Relationship Between Race And Identity In The Hate U Give
The novel written by American author Angie Thomas and published in 2017 titled, The Hate U Give explores the relationship between race and identity. The predominant theme (of The Hate U Give) is racism, especially how it manifests in violence and police brutality. Starr, the main protagonist, who faces discrimination and prejudice from her white classmates and white police officers, has witnessed several incidents where prejudice towards her friends has ended in fatality. In comparison, director, Joosje Duk communicates the similar theme of racism but conveyed this through a different light in her short film NIGHT. NIGHT explores the themes of casual everyday racism and microaggressions. Reversing roles, Duk’s intention is to make white women understand their privilege by making them experience what it is like to be a minority in the United States. Differing in different perspectives, both texts influence audiences through language and stylistic features.
The language and settings of both texts determine the mood and atmosphere promoting a range of emotions in the audience, while illustrating themes of discriminative racism and microaggressions. Thomas’s novel is loaded with many different language techniques that create a dramatic tone. Her symbolism represents abstract ideas or concepts in readers’ minds; for example, One Fifteen. Even after learning his real name is Brian Cruise, Starr thinks of the police officer who shot Khalil as One-Fifteen. By referring to him only by badge number, Starr reduces One-Fifteen to a symbol of racism in the system of law enforcement. Thomas’ word choice makes a larger point that Khalil did not die because of One-Fifteen, but because of the way the law enforcement criminalizes black youth. Symbolism is also used in Maverick’s roses. Maverick’s work in his rose garden represents his values as a parent and his devotion to Starr, Seven and Sekani. Maverick mentions that gardens need conversation to grow, and we see conversation as an important part of his parenting style, such as when he talks to Starr about the meaning of Thug Life. The roses start drying out during the initial riots in Garden Heights, which coincides with the height of Starr’s confusion and self-blame. At the end of The Hate U Give, when Maverick says his roses will survive the move to the suburbs, he also means that despite his fears, the values of black power he has given his children will survive the move as well. In complete contrast, the same elements of racism mentioned in The Hate U Give, Duk has conveyed in different elements of cinematography for NIGHT. Unlike Thomas’s novel, Duk’s short film is focused around small incidents of racist micro-aggressions. The films different camera angles and movements make these micro-aggressions noticeable. For example; during the scene of all four girls eating after they had left the nightclub, the two white girls, Sue and Genelva attempt to express how they felt about the discrimination they faced upon entry of the night club. Camera angles and movement are crucial during this scene; all four girls are never in the same camera shot at the same time, only ever Sue and Genelva or Jess and Kitty. The camera cuts between close up shots of both pairs of girls, panning back and forth and there is never a long shot of all four girls together. Duk incorporates this technique for the rest of the film. Separating both pairs of girls has an effect on the audience as in doing this, they notice the discrepancy between races and starts to notice the message that Duk is trying to get across, which is that she believes that its hard for white women to understand their privilege unless they were to experience what it is like to be a minority in the United States. Although very different, language techniques and cinematography convey the main messages effectively to the audience, demonstrating that Thomas and Duk both want their audiences to have a better understanding of the small everyday casual racism that occurs.
Both NIGHT and The Hate U Give share a similar purpose, which is to draw their audience’s attention to the theme of racism and micro aggressions. However, in The Hate U Give Thomas’ main purpose is to bring justice for Starr’s best friend Khalil, who was wrongfully shot and killed by a white police officer, whereas in NIGHT, Duk’s purpose is to elaborate and highlight the way Sue and Genelva are discriminated against in every day situations, for example; the way they weren’t allowed in the club when the rest of the girls were. The purpose of The Hate U Give is to identify the struggles of African Americans who live in a “White World”. Thomas conveys Starr’s purpose through a variety of different themes. For example, in the beginning of the novel, Starr is almost embarrassed of where she comes from. She tries to hide the fact that she’s from “The Hood”; her parents save everything they have to enrol her in a top private school so that she is out of the ghetto as much as she can be. Starr lies about where she comes from and who she is at school so that the girls will not bully her about it; this theme is developed through different author techniques such as motifs and settings. For example; the motif of “THUG LIFE”, Tupac Shakur’s concept of Thug Life- “The Hate U Give Little Infants F**ks Everybody”. This is an important motif that forms many of the themes and is the source of the novels title. Starr and Khalil discuss the acronym shortly before Khalil’s death, and Starr discusses Tupac’s message with her father later on, before coming to the conclusion that she cannot be silent about the shooting. The acronym is symbolic of the struggles that black people in America face, contributing to the main theme of racism. This motif runs throughout the entire novel, as such characters such as DeVante and Khalil get caught up in a system that traps them. Through the theme of belongingness and discrimination, Thomas develops Starr’s character to eventually accept who she is. NIGHT has a similar purpose as Duk also develops the main characters through the theme of micro aggressions to reach the climax of her short film. Duk conveys this theme through sound and lighting. For example, when Genelva and Sue attempt to get into the club, the camera pans in to a close up of both the girls and the lighting becomes dim as the camera focuses on the bouncer and both girls. During this moment, all the loud music blasting from the club behind them becomes quiet and low, allowing for a serious tone as the bouncer’s voice is all the audience can hear now. This scene is when the theme of microaggressions and subtle forms of everyday racism are conveyed. Duks conveys a sense of purpose throughout the film, not only through themes but also through character development. For example, at the beginning of the film, Sue and Genelva are quite introverted and do not stand up to Kitty and Jess when they think they are being discriminated against. Towards the end, the two girls finally speak up, which results in a massive fight. It isn’t until the very end of the film when the roles are reversed and the white girls and the black girls switch positions, that the audience comes to realise that this is the reality of how African Americans feel being a minority within the United States. Duk attempts to make the white women of America feel the discrimination that black women feel daily. Although both pieces of work differ their purposes are similar as both convey themes of racism and microaggression to show the audience the prejudice black people feel regularly. In comparison to each other, Thomas makes it so that Starr tries to disguise her background throughout the entirety of the novel whereas Duk consciously swaps all four girls experiences purposely.
Although the narrative perspective in the two texts are in complete contrast, both successfully make clear the confronting effects of racism. The Hate U Give follows the story line of a single black female and is written in the traditional first-person technique. Thomas’s novel follows Starr in first person, meaning that the reader finds out about her relationships and lifestyle through Starr herself. For example, in the very beginning of the novel readers are introduced to Khalil and Starr’s friendship with him through Starr’s narrative voice: she says that, “The sea of people parts for him like he’s a brown skinned Moses. He smiles at me, and his dimples ruin any G persona he has. Khalil is fine, no other way of putting it.” This first-person perspective often brings readers a sense of closeness to the characters. Through Thomas’ writing the audience is able to connect with the characters within the novel, as its engaging but yet limits the readers from knowing what’s going on in the other characters’ heads. In this case the first-person narrative perspective is carried throughout the whole novel with the readers unravelling the events of the novel through the voice of Starr. In complete contrast to this, Duk’s short film NIGHT follows a third person omniscient point of view. Duk brings all four main characters to life and moves from character to character. For example, NIGHT is never focused on just one character and isn’t told through just one character’s voice; it doesn’t have a reliable narrative voice. Throughout the entirety of the short film, the audience is able to understand the story of every character by demonstrating that only the narrator possesses information. NIGHT follows four females to convey their story of race; here, Duk’s purpose (of using omniscient technique) is to allow the audience to know everything about the four girls, gaining an insight into the characters’ minds and almost creating a bond with them. In doing this, viewers can also see and observe the responses of multiple characters which further helps them understand the plot of the narrative. By experiencing the storyline of the film, the multiple voices of the different characters, the audience can look into the depths of the story of everyday racism. Duk’s storytelling, involves multiple characters and several plot lines with different interpretations of the same event. For example in NIGHT, all four girls have a different experience of trying to get into the club and the audience learns all of these different experiences, with the two black girls being let in and the two white being declined and discriminated against. Despite having different narrative voices, both texts serve the same kind purpose of conveying the message of racism across to their audiences. Thomas has written The Hate U Give so that the audience Is able to connect with the characters as if they are in Starr’s shoes as the story is told by Starr. Whereas in NIGHT, the audience is able to identify with all four of the main characters and develop an understanding of the story line as all the main characters share their experiences. Both techniques are effective and both authors are able to express similar messages of racism and what it’s like to be a black minority in a white America but convey these messages in very different narrative voices.
Although the novel The Hate U Give and the short film NIGHT share similar purpose, each text has successfully incorporated literary and film techniques respectfully, to convey the common theme of racism. In Thomas’ novel, through literary techniques, such as symbolism and motifs, capture the story and convey the message of racism across and brings the text alive for the reader. Similar, though through different techniques, Duks’ short film conveys the theme of everyday racism through elements of cinematography such as camera angels and an omniscient narrative perspective. Thus, each text achieves its desired purpose and engages the audience in an insightful look into everyday racism.
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