Colonialism In Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl

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“It is impossible… to read [a novel] without in some way dealing with [empire],” argues Edward Said (725). Certainly, he is right in some cases, but what about texts, such as Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl, that aren’t about colonialism? Said continues to explain that although such novels do not portray actual colonial events, they do reflect the ideals of the colonial power, which helps to keep the empire in place (725-727). In other words, texts do not need to explicitly mention colonialism to contribute to the imperial project or even offer a critique of the current imperial situation. Upon an initial reading, Stargirl does not seem to contain any reference to colonial endeavors; however, this text reflects and critiques the self/other binary …show more content…
In particular, Leo’s reactions to Stargirl’s transformation reflect the proud, possessive attitudes of the imperial power. Upon seeing Stargirl looking and acting “normal” for the first time, Leo claims he has “never been so proud and happy in [his] life” (140). When he looks at Susan, the new Stargirl, he sees “the girl she might have been all along,” (139) which implies that there used to be something wrong with her and his regret that this change didn’t take place sooner. As time goes on, Leo becomes very possessive of Stargirl. He calls himself “Mr. Susan,” “struts,” and begins speaking for her as if they were the same person, saying things such as “we’ll be there” and “we like fajitas” (140). Another demonstration of the effects of imperialism can be found in considering Stargirl’s reaction to being “colonized.” To start, Stargirl becomes fearful of “[being] like nobody,” and develops an unhealthy determination to fit in. This motivates her to go overboard in trying to act normal. Not only does she become “mad for [things such as] shopping,” but she gives up many things that she loves (141). For example, as soon as she discovers that “nobody eats anchovies,” she immediately picks them off her pizza and “[pushes Leo’s] hand away” when he tries to stop her from doing so (141). An additional effect of “colonization” is that Stargirl’s happiness level drops tremendously. This is evident from her “happy wagon,” which holds pebbles representing her happiness. Earlier, the wagon was filled up with seventeen pebbles, a record high (121). However, at this point in the story, Stargirl’s happy wagon is down to only two stones, signifying a dramatic decrease in her mood, and it seems that nothing is able to “cheer up the cheerleader”