Comparison of Novels ‘Jasper Jones’ And ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’
“The most important human endeavour is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our actions can give beauty and dignity to life” – Albert Einstein
The novel Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey was written in 2008. It is set in the mid-1960’s in small rural town, Corrigan, Australia. In this period, it was a time of intense racial tensions within Australian society. There were many marginalised groups, that were discriminated against, including Indigenous Australians and Vietnamese. With the Indigenous people of Australia just being =counted in the census and Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam war, there were significant racial tensions among the population. Through the actions and dialogue of the characters and the setting in the authors are able to illustrate racism and prejudice in different times and places, and through this question the universal idea of human morality. The novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was written in 1960 and set in the mid-1930’s, in the southern states of America, a time and place where many white people were racist towards black people. During this time segregation, slavery and lynching were commonplace. It is also important to note the year it was written, 1960, as the author was able to reflect on events that happened after the period set in the novel, including the civil rights movement and notably Rosa Parks. The time periods in which the novels were set and the times in which they were written have a similar 30 year reflection.
Both storylines question the idea of morality, the principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong. Issues of morality are challenged in the forms of good and evil wherein Atticus and Charlie are seen as the manifestation of good and the townspeople, bullies and abusers are seen as the manifestations of evil within society.
Young adults – not limited to that audience. The novel is still relevant to readers, despite it being written over 60 years ago, because of its racial and moral significance. Jasper Jones – targeted at Australian adolescents.
Both Novels have a purpose of displaying important issues within society, this is shown through the description of the social situation in the American south in the 1930s and in Australia in the 1960s. My focus idea is morality. Lee wrote her novel with the intention of educating young adults on the history of the social and racial issues that took place during the Great Depression, similarly in Jasper Jones, Silvey wrote his novel with the intention of educating adolescents of the history of social and racial issues that took place during 1960’s Australia and before, both novels position the audience to reflect on the way they act towards others.
- Cultural and societal
- Social classes and their stereotypes e.g. Ewells
- Race segregation e.g. Churches and housing locations.
- Stereotypical roles of women/girls. E.g. scout not wearing a dress all the time and playing with her brother.
Jasper Jones – written in 2008, set in 1965, census vote, contracpetive, Vietnam war.
Tkam – written in 1960 set in 1930s, a time when many people were racist towards racist towards black people – segregation, slavery lynching
Tom Robinson represents the stereotypes people held against the coloured; untrustworthy, criminals, violent etc. But Tom’s character challenges these stereotypes through his manners.
Japer Jones represents the stereotypes people held against indigenous Australians and in his case specifically, those who were half-caste. Those who were morally compromised saw him as untrustworthy and criminal, only “half human, half a vote”. Tom’s character challenges the prejudices against him through his manners, similarly the prejudices against Jasper are challenged through his reasoning and justification of his actions.
Seen in chapter 19 when Tom is on the stand. [Atticus to Tom on the stand] “you were both convicted?’ ‘yes, suh, I had to serve ’cause I couldn’t pay the fine. Other follow paid his’n”
Atticus’ character represents ideas in the civil rights movement and wanting equality and justice for all. This is an example of someone with good moral character. The characterisation of the characters within the novels raises many questions about morality; does Jasper Jones’ stealing define him as inherently ‘evil’ or are his actions justified? Does Jasper’s and Charlie’s disposal of Laura’s body define them as evil, are their actions moral? Does the townspeople’s labelling of Jasper and their early judgement define them as evil, or are they simply mislead, victims of the way society has portrayed certain people? What do the novels tell us about morality in our history?
The setting of towns, are used a microcosm of wider social attitudes – the town of Maycomb could be could be seen as a microcosm of the racial tensions originating in Southern America, with its strong historical heritage, stereotypes, attitudes and deeply engrained racist views.
The views of certain characters within the novels represent some of the dominant ideologies of the time. Such as Bob Ewell, in To Kill a Mocking Bird, and his bigoted views towards the black community, in Jasper Jones an example of this is the lady who threw coffee at Mrs Lu, she represented the discontent and hate many Australians felt to towards Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War and, subsequently, the Vietnamese population.
- Voice – through the point of view of Scout and Charlie and young child in the book gives a simplistic voice to the book making it easier for the audience to relate or understand.
- Style – Values and attitudes – immoral values such as – money, social status, white supremacy, moral values such as justice, equality and truth.
- Representation – Many different groups are represented in the two novels. White people are typically represented as immoral through their values of power, privilege and injustice, and their racism and prejudice, and black people are seen as moral through their values of equality, innocence, justice, truth and rights.
- Human experience – racism, prejudice and the aftermath of colonisation are all human experiences explore and commented on within both novels.
From both novels we interpret that morality is not decided at birth, it is learnt, instilled in children through societal and cultural factors, and family influences. We interpret that Southern America had many deeply ingrained racial issues stemming from its historical context, similarly to Australia, both countries have a history embedded with the systematic oppression of others that is often ignored, these novels provoke the reader to reflect on their morals and the foundations on which their country, and many others were built.
We can also interpret the superficial nature of social hierarchies, and that sometimes the people we place higher up are the most morally comromised, seen in many characters within the novel; Bob Ewell, his obsession with raising his status, his conviction of an innocent black man, Ruth Bucktin, head of her family, adulter. And Pete Wishart, shire president, alcoholic and abuser.
Both Novels are credible recollections of the injustice, racism and social exclusion that existed, and in some respects still exists, in both Australian and American society.
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