by Jerry Spinelli
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Moonlight. Starlight. Spotlights. There sure is a lot of talk about light in this novel.
Leo, for one, is a big fan of moonlight, which he basks in at night in his bedroom. While he lies awake in bed, and the moonlight shines through his window, he gains insights about the world around him. He says, "in that moonlit hour, I acquired a sense of the otherness of things. I liked the feeling the moonlight gave me, as if it wasn't the opposite of day, but its underside, its private side, when the fabulous purred on my snow-white sheet like some dark cat come in from the desert" (2.41). By "the fabulous," he means all the interesting and mysterious parts of the day. At night, illuminated by the moon, he feels like a VIP, who gets special access to all the tidbits others have ignored throughout the day. Moonlight, therefore, shares with Leo special truths.
One of the truths he learns in the moonlight is that Stargirl is no phony. She's very, very real, and that epiphany, which takes place in Chapter 2, is all thanks to the moon's silvery glow. Later, the truth-telling moonlight becomes a problem for Leo when it comes to his relationship with Stargirl. Toward the end, when Leo has decided not to be with Stargirl anymore, he is uncomfortable in this light and shuts the shade. Is he shutting out truth? Knowledge? He just might be. The knowledge he gets from the moonlight after he leaves Stargirl is painful because it contains the sad possibility that he made the wrong choice. Then again, maybe it was just hurting his eyes.
Starlight, Starbright, Stargirl
If we are talking about starlight, we certainly cannot overlook Stargirl's name itself. She says that she was "walking in the desert one night, looking up at the sky […] and it just sort of came to [her]" (13.26). Then there's the fact that Leo says she "dazzled" (17.9). Oh, and later, he compares her to light even more, by saying that she was "bendable light; she shone around every corner of my day" (20.7).
If you think about it, she brings knowledge to a lot of people, right? Plus, she's such a shiny, happy person, that you really can't help but have your day brightened by her. She's the star of her own show, and she changes people's lives with her twinkling.
Archie Leads Leo into the Light
A couple years after Stargirl leaves, Archie shows Leo her secret office, in which Leo discovers all her files on people. Then, as the two leave, Leo tells us that Archie "led me out into the dazzling light" (32.46).
Our man Leo has finally learned the truth about all of Stargirl's secret missions—her "lovely treason." Perhaps it's only after years of growing up that Leo is ready for the true knowledge concerning Stargirl. Only now, as a mature adult, is he ready for the light. And it's a dazzling light to boot.
You might have noticed that all this light is natural light. It doesn't come from fluorescent bulbs or flashlights. It comes from the sun, the moon, and the stars. Stargirl, remember, feels very connected to the world and to the universe around her, so the presence of this natural light makes perfect sense, don't you think?
It's also worth noting that the moments of light we've pointed out here are not the only times light appears in the novel. What other moments involving light can you find? What happens in these moments?