What is the Climax of Stargirl?

Instructor: Bethany Calderwood

Bethany has taught special education in grades PK-5 and has a master's degree in special education.

Part of understanding a story is exploring how the author uses the plot elements to tell the story and convey ideas. In this lesson, we will explore the element of climax in the novel 'Stargirl' by Jerry Spinelli.

Turning Points

Have you ever been to a New Year's Eve party? People gather together to celebrate the year that is ending and to look forward to the year to come. At exactly midnight, people cheer, hug, kiss, and shout ''Happy New Year!'' Midnight is the turning point, where one year comes to its end, the next year begins, and things begin to change.

In literature, a good story has a turning point similar to midnight on New Year's Eve. It is called the climax. The climax of a story is the turning point of a story, where the conflict reaches its most intense point, forcing change. Let's look at the climax of Jerry Spinelli's novel Stargirl.

Mapping the Plot

Before we locate the climax of Stargirl, we need to review the basic plot of the novel. The plot in a novel consists of introduction, conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. In Stargirl, here are the elements leading up to the climax:

  • Introduction: We meet the narrator, Leo, and learn of his collection of porcupine ties. We learn that Leo attends Mica Area High School in Arizona, and are introduced to his best friend, Kevin.
  • Conflict: Mica Area High School has a new student named Stargirl Caraway. Stargirl stirs up the student body because she does many creative and unusual things and refuses to conform to what her fellow students consider to be normal behavior. The conflict throughout Stargirl is this tension between individuality and conformity.
  • Rising Action: After the students' initial wariness about her, Stargirl gains popularity and becomes a cheerleader. Her actions as a cheerleader, including cheering for both teams, cause public opinion to turn against her. Everyone in school stops speaking to her. Around this time, she starts dating Leo, the narrator. He convinces her to act like the other students to gain acceptance. Stargirl, now called Susan, goes to compete for Mica High School in a statewide public speaking contest.

The climax of Stargirl comes when Susan returns to an empty parking lot.
plot chart

The Climax

The turning point of the story comes as Susan wins the public speaking contest. As she travels back to school with Leo, her teacher, and her parents, she has built up an expectation of a grand welcome. Her return had been announced at school the previous day, and she envisions a parking lot full of people cheering her success, welcoming her with banners, confetti and speeches.

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