Student Question

How do Phoenix citizens react to Susan's oratorical contest win in Stargirl?

Expert Answers

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Susan Julia Caraway goes to Phoenix to represent Mica in the state oratorical contest in chapter twenty-seven of Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. Not surprisingly, she does not have anything specific prepared for the contest (or at least she is not sure she will give the speech she has prepared), and on the way she wants to make a stop in the desert where she seems to gather some inspiration. Leo explains the episode this way:

"Look, even the desert is celebrating" [said Stargirl].... It seemed to be true. The normally dull cacti and scrub were splashed with April colors, as if a great painter had passed over the landscape with a brush, dabbing yellow here, red there… she skipped and whirled and cartwheeled among the prickly natives. She bowed to a yucca, waltzed with a saguaro….

Susan easily advances from the first round of the competition with a speech that is more improvised than prepared.

Her second speech, inspired by that stop in the desert, is mesmerizing. In fact, when she begins to speak, her tone is so conversational that the audience does not, at first, realize that they are listening to her speech. When she finishes, the crowd erupts into applause--and a hero is born.

The citizens of Phoenix embrace her in every way. She is interviewed and televised and mobbed by crowds everywhere she goes. At their hotel that night, Stargirl and Leo are even allowed to dance in the nightclub. In the morning, Susan's story is on the front page of the newspaper and everyone at breakfast wants to talk to her.

In every way, Susan is embraced by the citizens of Phoenix for her amazing speech. Of course this is a drastically different response than she gets in Mica when she arrives home. 

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