Although fiction novels are simply narrative stories they generally disperse an important message. Craig Silvey’s Jasper Jones follows the character Charlie Bucktin, a 13 year old boy living in the small Australian town of Corrigan in the 1960’s. Charlie, at such a young age is exposed to the confronting issues revolved around the youth. In the novel the youth are mistreated by authority figures, they are abused physically, sexually and emotionally due to their gender and race, enabling Silvey to criticise unchecked power and how it can breakdown a person’s integrity and even lead to the abuse of innocents. Throughout the novel Charlie becomes aware of how people with authority don’t always uphold justice when his friends become victims. The message Silvey wants us readers to understand is that once people are authorised to hold power over another they become capable of having two conflicting values yet remain in comfortable harmony. This essay will look at the emotional and Physical abuse of race with Jasper Jones from the authorities, and the sexual abuse of Laura Wishart by the hands of her own father, the Mayor.
Jasper Jones is a young boy who is the result of a relationship between black and white. Jasper is victimised by prejudice and violence from his own father, an alcoholic and the small minds of the town people. Silvey portrays Jasper as a questionable youth and the town’s prejudgement of him leads him to be blamed for crimes he does not commit. “Bloody Hell. Listen, Charlie, we can’t tell anyone. No way. Specially the police. Because they are gonna say it was me. Straight up. Understand?’ (pg.17). this shows the emotional abuse of Jasper as he is being judged unfairly due to the colour of his skin. Jasper states ‘They don’t know shit about what it’s like to be me. They never ask why. Why would he be stealin? They just reckon it’s my nature. Like I don’t know better’ (pg45). Jasper seems to be the voice of reason, he seems to have his emotions under control but Silvey’s conception of good and evil is shown in Jasper as the town has stereotyped him as ‘bad news’ because he is indigenous. This emotional abuse has made Jasper strong and he chooses to rise above this as he observes the morality of others. Silvey creates a link between injustice and the hierarchy through Jaspers distrust of the authorities. The town is subject to a broken hierarchy which Jasper desperately tries to strip away at leaving the justice of right and wrong.
Jasper is an outcast in Corrigan. He has had to learn to survive and take care of himself from a young age. Because he is half caste the town’s people think negatively of him. When Silvey introduces the mystery in the novel, the murder of Laura. Jasper of course is the main suspect. Without evidence the police keep him in jail for the weekend and violently interrogate him. When asked about his black eye, Jasper explains that it was “Sarge. The local constabulary. Charlie.” (pg. 177). Here Silvey shows the physical abuse that Jasper endures from the local police Sargent and from Laura’s dad Pete, the president of the shire. They wanted someone to blame for Laura’s murder, but Jasper kept quiet enduring the pain of the punches and kicks by two people in upstanding positions in a town that turns a blind eye to anything. This shows just how hypocritical and judgemental the town of Corrigan is.
Laura and Jasper were going to run away together. Get out of the town of Corrigan away from the abuse and neglect. On the night of her death Laura confronted her mother with the details of her sexual abuse from her father. Her mother refused to believe this, and Laura was again subject to a beating. Her father, Pete Wishart is an alcoholic, abusive man who nonetheless serves as the president of the shire. Wishart is skilled at hiding his cruelty and abusiveness from others, even after he rapes and impregnates his own daughter. ‘He wasn’t even sorry. He had no love in him… he raised his hand and hit her, hard, in the face, which he’d never done. He knocked her down to shut her up. And he swung again, twice, right at the core of her, right where the trouble was’ (p.340). ‘She was rotten inside. Something worse than disease. And she had to leave. She didn’t know what else to do. She was afraid. And disgraced. (p.340). this was how Laura felt. How her father had made her feel. Silvey shows that Violence against women is shockingly prevalent around the world, and is more likely to be perpetrated by an intimate partner, family member, or other known male. Clearly, he’s capable of cruelty to the young, meaning that he’s as much of a suspect as any of the other racist adults. Pete is wrongly deemed morally incapable of the crimes against his daughter because of his powerful social status. The fact that Laura’s father is the president of the shire indicates that racism is not only tolerated but boldly celebrated throughout Australia at the time.
The novel demonstrates many events that are prevalent in our modern society. Silvey writes about authority figures that don’t abide by their own rules and misuse their power to physically, emotionally and sexually abuse less powerful people. Jasper jones clearly expresses the bad behaviour of the authorities and how unchecked power can breakdown a person’s integrity and even lead to the abuse of innocents. Craig Silvey has used narrative conventions to emphasise my point of view.