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In Craig Silveys outrageous novel Jasper Jones, the younger characters are faced with a loss of innocence. They have to find out the hard way the world is not what it’s portrayed to be. Throughout the novel the characters are dragged through violence, destruction and death and uncover the truth about mysteries and lies.
Acquiring understanding of the truth typically includes being challenged by both the darkness and the light within humanity. Understanding both these sides is what specifies the adult mind from that of the kid’s.
The shattering of the kid’s understandings of life, through knowledge of the truth, is what we describe as the ‘loss of innocence’. To ‘come of age’ is to lose the innocence of youth and to start to develop the beliefs, worths and mindsets of the adult, that will both form that adult’s understandings of life and enable them to function in an adult world. Therefore is gaining understanding of the truth a basic element of the process of maturing.
Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey is a coming of age novel.
Charlie’s exposure to Laura’s horrific death and the events leading up to it, force him to confront the darkness in human nature and as a result, he matures and develops the perceptions and values that will guide him through adult life. The nature of his transformation by the end of the summer is revealed when Charlie narrates, “I’ve finally got the right words in me.” The first person narration allows readers access to Charlie’s thoughts and he is thus able to express the development of his character and confidence which finally allows him to say what he has wanted to say to Eliza throughout the summer.
As Charlie and Jasper work together to uncover the secret behind Laura’s death, Charlie is able to get to know Jasper as a person, as opposed to knowing only the myth that is Jasper Jones. With this knowledge comes understanding, which shapes Charlie’s perceptions of his character, so much so that when the people of Corrigan suspect Jasper of burning down the Wishart’s home, Charlie feels dismayed on his behalf. He narrates that, “When I hear his name, there’s that lump in my throat again and a tug at my raw chest.” Charlie’s ability to empathise with Jasper is the mark of an adult mind and hence, illustrates his coming of age.
Gaining knowledge of the truth often involves being confronted by both the darkness and the light within human nature. Knowing both these sides is what defines the adult mind from that of the child’s. The shattering of the child’s perceptions of life, through knowledge of the truth, is what we refer to as the ‘loss of innocence’. To ‘come of age’ is to lose the innocence of childhood and to begin to develop the beliefs, values and attitudes of the adult, that will both shape that adult’s perceptions of life and allow them to function in an adult world. Thus is gaining knowledge of the truth a fundamental aspect of the process of coming of age.
The Novel Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey revolves around a young boy named Charlie Bucktin living in the small Australian town of Corrigan in the 1960’s. Charlie is exposed to the confronting issues of racial prejudice, injustice and moral duality. He is challenged to question right from wrong, has to come to the realization that law doesn’t always uphold justice and we as readers are positioned to understand that people are capable of holding two conflicting values and remain in confortable harmony. The ideas are portrayed through Silvey’s use of narrative conventions that are used to either challenge or reinforce our values, attitudes and beliefs on the issues explored.
Our morals and ethics is our understanding of what we believe is right or wrong. Reading this novel we come to realize that the people of Corrigan are hypocrites, cable of holding two conflicting values or beliefs. Jasper Jones does not deny that he is a “thief, a liar, a thug, a truant”, but despite this, he says “I never stole a thing I dint need… and all my life so far, sh*t’s bin taken off me, so I’m evening the ledger a bit” (page 34). My attitude towards stealing is that its wrong, but Jasper’s character has challenged this belief and suggests that stealing is okay and can be justified in this case because he did it to get the things he needs “because its never gonna get offered”.
When Jasper asked Charlie to help him hide the body of Laura Wishart, he was not only asking him to break the law but was making Charlie go against his morals and he had to reconsider what the “right thing” to do was. He knew that tampering with her body was illegal but he did it anyway to help Jasper stay out of trouble and find the truth of what had happened. Craig is trying to show us that we all hold conflicting views on things and that sometimes we can think one way and act in another. It has made me realize that I too may contradict my own values and positions me to reconsider what I believe to be right and wrong.
Corrigan is a town swamped with lies and injustice. Silvey is expressing this theme through the establishment of characters and plot. His message is that the Law and what seems morally right, doesn’t necessarily uphold justice. Jasper Jones has a bad reputation in Corrigan and after his discovery of Laura’s body, Charlie argues that they should go to the police but Jasper knows that the rule of law doesn’t apply to him. He is the town’s scapegoat when an incident occurs and says, “We can’t tell anyone. Especially the Police… they are gonna say it was me.” (page 13). When the disappearance of Laura becomes public, Jasper is locked up and bashed by her father the “Shire President”. Throughout the novel Pete Wishart is always referred to by this title. He is supposed to be a public figure and role model but instead he’s an abusive drunk that impregnated his daughter and manhandled a child.
This misconduct shows how power can be misused and the double standards that exist in society. The myth of ‘Mad Jack Lionel’ burdened the town of Corrigan. Rumours were spread concerning his involvement with the death of Rosie Jones and he was Jaspers first suspicion as to what had happened to Laura. “The lies and suppositions were just heaped upon the stack” (page 240). He had been wrongfully accused and blamed for things he did not do and his town turned its back on him. The unjust treatment of Jasper and Jack Lionel shows that people are so quick to judge and make assumptions about others without knowing a thing about them. It reinforces by belief that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and should get to know the truth about someone before you pass judgement.
Throughout the novel Charlie the protagonist, has lost most the innocence out of all the characters and has to learn to truth about a lot of things. Over the “hottest summer in Corrigan” Charlie is confronted about many truths including the truth behind the myth of Mad Jack Lionel and the truth behind his mother’s hurtful behaviour. However the truth that has the biggest impact on Charlie has to be the dark secret that jasper exposes Charlie to. Charlies visions of the world, his way of life are about to change forever. Charlie’s exposure to Laura’s suicide and the events leading up to it force him to confront the darkness in the world and as a result he loses his last shred of innocence. The truths Charlie comes to realise and the actions he takes are shown near the end of the novel when he says I “finally have the right words in me.”
In the novel Jasper is seen as an outcast by most of Corrigan, and is treated this way as well. Jasper has already matured to a certain point but there are still things that he hasn’t realised the truth about yet. Jasper has to overcome the truth about his mother and the truth about Mad Jack being his grandad and the truth behind Laura’s suicide. Laura’s suicide took Jaspers last bit of innocence from him he had to find out who committed this terrible crime and he wanted to bring them to justice. Jaspers mentality changes throughout the whole novel and when he finally admits Laura’s gone. Jasper decides to leave Corrigan for good and this is a sign of maturity.
Jeffrey Is Charlies best friend and neighbour. Jeffery is Vietnamese living in the 1960s in an Australian town, and he has to grow up with adversity and realisation of the truth that he is an outcast because of his race. Jeffery has quite a lot of maturing to do, supporting this is the extremely stupid conversations he and Charlie sometimes have. Jeffery has realised that it doesn’t matter what anyone says to him he had to believe in himself and Jeffery got his time to shine. He has come to realise the horrible truth that his family is not respected and is seen as a lower class of society and come to realise that whatever race you are dictates your “ status ” in the community. His mentality also changes throughout the entire novel. By the end of the novel he believes in himself and has earned his respect in the community.
Multiculturalism, which is familiar to contemporary Australians, was unheard of in the 1960’s and the concept of people from other countries and cultural backgrounds enriching in Australian life was a foreign concept. This novel explores the racism behind the discrimination towards those from non-European backgrounds such as Jeffery Lu and his family. Silvey’s selection of setting, the context of this novel and the surrounding circumstances such as the Vietnam War provides an understanding of the current attitudes that society may have had towards certain ideas. At the time of this novel, many Australians were resentful for having to go over and fight in the war. Charlie’s best friend Jeffery, who is of Vietnamese background, was subject to discrimination and copped a lot of bullying because of this. A woman whose son had died in the war attacked Jeffery’s mother, Mrs Lu. “She slapped her cup up, right into her chest… scalding her skin” (page 128).
This scene positioned me to feel sorry for Mrs Lu and reinforced by belief that everyone, no matter what race, should be treated with equality. Jeffery is often victimized by other kids, like Warwick Trent the teenage bully of the town, because of his race. He’s the boy “who’s always been two years bigger and broader than anyone his age” (page 57). He and the other boys that Jeffery often encounters at the local oval are intimidated by his intellect and his cricket skills. They try to establish their dominance over Jeffery by using his ethnicity against him and asserting racial comments such as “F*ck off, c*nt eyes” (page 58) and “F*ck off Cong” (page 59). The mistreatment of Lu family has shown me the significance of coequality and how damaging racism can be. The message Silvey is trying to convey is that anyone who is perceived to be different or ‘inferior’ is made to feel as outcasts and unwelcome in society. It has made me reconsider how I should treat others and has helped me develop a greater understanding of why everyone should be treated with respect and equality regardless of their race.
Eliza doesn’t really make an appearance in the novel until about halfway through, but by that time we are shown that Eliza is already quite matured and grown up. Eliza has to realise that her sister committed suicide to escape her violent father and Eliza come to the realise the truth about human nature that it isn’t all nice smiles and hellos people hurt other people on purpose just because they want to. Eliza shows just how grown up at the end of the novel when she sets her house on fire to try to escape from the harsh memories.
Jasper Jones deals with many issues that are prevalent in our modern society. The author uses narrative conventions such as plot, setting and characters to challenge or reinforce my attitudes and values. I come to understand that people can hold contradicting values and remain in comfortable harmony. I realize that the law doesn’t always uphold justice and am positioned to see the harm discrimination can cause. These are just a few of the ways that Craig Silvey has used narrative conventions to influence my point of view on the themes expressed in Jasper Jones.
In conclusion all the characters in the novel were greatly affected by Laura’s death it lit a fuse that made the whole town explode into utter chaos and Jasper Charlie and Eliza were stuck In the middle of it. In addition all of the character had to grow up in their own way just to survive in this small outback town.
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