The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas

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Who is the antagonist in The Hate U Give?

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The antagonist of a story is defined as the characters or forces that go against the protagonist’s goals. In other words, the antagonist is the entities in a story that create conflict for the main character.

Starr Carter is the protagonist and narrator of the novel, and she faces...

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several antagonists throughout the text.

In the Man v. Man conflicts, Starr’s primary antagonist is Hailey, one of her so-called best friends at the white prep school her parents pay for her to attend. Hailey makes increasingly racially-insensitive comments aimed at Starr, like the fried chicken “joke” she makes to Starr during a game of basketball. Hailey also represents the colorblind form of racism that reduces people like Khalil to gang bangers who deserve the violence they face at the hands of white police officers. By the end of the novel, Starr decides to end her connection to Hailey.

Another human antagonist in the story is King, the drug kingpin in charge of Garden Heights’s most powerful gang, to which Starr’s family has a personal connection. Throughout the text, King is portrayed as the driver behind the propagation of gun violence and death in the community, forces which Starr’s family try to shield their children from and fight against by remaining in their home neighborhood. King causes conflicts at Khalil’s funeral and at the end of the novel, during a faceoff that almost turns violent with Starr’s dad, Maverick.

Beyond these human antagonists, though, Starr faces two major forces in the novel. The first of these is a Man v. Society conflict between Starr as a young black woman and the system of white supremacy that she knows is responsible for both Khalil’s death and the subsequent defamation of his character after the fact. Once complacent with how white supremacy affects her life, Starr comes to realize that it is her responsibility to stand up against the forces that seek to destroy and degrade her community.

Finally, in the category of Man v. Self, Starr faces an internal struggle between her private identity in Garden Heights and her public one at Williamson Prep. Starr tries to keep these identities separate, even denying that she knew Khalil after the news reports about his death reach her friends at Williamson. Starr is embarrassed of how each facet of her identity might be interpreted in each location; she worries about how her friends are too scared to visit her house, yet she keeps the identity of her white boyfriend, Chris, a secret from her family. By the novel’s end, Starr realizes that she can not sustain this cycle of separating herself depending on where she is, and she decides to embrace her full identity.

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