Truth and Justice in Jasper Jones

Craig Silvey’s Australian novel Jasper Jones stresses the importance of truth and justice in formulating human experiences, shaping understandings of oneself and world. It highlights that events aren’t always positive; justice isn’t dealt out fairly, and truth can be a burden.

Silvey suggests that people’s response to a disclosed truth can empower or diminish their supremacy, creating a clearer comprehension of their true, human nature. When Charlie discovers Ruth’s affair, her response is aggressive. According to him, “she keeps shrieking spitfire questions, just filling up this space with her stupid outrage,” the imagery illuminating Ruth’s hostility. It highlights that her initial reaction to confrontation is defensive, revealing her hypocritical nature. However, Charlie responds assertively, stating “but I feel calm.” The disjunction of “but” signals a change in Charlie’s behaviour and contrasts Ruth’s reaction. Charlie’s defiance is Ruth’s punishment for her secret, conveyed in “No! You dug this hole, you fill it in.” The italics blames Ruth and prevents her from avoiding the truth. The imperative indicates a progress of Charlie’s bildungsroman journey, he gains the maturity to defend himself. It also signifies a role reversal – Charlie is now powerful and Ruth is defenseless, reinforced when Charlie thinks “she looks like a child. Scared, lost and unhappy….she begins to cry.” The simile of the child suggests that Charlie is the adult now, and that once the truth is out there, Ruth can no longer hide behind her ‘motherly’ appearance. Silvey illustrates that a critical part of the human condition is our response to a disclosed truth.

Silvey underlines that learning the truth can cause regret – it can formulate a negative outlook of the world and becomes a burden. Charlie grapples with his knowledge about Laura Wishart’s death, evident from the moment he learns of Laura’s fate, declaring that “I feel like I’m underwater. Deaf and drowning.” The drowning metaphor reveals Charlie’s powerlessness, shock and distress at the discovery. He constantly feels anxious due to this, expressed in the recurring motif of insects – “There are insects crawling on my shoulders,” the insects being representative of his omnipresent anxiety and danger. Once Charlie learns what really happened on the night of Laura’s murder he still feels equally distressed, believing that if he had not followed Jasper Jones, he “would have stayed safe in my room…None the wiser. Much the lighter. I’d never had this awful brick in my stomach.” Charlie’s bedroom is a symbol for comfort and security, his leaving has thrown him into the deep end, referring to the drowning metaphor. The symbol of the brick also exposes how he is anchored by the knowledge. Silvey employs a stream of consciousness when detailing Laura’s abuse, coupled with the repetition of the running on of words, “Thisiswhathappened,” this elucidates that Charlie cannot contain the secret and he needs to reveal it quickly. Silvey demonstrates that knowledge of a complete truth doesn’t provide closure or comfort to those who know it.

The text illuminates that human “justice” systems are innately corrupt and will use their privilege to, paradoxically, employ unjust methods to seek justice. This is expressed when the police interrogate Eliza. Charlie states that “She stayed firm when they plied her with sweets and lemonade and spoke soothingly, even firmer when they threatened her, when they hissed in her ear and told her she was betraying the people she loved.” The verb choice of “plied” denotes that the police forcibly tried to reveal the truth. The onomatopoeia of “hiss” creates an illusion that they are snakes – poisonous, deceptive and vile. The juxtaposition of kind methods with cruelty conveys that institutions are multifaceted and use brutality to achieve their goals. It’s ironic that an establishment created to serve justice is capable of being so unjust. This is also evident when Jasper is beaten by officers whilst being unfairly detained. Jasper explained that “They don’t need a reason,” which exemplifies their incompetence to find true justice and instead, abusing an innocent person. It’s also ironic that Mr Wishart participated in Jasper’s mistreatment, blaming him for his daughter’s disappearance when his actions resulted in her death. Silvey demonstrates that individuals in position of power ultimately become corrupted, becoming unable to serve true justice.

In contrast, the text elucidates that powerless people who seek justice utilize unconventional and unlawful methods to achieve it, as traditional means of equity will not work – typified when Eliza commits arson. As described by Charlie, “The Wishart house is crackling furiously from the inside. It’s a single box of flames.” Fire is a symbol for rebirth and renewal, denoting that Eliza is cleansing the home of the atrocities that took place there. It also signals her own rebirth, strengthening her character to become more resilient. Using intertextuality, it links her to Jenny Likens as they both “said nothing until the end.” This is Eliza’s way of speaking against her father’s maltreatment of Laura. The event is referred to as “the antipodean snowdome,” highlighting that Eliza is shattering her own “snowdome”, a symbol for safety, as it’s painful for her. “Antipoden” is something that relates to Australia, reflecting Eliza’s Australian value of anti-authoritarianism, and that her method of justice undermines traditional power structures. Charlie reflects on Eric Cooke’s explanation as to why he murdered others, “I just wanted to hurt somebody,” relating it to Eliza, denoting her anger at her father and reveals that crime is more complex than people perceive. People from all walks of life commit crimes, and sometimes, it can be considered heroic. The novel emphasizes that sometimes, the only way to achieve justice is through unsafe and non-traditional means.

Silvey underscores that truth and justice are instrumental in creating differing perceptions of the world, and that people’s response to both these ideas can be negative, unfair or subversive. It reflects the inherently flawed and corrupt human condition.

Jasper Jones: Justice, Agency, and Perspective

Justice in society is the ultimate destination for those who wish to uphold the truth; however, morality is contradicted by an individual’s choice to be uninvolved when personal serenity is at stake. The novel Jasper Jones upholds this idea through the portrayal of silent bystanders as the driving force that powers the events of injustice that take place in Corrigan. Ultimately, this dilemma is revealed to the audience through the lens of Charlie Bucktin’s experiences, which act as a catalyst in assisting him piece together the reality that achieving justice is not always a clear-cut matter.

Breakdowns within relationships are spurred into being by the inability of individuals to acknowledge their personal liability and condemn others of their misdemeanors. As Charlie witnesses his mother’s accumulating verbal abuse towards his father’s misbehavior, he understands how his mother attempts to feed her dissatisfaction in life by criticizing those around her: “She called him a poor parent, a useless husband. She accused him of not caring for either me or her.” However, since Charlie’s father stays uninvolved in order to restore peace, he is allowing injustice to linger; in fact, he is ironically being scapegoated as the excuse for his wife’s affair. As Charlie states, “I wanted him to take umbrage with her questioning of his heart and his loyalty. But he didn’t.” Although the peace of passiveness is eventually made most evident to the audience within the motif of Charlie’s antipodean snowdome, Charlie also understands the safety of being a silent bystander. His experiences force him to regret opening his window to Jasper Jones: “I’d choose to forget. I’d sleep safe in my settled snowdome.” Therefore, the Bucktin house can also be viewed as a microcosm of the Corrigan community, as the silent bystander sustains wrongdoings and allows the innocent to be accused for others’ mistakes.

Silvey adapts his ideas about truth and responsibility to the Wishart family; Pete Wishart’s brutal abuse of Laura was facilitated by Eliza’s and Mrs. Wishart’s continuous suppression of the truth. The narrative demonstrates Laura’s encounters through a metaphorical spectacle highlighting how quickly evil was propelled “Like a cork from a bottle. A train with no brakes.” Here, the use of simile heightens the intensity of Eliza’s recounting to Charlie of her inability to oppose the villainy under her own roof. In a uniquely Australian voice Silvey personifies the intense heat of the Australian climate “summer heat crept in” symbolizing nature growing in tension in parallel with the events within the Wishart family. Dissolution of relationships within the Wishart family thrived from the subduing of truth and the abrogation of responsibilities as parental guardians from both Mr. and Mrs. Wishart. The powerless and marginalized are often scapegoated for the mistakes of those higher up in societies hierarchy to uphold faultless public appearances. Society’s animosity towards Jasper Jones is enunciated during Charlie’s first encounter with him “They think I’m a bloody animal. They think I belong in a cage…” The image of Jasper as an animal represents the ironic label that impugns his sensitive and misunderstood nature and presents him as dangerous to society. The first person narrative within the novel positions Charlie as the narrator allowing us to recognize the duality of Jasper which may not be known by others. Subsequently these experiences are what fuels the novel and forces Jasper and Charlie to adapt methods contrary to the traditional to achieve justice.

Jasper’s character is inexorably linked to accumulated stereotypical labels “a Thief, a Liar, a Thug, a Truant” that allows the powerful figures such as Pete Wishart to demonstrate a destructive power of injustice and scapegoat Jasper Jones for his misdemeanor. This supports his attempts in masking his identity as an alcoholic, immoral, sexually violent man and uphold his authority as the Shire president. Capitalization of these titles demonstrate the dominance of the assumptions of the community and promotes Jasper’s vulnerability to be scapegoated. However, during his encounter with Mad Jack Lionel Jasper is indirectly accused of the same mistake of judging by appearance without understanding reality, as he himself engage in scapegoating of the innocent. Represented through an imperative narrative voice tied together with aphorism, Silvey highlights the ability of the Corrigan citizens to disfigure the truth so extremely, despite their personal egregious practices, that it forces Jack Lionel to resort to an isolated life, “The story became truth…And Jack Lionel’s portrait was smudged with ink and smeared in shit”. Silvey alludes this image of Lionel to the character of “Boo Radley”, a reclusive social outcast in “To Kill a Mockingbird”. During Jaspers blindness of the truth he fails to understand the positive intentions of Lionel to reunite with his grandson. “Or maybe he knew…Maybe he knows about his place. Maybe it was him.” The repetition of “Maybe” accentuates Jaspers uncertainty and lack of evidence in accusing Jack Lionel. Even though Jasper doesn’t have an image he needs to support, he needs to accuse someone else to hide the possibility of his actions driving Laura to her death. Therefore by relieving oneself of mistakes by antagonizing the innocent we are able to eliminate possibilities of moral misadventure.

Justice and truth are intertwined as the handling of truth by individuals are influenced by human experiences and the reinterpretation of it brings about justice or injustice. Peoples encounters within certain relationships shapes their view of the truth as only those willing to peel away the layers and explore it will truly understand reality. Charlie’s intelligence and compelling attitude to discover the truth before judging places characters in their authentic form, which assists in piecing together the different events within Corrigan. As a result of this he and Jasper were able to discover the ultimate injustice within Laura’s death and perceive Corrigan through a different lens. Craig Silvey poignantly completes this novel through the revealing of human nature and its role within unearthing the truth and bringing about Justice.

Australian Culture and Jasper Jones

Australian Culture and Jasper Jones – Essay‘Jasper Jones’ by Craig Silvey is a semi-realistic representation of the social commentary and culture of Australian society in the 1960s. The distinct novel demonstrates the harsh climate of xenophobia, cultural stereotyping, and destructive racism that existed, as well as the fictional, patriarchal town of Corrigan. Against the social turmoil of the Vietnam War and the Aboriginal Rights Movement, Silvey explores themes of community, conformity, and discrimination, which remain true throughout, and are personified, by the multi-faceted characters of ‘Jasper Jones’. ‘The Australian Temperament’ introduction by Peter Goldsworthy, and similarly Tony Birch’s summary of Jasper Jones, accounts of the core ideas in the novel and Australian society both presently and in the past.

The cultural elements and ideas in Jasper Jones are heavily influenced by the majority of Australians’ opinion in the ‘60s, which are discussed heavily in Peter Goldsworthy’s introduction. In Silvey’s text, several accounts of racism are incorporated, such as Jeffery Lu and Jasper Jones. Jeffery Lu is an Australian-born Vietnamese boy and Charlie’s only friend, who ‘one-ups’ his intellect, which, because of the Vietnam War, would’ve been extremely rare and controversial at the time. Jeffery is bullied and harassed at school constantly for being Vietnamese, and no matter how much he perseveres to fit in with the other children, the only time he is cheered on or admired is when he is covered with gear and clothing to the point of anonymity – on the cricket pitch. When playing sport, Jeffery feels like he belongs, but when he removes his helmet, he’s bombarded with insults, threats, and physical bullying. Jasper shares this attribute of minority with Jeffery, being an Aboriginal-Australian. Jasper is the town’s scapegoat – portrayed as “A thief, a thug, a liar, and a truant”, and is horribly mistreated by almost everyone because of his falsely-rumoured reputation in Corrigan. His status in the town is so low that Jasper is actually used as an example to children of how they’d end up with poor attitude and aptitude, which Silvey excellently uses in order to demonstrate how extremely discriminatory some Australian communities were in the 1960s. Charlie is depicted physically as a typical Australian boy, although he is still an outcast, because of his intellect. Abnormally, he doesn’t like to play sport as his schoolmates do, he instead reads books for entertainment, which is looked down upon by everyone because sport is the social capitol, not intellect.

The major global-scale events that occur in Jasper Jones, such as the Vietnam War, mostly accurately co-inside with the actual dates. Silvey uses these events to perpetuate the realism of the fictional town of Corrigan, as it is based off his childhood town. They provide the narrative with an additional ‘layer’, for example, Silvey includes conscription – as the war is raging, three men from Corrigan are drafted into the army. The 1960s were also the era of Aboriginal rights activity, which included the Aboriginal Rights Movement of 1965. The co-incidence with the Vietnam War further explains why Jeffery Lu is bullied so extensively, as a Vietnamese-Australian would’ve been extremely rare in Australia, and he could’ve possibly been considered a spy, or was just despised for ‘supporting’ Australia’s opposition in the war, when in fact he isn’t actually on anyone’s side. This theme is perpetuated further by the White Australia Policy which was still in place until 1965, and Silvey harnesses it to create depth for the characters Jasper and Jeffery, who are certainly not part of ‘White Australia’.

Craig Silvey utilizes dialogue of the characters, mainly Jasper, to indicate the lack of individual education for Aboriginal children, and the deficiency in intellect that comes from it. Jasper practices a form of ‘Aboriginal-English’ which consists of abbreviations, mispronunciations, and abridgements. For example, ‘been’ becomes “bin” (p181), and ‘nothing’ becomes “nuthin” (p190). Jasper views Charlie as a clever boy, much like Atticus Finch from ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’, and selects him to help because he thinks Charlie is quite “wise”. Conversely, Charlie enjoys using complex words, but is denied by Warwick Trent – the school bully – which in turn hinders his education, and is further tormented by Warwick and others if he uses a complicated word in class. Silvey creates vast and descriptive imagery with an impressive use of metaphor, simile, and symbolism – such as “my head circling and cycling dizzily through too many avenues of thought” (p113). These techniques, as described in Tony Birch’s summary, enhance his writing and the story itself because it draws the audience in, and provides additional material to create a scene in their minds.

‘Jasper Jones’ by Craig Silvey is a contextually-shaped novel that employs the use of several multi-faceted characters to carry out a narrative. The use of language techniques further emphasises the underlying tone of the novel, and creates a vast imagery for the audience’s enjoyment. It marks a point in time when egalitarianism was not in place, and Australia was still filled with xenophobia and racism. Silvey brilliantly establishes and continues these themes throughout, consequently delivering a compelling narrative that almost all audiences can relate with and enjoy.

Bibliography

Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey Introduction (The Australian Temperament) by Peter Goldsworthy Jasper Jones – In Summary by Tony Birch© Max Cullen Feng 2016

Quick Thinking in the Toughest Times: Heroism in Seabiscuit and Jasper Jones

In both the movie Seabiscuit by director Gary Ross and the novel Jasper Jones by author Craig Silvey, many heroes hidden in plain sight can be found. These characters are very similar in certain elements such as Johnny Pollard, who is also known as Red has striking similarities with Jasper Jones. The two are “wild” in a way where they have learnt to live on their own without support and reacts. They don’t pay attention to their health but were able to quickly makes decisions that can lead to beneficial outcomes. Charles Howard and Charlie Bucktin are the heroes in the two texts. They choose to help someone who they know very little about and were always there to support their friends. Tom Smith and Charlie’s dad are similar as they are very knowledgeable in their fields and the best solution to a problem. Therefore, heroes are people who help can react to challenges and quickly solve them.

The characters Red Pollard and Charlie are comparable as they spent the majority of their life by themselves. Either they are separated from their family or their family doesn’t want them. Johnny was sent to another family by his parents so he can live a better life than them caused by the Great Depression and Jasper only have an abusive father to go back to so he instead stays away from him. Their life remains on the road leading to nowhere until they meet someone who can support and guide them to a better life. Red Pollard met Charles Howard, and then he was hired as Seabiscuit’s jockey, and Jasper Jones asked Charlie to help him find out who murdered Laura. They could have ended up on a very different path compared to the original plot if Red and Jasper had chosen someone else to help them. Thus, heroes are people whom can make decisions which best solves their problem quickly without stuffing up.

Red Pollard and Jasper Jones didn’t care too much about their health. Red Pollard often drinks an excessive amount of alcohol and fight illegal boxing matches for extra money, but this leaves him with a blind eye. Also, Red Pollard had a broken leg and is still very brittle, if he breaks it again he will not be able to walk again. Despite that, he still decides to race the Santa Anita handicap even when all his friends are against that decision because he wanted to win the race that he had lost the first time and he just said: “I think it’s better to break a man’s leg than his heart”. This means that Red Pollard rather not walk again for the rest of his life than miss out on the race. Jasper also drinks alcohol but usually not to a level where he becomes drunk however it is still very bad for his brain which is still developing at his age; He also smokes a lot of cigarettes which is bad for many parts of the body. But Jasper does it anyway because he can control himself not to excessively drink or smoke. So, heroes are people who can make swift decisions to best meet the challenges

Charles Howard and Charlie are also good at making fast answer to a stressful situation. Even though both characters are set in a very different plot, their reactions changed the person they helped forever. When Johnny greets Howard, and he asked for money, Charles never gave a second thought and said “sure”. Although this is nothing for Charles, Red had tremendous respect for him and used the money to visit his struggling family. Charles Howard also kept as many of his employers as he can through the great depression so they won’t become homeless while going through the loss of his son in a car crash and then his wife divorcing him. Charlie also did his best to help Jasper Jones who is depicted as a criminal and used as a scapegoat by the town of Corrigan. Despite this, when Jasper frantically knocks Charlie’s window asking for help, Charlie instinctively Charlie said “I’m coming” and went to help when he doesn’t know what Jasper needs help with. Later on, Charlie has helped Jasper find Laura’s killer who turned out to be herself and also learnt a lot about the bigot attitude and behaviour in his town. Charlie also helps himself and his best friend Jeffery Lu by “stealing” 4 peaches from Jack Lionel’s tree. This will grant him immunity from any bullying from Warrant Trent and his friends and will not be beaten up for using complicated words. Also, Jeffery will be able to stay in the cricket team permanently for the year and not as a backup. Thus, anyone who can respond to challenges with speedy solutions can be considered a hero.

The last two heroes are Tom Smith and Charlie’s dad who are very wise and knowledgeable in their field of work but also stand up for the right things. However, being smart does not make anyone a hero, they can think fast and help someone out of a sticky situation that counts. Tom Smith was a homeless horse trainer who is known for saying “You know, you don’t throw a whole life away just ’cause he’s banged up a little.” He has mentioned this numerous times in the movie and also said it to the person who is about to execute a horse which had a broken foot. Charlie’s dad also showed heroic qualities when he and some neighbours were woken up by men destroying An Lu’s garden as well as abusing him. From the novel, Charlie’s dad and a neighbour confronted the four men and stopped them from doing any more harm to An Lu. The attack was caused by Mick Thompson losing his job at the local mine and blamed An Lu for stealing his job when he was the one who caused it. This incident left Charlie very proud of his dad since he was usually a reticent person who kept to himself. Accordingly, a hero is a person who can solve complications fast.

When putting the Seabiscuit film and Jasper Jones novel together for comparison, we can see that a hero is capable of swiftly choosing the right action to solve any situation. Proven by Johnny Pollard and Jasper Jones who can make quick decisions to solve their problems such as Red Pollard picking Charles Howard to be his boss, racing the Santa Anita race even though he is risking the chance that he will never be able to walk again, Jasper seeking help from Charlie who dedicated his effort and finally found him Laura’s killer which happened to be herself. Tom Smith saved a horse’s life through his view on “every horse is good for something” and Charlie’s dad stopping Harry Rawlings and his friends from being able to cause further harm to An Lu. Evidently, it is evident that heroes in Seabiscuit and Jasper Jones are all people who can make the best decision even at the toughest of times.

Themes of Prejudice in Jasper Jones

The recently famous novel Jasper Jones, written by Craig Silvey tells a tale of a young boy named Charlie Bucktin and his friend Jasper Jones finding the killer of a girl named Laura Wishart. As Charlie searches for his identity, he faces racism and ignorance in the narrow-minded country town Corrigan, Australia. Throughout the text our beliefs are challenged by racism, we are disturbed by ignorance, and discover identities. Craig Silvey explores multiple themes in his writing to bring the story to life and confront his audience.

The white dominated town of Corrigan emphasized the theme of racism and prejudice the townspeople hold for Jasper and the Lu family. Jasper Jones faces persecution for his Indigenous background and blamed for the issues that arise, Charlie narrates, “In families throughout Corrigan, he’s the first name to be blamed for all manner of trouble.” Through this description, the audience begins to perceive Jasper Jones as a questionable individual who could possibly be leading the protagonist, Charlie, into unnecessary trouble. After finding Laura’s body, we are first confused at why he did not approach the police and instead asked Charlie for help causing the audience to distrust Jasper. It is when Charlie says, “Of course Corrigan is going to accuse him of this,” that we see we were prejudiced against Jasper and see how racist Corrigan really is. Through the progression of the story, we begin to understand Jasper is misunderstood and wrongly judged for actions he needs to do to survive. As well as Jasper, the Lu family also face hatred due to their Vietnam heritage. Due to the time-period, the town pins the blame of the ongoing war on them and Sue goes as far to spill hot tea on Mrs Lu blaming her for her husband’s death. After Jeffrey’s success in the cricket game, men destroy their front garden, which was a symbol of hope and beauty. Thus showing they did not agree with the idea of a non-white succeeding over them. Silvey displays that the town of Corrigan did not value those who were different, and as a result, Jasper and the Lu family were discriminated.

The problems that Charlie face throughout the novel forces him to step out of his comfort zone and take on intense obstacles along the way. Before Charlie came to know Jack Lionel, he believed the rumors of Corrigan claiming Lionel to be a murderer and a psychopath to be true. Jasper gives in to these speculations too and draws his own conclusions of Jack being the one to kill Laura. When Charlie and Jasper confront Lionel, they hear the truth. “They just feared the myth of Mad Jack Lionel”, we begin to understand that everything the town and audience believed about Lionel was simply fear and ignorance clouding our vision. Another demonstration of fear and courage is when Charlie steals peaches from Jack Lionel’s front yard to prove a point to his tormentor. When he gets to the peach tree, he finds “a lumpy carpet of decaying peaches” instead of fresh peaches hanging on the tree. As Charlie looks at the peaches he finds himself in a nightmare, “I look down my breath is short. There’s a teeming metropolis of insects down there” yet despite his crippling fear, he bends down and scoops up the peaches. Charlie finds an inner strength within him when overcoming his fears to face an assumed murder with Jasper and grabbed peaches despite the bugs in the way.

With the challenging issues Charlie faces, he is forced to make mature decisions and grow up much faster than he should. Charlie is forced to look at himself, understand who he is and whom he needs to be in order to deal with his challenges. An example of this is when he finds his mother cheating on his father with a strange man. He calmly stands up to the woman who has exerted her power over him for his whole life, showing his adult-like qualities. Contrastingly, Jasper grew up too quickly, unlike Charlie, and he was not fully aware of who he was or where he came from. Upon meeting Jack Lionel, not only did Jasper learn he was his grandfather, but that “he was driving the car that killed Jasper’s mother”. Overall, Jasper came to find what happened to his mother and who his grandfather was, and Charlie stopped being the naïve child who believed adults knew everything. In the novel Jasper Jones, we are shown that Charlie transforms from a young naïve child to a mature teenager, and that Jasper grew up far too quickly due to the lack of parental care from his father.

Racism, fear, ignorance and identity helped to build the narration of Charlie Bucktin and his unfortunate yet life changing events. The racism in Corrigan stopped Jasper and Charlie from going to the public with Laura’s death due to fear of persecution. Fear and ignorance was prominent in the town, as they feared a man who had done no wrong. In addition, Charlie and Jasper had to come to terms with their identity. Craig Silvey captured the attention of the audience with his intense and intimate storytelling from beginning to end. We walk away from this tale of hardships knowing that Charlie and Jasper were on a road to a better life.