Review of Craig Silvey’s Book Jasper Jones

Craig Silvey’s Jasper Jones is a mystery novel set in rural Australia in the 1960s. The book explores the events around the disappearance of Laura Wishart in the small town of Corrigan, someone close to the novel’s protagonist. Due to the trauma that the young characters undertake, they are forced to “grow up” or mature beyond what a teenager normally would. Corrigan is a place filled with undercurrents of racism and fear. Similarly in all ‘coming of age’ novels, also known as a Bildungsroman, Jasper Jones aims to educate the reader about personal growth and maturity. Silvey uses the perspective of young teen Charlie Bucktin to illustrate how trauma can age someone mentally.

Charlie goes through a massive character development during the novel while departing from ‘youth’ and entering adulthood. In the beginning, Charlie is shy, nerdy, and sheltered from the cruelties that the world has to offer. Silvey portrays Charlie as innocent when he says “This is the first time I’ve ever dared to sneak out”. He says away from girls he is interested in and towards bullies, such as “I think she sees me. She looks up. I look down. I can’t help it”. Charlie loses his innocence when he is faced with Laura’s dead corpse hanging in front of him. Up until this point, Charlie does not have an ‘adult point of view’ on the world yet. He is naive, he always has faith in the justice system even the racist one in his town. Once he realizes that they, he and Jasper, cannot go to the police about Laura’s death and her whereabouts, he then begins his journey in actually growing up. Charlie finds out the truths and secrets about the society he lives in throughout the book.

As our protagonist Charlie is exposed to crimes such as murder and racism, he struggles to understand the persecutor's motives in committing these crimes. When he goes to the library to do research on crime, he is still very naive to what goes on in the world around him. Distressed by seeing Laura’s body and what he has found out in the library, it conjures up more questions in Charlie’s mind; How can normal people commit horrible crimes? Should murderers be treated with more sympathy for what they may have endured in the past?. He tries to understand these criminals, ultimately he acknowledges that he will never understand Cooke’s murders or Eliza’s arson. When Jasper shows Laura’s body to Charlie, Charlie says “We go to the police! That’s what we do. We go to the sarge and tell him what happened and where she is, and they find out.” This shows the hope that Charlie has in the Justice system which he knows is biased. He has seen how they treat Jasper in the past and still thinks he won’t be prosecuted. After Jasper tells Charlie to ‘open his eyes’, he quickly realizes that even he first thought Jasper had killed Laura.

The state of Charlie’s parents’ marriage has also caused Charlie to grow up beyond his years. His mother had to marry Charlie’s father because she was pregnant and had to. She also lost a child. Charlie knows this and because of this, his mother is cold-hearted towards him. When Charlie finds out that Ruth had been cheating on his father, he almost isn’t surprised but also loses all respect he had left for her. He knew his parent’s relationship wasn’t going well, but he didn’t exactly expect this. Charlie’s mum often dominates and takes control of situations over his dad.  

07 July 2022
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