by Jerry Spinelli
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Who doesn't love winning? Even Stargirl, the kindest, most compassionate, noncompetitive person in the novel really wants to win her speech contest. What's the deal with all this competition? And what does it have to do with the themes of Stargirl? Let's take a closer look at the two competitions that play pretty important roles in the novel.
The first one is the basketball game and, well, the whole basketball season, actually. At first, the Mica fans seem to have fun at the games and don't mind that Stargirl cheers for everyone, including the opposing team. However, this changes drastically as the team advances in the post-season as an undefeated team.
Now, the fans seem unable to get enough. They start to love their basketball team passionately and as a result, they start hating the other teams. They don't just want to win anymore, they want to slaughter the other team. Leo comments that "The only score we would have been totally happy with would have been 100 to 0" (11.18). The school has grown so competitive that they seem to have lost all reason. This cannot be good.
When the team eventually loses, they take out their disappointment on the person they believe to be a traitor, Stargirl. Of course the only thing she ever did to earn their anger was to help out an injured player from the opposing team. But the Mica fans are so competitive that they have lost sight of what's truly important. Their obsession with winning gets in the way of their humanity, and Stargirl pays the price.
The other competition that plays a major role in the novel is the oratorical (speech) competition. Stargirl breezes through the local competitions and eventually makes it to the State championship. Our girl really wants to win, but that strikes us as a bit strange. She's so compassionate and noncompetitive for most of the novel that her strong desire to trounce the competition seems out of character. Why does she want to win? Is it for the same reason that the fans want the team to win the basketball games? Does she want to slaughter her competition? Or perhaps it's because she thinks being a champion will make people like her?
The second reason seems most convincing, given what happens afterwards. After all, this speech competition occurs when Stargirl has transformed herself into Susan, to both please Leo and gain back her popularity. She thinks that if she returns to Mica a champion, everyone welcome her back with open arms and thunderous applause. And when that doesn't work, she goes right back to being Stargirl, which is to say, herself, in all her noncompetitive awesomeness.