by Jerry Spinelli
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Let's do a little exercise. It's called free association. Shmoop will say a word, and you say the first thing that comes to mind. Ready? Okay. Here we go:
What'd you get for that last one? We're thinking something like Halloween or death or creepy skeletons. But the past? Not so much.
Here's the thing. That's exactly what bones are all about in Stargirl. They're not creepy, morbid, or scary. They're all about the past, and what it means to the characters. And when it comes to bones and the past, there's no better expert than Archie.
The man has bones covering just about every inch of his house. He collects them, cherishes them, and even names them, as he does his favorite rodent skull, Barney. Archie uses Barney in his lessons for his visiting students. Barney helps remind them all that they are all connected to the earth's past, and that they, like Barney, will end one day, too.
Barney reminds us that life went on before us, and life will go on after us. This is probably something Stargirl is already well aware of. She seems to know her place in the grand scheme of things. But other kids, like Leo, who sometimes lack perspective, need a little help.
Then, there's also that last visit with Archie to consider. When Leo helps Archie rebury Barney, we get another lesson, courtesy of the skull. Just before Archie buries the bone, he speaks to Barney, saying, "This is home" (33.17). And shortly after doing this, Archie also returns to the earth. According to Archie, in the end, we all belong to the earth, and Barney represents that fact. The earth is home, and bones remind us of that fact.