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Study Guide : Jasper Jones: Themes

A guide to help in the study of the novel 'Jasper Jones' by Craig Silvey

THEME : Race and Ethnicity

Race and ethnicity is the state of belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural tradition. Scapegoating is very relevant to the theme race and ethnicity which plays a huge role in the novel. Scapegoating is when a person or group are made to bear the blame for others or to suffer in their place. Despite their own personal flaws and shocking conduct, the citizens of Corrigan have made scapegoating another nulled thing, that has just become a part of their life. Even over the smallest things. For example, Jeffery Lu is relentlessly bullied, particularly by the cricket team. All for his Vietnamese heritage and the war in Vietnam, for no fault of his own. Another example is Jasper Jones. Whenever a crime or offence occurs, he becomes the likeliest suspect. Jasper is a convenient tool for Corrigan. The ‘idea’ of Jasper Jones enables a comfortable withdrawal of personal responsibility. For no fault of his own, Jasper Jones is often pegged as an unrepentant bad boy.


THEME : Coming of age/Courage

One stifling summer night, the town outcast – Jasper Jones – comes to his window and asks for his help. Charlie follows him into the bush, and what he sees there changes him – and ultimately the town – irrevocably. In that one night – and then the days that follow – Charlie is forced to step away from childhood innocence and see the world around him for what it is. Charlie struggles with the burden of what he has seen, and his uncertainty is further compounded by how quickly the town becomes mired in suspicion and hatred. It takes courage to challenge myths and traditions, which is what Charlie does when he realises the world is no longer the simple place he once thought it was. And he can’t “unknow” that truth.

For the creator of Jasper Jones, the idea of coming of age is not limited to youth: “We all become adults, but not all of us come of age.”


THEME : Moral Duality

Moral duality simply implies that there are two moral opposites working together, independent of any interpretation of what might be right and wrong, independent of how these may be represented. Throughout the book, you get to know characters and what really goes on behind their facades. The whole town of Corrigan is based upon the fake facades that many of its occupants have. This is why Charlie finds it so difficult to navigate. Charlie, being a young confused teenager, is finding it difficult to fit in, noticing things that everybody else has become null to and just got used to. For example, Pete Wishart is the Mayor of Corrigan. He is represented as a highly respected man living in the rich part of town, however later in the book he is revealed to be a drunken and sexually abusive father towards his eldest daughter, Laura Wishart. Another example of a facade and moral duality is the Sergeant when he savagely beats up Jasper and comes to Charlie’s house acting comforting and familiar. Charlie finds it difficult reconciling these different versions of him.


THEME : Fear

 At first, Charlie fears Mad Jack, and wouldn’t dare sneak onto his land. Over the course of the plot, though, he learns that Jack shouldn’t be feared at all—he’s a sad, lonely old man who would never hurt the children who steal from him. This discovery teaches Charlie the valuable lesson that fear is often the byproduct of ignorance and outright foolishness, the antidote to which is knowledge and understanding. Yet when he walks onto Mad Jack’s property to steal peaches at the end of the book, Charlie must still face his fear of insects. Silvey’s point is clear: sometimes, people can overcome their fears with knowledge and education. Some fears can never be eliminated. Nevertheless, people can train themselves to face their fears, maturing in the process.


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