The themes of a story are the deeper meanings and truth that the book reveals. Sometimes they are easily found like this book but other times, you have read many times before you can find it. ‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Thomas is a story for a young adult novel. It is about the life of 16-year old Starr Carter, a young girl who witnesses the death of Khalil Harris, her childhood best friend. An unarmed Khalil was shot and killed by a white police officer, showing irresponsibility and police brutality present in many African-American communities.
Most school teachers are teaching the novel ‘The Hate U Give’ this school year because the themes and events that take place in the novel connect to the society we live in today. There are so many themes that can be found in the book like police brutality, identity and double consciousness. Here are some of them.
‘The Hate U Give’ Themes
The leader of the drug gang in Garden Heights, King, constantly warns Starr not to speak up about this incident in order for his business to remain secretive. In the book you see Garden Heights, the fictional neighborhood, isn’t the best place to be but they don’t usually call the cops. Many people believe that the novel would be a catalyst for deeper questioning and engaging class discussions.
It is also believed that students will inevitably generate concern for relevant issues like police brutality that the book revolves around. Khalil’s death put Starr in a dilemma with the tough decision of either speaking up against police brutality or keeping quiet to ensure that King doesn’t come after her and her family. King takes advantage of the protest and riots to set Mavericks (Starr’s father) ‘s store on fire with both Starr and Seven (Mavericks son) inside.
In the novel, Starr was confused, mad, and felt very lonely because she couldn’t understand her struggle. She tried rebelling and wanted to defend not only her beliefs but others’ beliefs as well. King was arrested at the end of the book after being snitched on by neighbors, and the Carter family moved into a new house in a safer neighborhood. Also, Starr makes a promise to continue fighting against injustice and to never stay silent again.
Identity and Double-Consciousness
In an 1897 article in the Atlantic, W.E.B. Du Bois, a sociologist noted that he felt a “two-ness” came from seeing himself through the eyes of others. In ‘The Hate U Give’, the author increases Starr’s dilemma by having her dramatically move between two worlds – the neighborhood where she lives, African American Garden Heights, and the school environment, white Williamson Prep.
With her friends from Garden Heights, Starr uses slang, liberally uses ghetto languages, and topics like “stank-eye, gangbanging.” With her friends from school, she is careful to always use proper English and watches her tone so no one can dismiss her as an “angry black girl.” She learned early on, when she tried to have a slumber party with both sets of friends, that the two worlds do not mesh, and she finds it exhausting to keep up two separate personas.
Starr, trying to be acceptable to both worlds causes an identity crisis that prevents her from being her real self and truly connecting with others. She wishes she could be like Will, the main character in the 90s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, whom she believes acted true to himself despite attending a fancy school. Starr and her white boyfriend, Chris, share a fondness for the sitcom and can recite entire episodes to each other. Still, Starr does not feel safe enough with Chris to reveal her trauma over the deaths of Natasha and Khalil. When Chris confronts her at prom about being the witness to Khalil’s death, it is a watershed moment for Starr.
The Pervasiveness of Racism
Khalil is a victim of thug life both in life and death. A lack of economic opportunity in their town led to his drug dealing. After his death, racial profiling led to his being blamed for his own murder. As Khalil’s friend and the witness to his shooting, Starr has to navigate the overt racism of One-Fifteen and the people who justify and guard him. And as an African American pupil in a predominately white school, Starr has to cope with each day’s microaggressions from human beings like Hailey who refuse to renowned their white privilege.
One-Fifteen symbolizes the regular chance of police brutality in opposition to African Americans. Although he’s slightly gifted as a character, he looms over the complete narrative. One-Fifteen pulls the young adults over due to a damaged taillight, however, he’s unnecessarily competitive in the direction of Khalil, assuming Khalil is as much as not real due to the fact he’s African American.
In a tv interview, One-Fifteen’s father characterizes his son as “afraid for his life” for the duration of his come across with the young adults, whilst in fact, Starr and Khalil posed no threat to him. One-Fifteen’s father additionally paints his son as a type of white savior, nobly risking himself “to make a distinction withinside the lives” of the citizens of Garden Heights. Starr calls this mindset out as no exceptional from how slave masters notion they were “saving African Americans from their ‘wild African ways.” Because of a justice gadget stacked in opposition to African Americans, One-Fifteen suffers no effects for killing an unarmed teen.
Hailey casually throws cruel comments towards Starr and Maya, and she refuses to acknowledge that she has done anything wrong, even when directly challenged. Instead, she makes feel guilty and turns their argument around, and in the process making herself a victim instead of a perpetrator. Thomas shows how this is a kind of gaslighting that makes Hailey’s victims question themselves so she can retain the moral high ground and maintain the status quo.
The Defeating Cycle of Poverty
The truth of Khalil’s character is at the forefront of Starr’s mind and thus becomes one of the focal points of Thomas’s narrative. Thomas investigates the crushing cycle of poverty through Khalil’s life and death, and the way it limits choices for African Americans, and how their crimes provide justification for white people to continue to dismiss and oppress them.
Starr and Khalil have known each other since they were kids her babysitter, Ms. Rosalie is Khalil’s grandmother. Although they drifted apart since Starr started attending Williamson Prep, she trusts him enough to get in his car without a second thought when shots ring out at a party in Garden Heights. She is sure that One-Fifteen murdered him, as he did nothing wrong.
However, Starr finds herself conflicted and wondering how much she can defend someone who dealt drugs and may have been a gang member. In fact, she denies knowing him when her friends at Williamson prep dismiss him as a thug. When she hears One-Fifteen’s father lying about Khalil and painting him as a threat to his son’s life, Starr realizes she must speak for Khalil and let people know the true story, that Khalil is as much a victim of institutionalized racism as he is of One-Fifteen’s gun.
Khalil earned some money at Maverick’s store, but his grandmother’s cancer treatments became unmanageable. She wonders if this makes her a thug, too, providing justification for white people to kill her as well. Starr knows she is lucky to have two parents who are loving and gainfully employed and who have successfully escaped the depressing cycle of poverty. She knows that most people in Garden Heights are not so lucky, and it is up to her and those like her to help out in any way possible.
Analysis of Key Moments in ‘The Hate U Give’
There are various major events that happened in the novel. Here are some of the most notable ones.
- The teens at a party at Greater heights where gunshots were heard.
- The shooting of Khalil at the traffic stop by One-Fifteen.
- After the shooting of her friend, Khalil, by the police; Starr gained the firmness f mind within herself to testify before a grand jury to seek justice for his death.
- Starr made a decision not to keep silent anymore and agreed to testify before the grand jury.
- Starr gives a statement to the police about what happened, after One-Fifteen shoots Khalil.
- Starr testifies in front of the grand jury and this finally brings to light the full truth of what happened the night of Khalil death. After this testimony, Starr decides that she will do all she can do to seek justice for Khalil.
- The grand jury did not indict One-Fifteen.
- Starr and her friends hide at her family store, but King burns the store by tossing a Molotov cocktail into the store and burns it down. The neighbors reported to the police that it was King who started the fire, which led to his arrest.
Style, Tone, and Figurative Language in ‘The Hate U Give’
The author used the first-person viewpoint throughout the story. Angie used the sarcastic, witty, and upbeat social commentary of the protagonist, to give the novel an optimistic tone in the face of tragedy. Yet, there is an atmosphere of indignation in the book, which is directed at the oppressive systems in society. The characters in the book have to fight against the system each and every day.
The major clash in the story is between Starr and herself as she struggles to speak up and fight for her friend, Khalil. Another major conflict is the one between the book’s African-American characters and the racism and brutality they face in their lives.
There is foreshadowing in the book when Starr showed concern over what to do if a police car stops her. This was a foreshadowing of Khalil’s later shooting. The intrinsic bad feeling that Starr and Lisa got about the police investigation into the case of Officer One-Fifteen is another foreshadowing of the jury’s decision not to prosecute the police officer.
Analysis of the Symbols
Khalil’s hairbrush is similar to Khalil. This is because of the significance attached to a black teenager in such a neighborhood. The hairbrush looks dangerous to a cop who racially profiles, even though it is not. Therefore, the hairbrush represents the racist assumptions that white people make about African Americans.
An activist Ms. Ofrah, an activist informs Starr and her parents that officer Cruise mistook Khalil’s hairbrush for a gun because “the handle was thick enough, black enough, for him to assume it was a gun.” Maverick points out that Khalil was black too, suggesting that One-Fifteen only “saw” a gun because he expected one to be there. One-Fifteen, like other white police officers who monitor the black neighborhoods, makes the racist assumption that an African American teen who tries to resist them must be a criminal.
One-fifteen is the badge number of the cop who killed Khalil. In the novel, it is a symbol of unrestrained police brutality towards African Americans. Starr kept referring to the officer as “One-Fifteen,” instead of his real name, because of two main things. First, Starr said she learned to get the badge number of any cop she interacted with because she was told about the police from her juvenile age.
Starr and other children in the African American neighborhood are taught early how to avoid confrontation with the police. This is because they are much more likely to be harassed by police because of racial profiling. So they are taught to always cooperate and never make any sudden movements in order to stay safe. The second thing is that by not referring to One-Fifteen by his given name, Starr is refusing to make him human or sympathize with him. She puts the focus squarely where it should be: on his victim, Khalil Harris.
How many times did Khalil get shot?
The police officer that killed Khalil shot him three times. He felt he was grabbing a gun and shoots Khalil immediately, killing him. The only reason Starr agrees to go to an interview with police about the shooting is because of the encouragement by her detective Uncle.
What does Khalil’s hairbrush represent?
Khalil’s Hairbrush is one of the symbols in the book. The hairbrush represents two things. The first thing is the blinding power of a racist system. The second thing is the senselessness of racism. One-Fifteen alleges that he shot Khalil because he mistook his hairbrush for a gun.
Why did One-fifteen pull Khalil over?
According to the police officer, One-Fifteen, Khalil was pulled over because of a broken taillight. He asks them where they are coming from, to which Khalil responds with “nunya.” One-Fifteen demands that Khalil gets out of the car, pins his arm behind his back, and proceeds to search him.
What does One-Fifteen symbolize in ‘The Hate U Give’?
One-Fifteen, the badge number of the cop who murders Khalil, is another symbol in ‘The Hate U Give’. It symbolizes unfettered police brutality against African Americans. One-Fifteen becomes a symbol for the larger issue of institutional racism because white parents never have to give their white children this safety talk.
What is a symbol in ‘The Hate U Give?’
There are two main symbols in the book. They are Khalil hairbrush and One-Fifteen, the police officer. One of the protest chants was that ‘A hairbrush is not a gun!’, in protest of the shooting of Khalil under the guise of him having a gun and the anger felt by the African-American community.