden Heights. Starr finally gains the courage to speak in this chapter after Kenya reminds her of what’s at stake. Kenya articulates the distance built between Starr’s Garden Heights and Williamson selves. Kenya accuses Starr of abandoning the neighborhood and Khalil for an easier and safer life and states that Starr’s abandonment will allow the violence in the neighborhood to continue. Because Starr did not want to admit her shame and fear of Garden Heights, Kenya’s accusation forces her to reexamine her choices and priorities. Chap 11

While Starr spent the weekend watching people from her neighborhood facing tear gas for their sincere protest, the students at Williamson get media coverage for their fake protest but no retaliation. This disparity highlights how society rewards white people for the same actions it punishes black people. Chap 11. Furthermore, the police order the neighbors to leave and only let Maverick up when they realize that they have witnesses. This entire encounter demonstrates the ways in which law enforcement creates more everyday violence when they police what they believe are threats over what the community knows is dangerous. Chap 11

With Ms. Ofrah and the Carter family watching, the interview begins. Diane asks about who Khalil was as a person. Starr describes his humor, his big heart, and his optimism. As she talks, she can feel his presence with her. She emphasizes that he was not a bad person, just a kid. When asked how she feels when people focus on his drug dealing, Starr says that it hurts and that people would not judge him if they knew his situation. Ms. Ofrah shakes her head because Starr is not supposed to talk about the drugs. In addition, saying more could anger King. Nevertheless, Starr resolves to defend Khalil. She explains Brenda owed money to the biggest drug dealer and gang leader in the neighborhood. Although Starr has not named King, she knows that this “dry snitching” still puts her in danger. She tells Diane that Khalil was not a gang member, but that it shouldn’t matter if he were, and argues that Khalil shouldn’t be charged for his own murder. Starr talks about her fear the night of the murder and adds that she and Khalil never threatened or cursed at One-Fifteen. She cries as she says that Khalil checked on her before One-Fifteen shot him. Diane asks Starr if she is afraid of cops. Starr invokes her Uncle Carlos but says she wants the police to stop making assumptions about black people that get black people killed. Finally, Diane asks what Starr would say to One-Fifteen if he were there. Starr says she would ask whether he wishes he’d shot her too. Chap 16-17

Starr's testimony before the grand jury marks the climax of the novel because this is when Starr speaks out against the injustice of Khalil’s murder due to systemic racism. Starr testifies to Khalil’s personhood by telling the truth about what happened that night. When she’s sworn in as a witness, Starr silently promises Khalil to tell the truth, which signifies that she testifies for him more than anyone else, affirming that his life mattered enough for her to fight for it. Her actions here follow Lisa’s advice to always do right, even if the outcome is uncertain or doubtful. Chap 18-19

Starr’s reaction to the two photographs of Khalil demonstrates how much her worldview has grown over the events of the novel. Originally, Khalil’s “thug shot” used by the media to demonize him angered Starr because it reminded her that Khalil had become a drug dealer. Because she now recognizes that Khalil’s drug dealing was the result of difficult circumstances, Starr can still see her childhood best friend when she looks at the photograph without judging Khalil for the mistakes the media weaponized against him. Instead of looking at the birthday party photo as being a picture of the “real” Khalil, she recognizes that even at that happy moment the debilitating effects of poverty in Khalil’s life were evident. Starr understands that Khalil was both sweet and troubled, and she can proudly stand up for him as an entire person. Because she no longer judges him, Starr no longer fears people judging her for her connection with Khalil. Chap 20-21

Starr’s final judgment of Iesha demonstrates how Lisa has influenced Starr’s growth over the course of The Hate U Give and that Starr now understands that anyone can change. Throughout the novel, Starr never liked Iesha for good reason, but she still recognizes Iesha’s move to protect Kenya and Lyric in Chapter Twenty-Two. This contrasts with Starr’s anger at Brenda in Chapter Five, where Starr denies Brenda’s feelings as a mother because of her previous mistakes. Lisa’s lessons in compassion allow Starr to notice that despite Iesha’s flaws, she still has put herself in danger of King’s retaliation in order to protect her children. Starr recognizes that Seven’s outburst in Chapter Twenty-One changed Iesha for the better because Iesha has finally stepped up to the role of mother. Therefore, Starr will not let Seven take on the parental role again and protect Iesha, which would push her back into the old pattern. Chap 22-23

Starr stammers, but the crowd calls for Starr to speak. The police order the protesters to leave. Starr introduces herself and calls One-Fifteen a criminal. She shouts at the police that until there’s proof that the police care about justice for black people, black people will keep protesting. She states that the fact Khalil lived is more important than how he died. The police give the protestors until the count of three to disperse. The crowd chants, “Khalil lived!” chap 24-25

Kenya apologizes for always calling Seven her brother instead of their brother. Kenya worried that Seven was a brother to her out of obligation, but a brother to Starr out of love. She thought Seven was ashamed of her just like Starr was ashamed of her and Garden Heights. Starr decides to acknowledge the painful truth. She admits she had been ashamed but is not anymore. She promises Seven loves Kenya, Lyric, and Iesha. Chap 26

She believes that change will come because people will keep fighting and refusing to forget. She vows to Khalil that she will never forget and never give up. 

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