When Jasper Jones asks Charlie for help, he also asks Charlie to develop a new moral code, one that sees beyond conventional morality to a deeper, more complex understanding of right and wrong. Discuss with close reference to the novel.
In the novel Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey, we the reader see the gradual evolution of moral understanding that the young protagonist endures as he observes the morality of others. A cry for help from the town’s half-caste misfit soon triggers the burdening question that the young boy carries with him throughout the novel, the truth emerging as his silent observations strip away faux facades leaving the justice of right and wrong.
Charlie is best described as a wallflower, the unlikely hero who seems to shy way from confrontation and perceives the world on the basis of words written by the likes of Harper Lee and Mark Twain. Silvey’s careful composition of the character enables us to perceive the story on an un-biased and open-minded basis. Within the opening chapter, Charlie is placed in an unfamiliar position, challenging his initial thoughts on right and wrong, “We have drowned her. We are monster”. The young sheltered boy who has committed this act alongside the infamous Jasper Jones begins his journey with an undying sense of uncertainty, but we soon see how Charlie perceives Jasper, his fellow accomplice; “I think he’s the most honest person in this town”. This bold friendship, formed in secrecy, exposes young Charlie to ever looming maturity, a window into a world that leaves the truth bare and sees the faults that lie within the streets of Corrigan. Charlie has yet to experience this in its full glory but Jasper’s presence trigger the rise of inquisitive questions in young Charlie’s mind.
Throughout the novel we see the prominent theme of prejudice and ill-conceived mindsets that the small mining town of Corrigan contains, resulting in outcasts with reputations built on fiction. The wild ways of jasper Jones seems to blanket this town through false sightings and personal accounts. Jasper Jones—the poster boy for bad behaviour. As Charlie winces down strong spirits that burn his throat to the pit of his stomach, he listens intently to Jasper’s drunken ramblings, words that leave a deeper meaning in the readers mind. “…nuthin up there that gives a shit if I took a pack of smokes or lifted a tin of beef, I’m left with myself, and I know what’s right and what isn’t.” The beauty of his justification, through the raw eyes of someone who has witnessed the truth behind ‘conventional morality’, leaves a great influence on Charlie. His entire conception of ethics being shattered by Jasper’s words on small town morality, an empty hollow shell covered with tales of Godly observers who bring fear to mortals, rules set by society which are left insignificant and disregarded by many. Hardship and the knowledge of Corrigan’s conventional morality, a victim of its lies have influenced Jasper’s unique look on ethics.
As the novel progresses Charlie begins to evolve into a mature adolescent. Jasper’s influence on Charlie—whether it is from having his first swig of alcohol or changing and broadening his perspective on moral code—is a major element to Charlie’s understanding, as is discovery, mainly of the hypocrisy that runs through the town. Major honorable figures are soon seen as disgraceful citizens who contain contradictory morals, which co-exist nevertheless. Following the beating Jasper receives—without justification—from the Sarge, Charlie remains astounded at the truth ”…if I hadn’t touched the ugly pink pucker with my fingertips, I wouldn’t suspect this man to be the monster he was”. The rate of faux facades that shatter throughout the journey escalate, as does Charlie’s understanding of right and wrong; “…someone mentioned Jasper Jones. The same way they did when the post office burned to the ground…And I understand then that maybe we really did do the wrong thing for the right reason”. This pivotal thought marks the point when Charlie’s uncertainty evaporated, his one dimensional view on justice and morality evolving into a far more complex understating.
The novel described as a ‘coming-of-age’ story, is true throughout Charlie’s journey. The development of the character within such a short time frame is conducted through experience and various influences, some which act as building blocks and others that rip away the veil of ignorance. As the novel concludes Charlie joins his fellow accomplice in seeing Corrigan and ‘conventional morals’ in its true light.