The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas

Start Free Trial

How does Starr's behavior differ between Garden Heights and Williamson Prep in The Hate U Give?

Quick answer:

In The Hate U Give, Starr behaves differently in Garden Heights compared to Williamson Prep due to contrasting societal expectations. In her neighborhood, she is more authentic and open, navigating the crime-ridden environment with an understanding of its complexities. At Williamson, she suppresses her dialect and behaviors to avoid being stereotyped as "ghetto" or an "angry black girl." This dual identity causes internal conflict and propels her towards self-acceptance and justice for Khalil.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Starr sometimes feels like she is two different people: the version who lives in her community of Garden Heights and the modified, more "appropriate" version needed for Williamson Prep.

Garden Heights is fairly laden with crime. Starr and her family live in her nana's old house. The constant break-ins in this area had made her Uncle Carlos nervous, so he moved his mother into his own home. Starr's own father is a former drug lord, so Starr knows that crime is all around her yet learns to navigate it fairly well because Garden Heights is her home. Even on the night Khalil is shot, Starr is constantly recalling all the advice her parents have given her about what to do if pulled over by police: do what she's told, don't move if a cop's back is to her, and don't make sudden movements. In Garden Heights, she speaks freely with people who come from backgrounds much like herself.

Starr feels like she has to "[flip] the switch in [her] brain" to become Williamson Starr. This version of herself doesn't use slang, making sure to only speak Standard American English so as not to sound "ghetto." She feels that slang equates to "hood" to the kids at Williamson. She has to tone down her reactions so that no one will consider her an "angry black girl."

Starr doesn't like the way she modifies her behavior and speech to meet the prep school expectations at her almost exclusively white school:

I can't stand myself for doing it, but I do it anyway. (chapter 5)

This conflict of expectations continues to propel the plot as Starr seeks for a way to be true to herself and find justice for Khalil.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Starr feels as though she must tailor her personality to her surroundings based on social expectations. As a result, Starr often conceals parts of her identity from those she has close relationships with in order to meet those expectations.

For instance, Starr refrains from involving her Williamson Prep friends in her home life. She also struggles to publicly defend Khalil against false accusations from the media and even to some of her white friends out of a fear that she will be branded as someone “like him.”

In Garden Heights, Starr feels more comfortable with herself, yet she has trouble reconciling that with her school-self. Starr is afraid to tell her father, a staunch pro-black advocate, about her white boyfriend, and she has few friends in the neighborhood outside her own family.

Ultimately, Starr decides to integrate her two selves regardless of the location she finds herself in because she realizes it makes her happier.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In The Hate U Give, Starr differentiates between the persona that she takes on at Williamson Prep, where the student population is mostly white, and her mostly black neighborhood of Garden Heights. She actually gives these personas two different names: "Williamson Starr" and "Garden Heights Starr."

At school, Starr is very conscious about not appearing "ghetto." She subtly adjusts her personality in order to make her blackness more palatable to the sensibilities of her white schoolmates, who, because of their racial privilege, have grown up with some level of prejudice.

In her neighborhood, being a student at Williamson Prep gives Starr a mild sense of displacement. Her friends often imply that being a student at Williamson Prep makes Starr act like she's somehow better than them, even though Starr does not do this intentionally. The racial and class differences between Starr's two worlds are difficult to reconcile, both for her and for her peers.

The party at the beginning of the novel, which takes place in Garden Heights, displays this conflict perfectly, as Starr feels out of place there.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Although Starr is from Garden Heights and her family's roots are there, she and her brothers attend school across town at the exclusive Williamson Prep; the cultures between the two places are quite different. Here are a few examples of her behaviors and interactions in various settings:

Starr feels out of place at the Garden Heights party at the beginning of the novel because she has not gone to school with most of the kids there in years, so she hangs back from the action and mostly observes what other people are doing. She is comfortable with Kenya, since they share a half-brother and are in contact often, but she does not feel comfortable in the setting until she sees Khalil. They then begin catching up on the past and present.

In the confrontation with the police officer in Khalil's car, Starr is quiet and subservient, following the instructions her father has given her for anytime she is in contact with the police. The entire situation is a traumatizing nightmare, and Starr is frozen in terror after the officer shoots and kills her old friend.

At school, Starr often finds it necessary to quietly censor what she is thinking since her classmates are primarily white, and she often is faced with microaggressions, as well as blatant racism at times. Many of the students have few black acquaintances, and Starr feels the weight of being "the official representative of the black race" for her sheltered classmates.

Starr's interactions with Chris are sometimes guarded since she worries he will not be able to handle the extent of her experiences and beliefs, but after multiple heartfelt talks, they succeed at better understanding one another. They share a mutual love of many aspects of black culture, and when Chris accompanies Starr to Garden Heights after the grand jury verdict, she is finally able to introduce her boyfriend to her home and history; before this point, all their time together was spent in Riverton Hills.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial