Brief Biography of Craig Silvey
Silvey grew up in a small town in Western Australia, on which the town of Corrigan in Jasper Jones is loosely modeled. He was a precocious child who spent huge lengths of time indoors reading books, and his favorite authors were American Southerners like Harper Lee and William Faulkner. Charlie Bucktin, the protagonist of Jasper Jones, shares many of his habits and literary tastes with Silvey. When he was only 19, Silvey completed his first novel, entitled Rhubarb. It was a minor success, earning him good notices and a place in the prestigious “Books Alive” campaign. Four years after publishing Rhubarb, Silvey published Jasper Jones, which won several notable literary prizes, including the Printz Honor award from the American Library Association. He lives in Fremantle, where he is working on another novel.
Historical Context of Jasper Jones
Jasper Jones takes place in Australia in the late 1960s, shortly before the Apollo 11 moon landing (which occurred on July 20, 1969). At this time, the United States was involved in a lengthy, bloody conflict in Vietnam. In the Cold War between the capitalist United States and the communist Soviet Union, the United States increased its military force to prevent communism from spreading to the developing countries of the world, such as Chile, Cuba, Indonesia, Iran, and Vietnam. To this end, it sent tens of thousands of its own citizens to fight in South Vietnam to prevent the region from falling under the control of Communist forces—the Vietcong—who were based out of North Vietnam and led by the charismatic Ho Chi Minh. Because Australia was an ally of the United States, it sent many tens of thousands of its own troops to fight in Vietnam, and many of them died in horrific ways. Because Australia had a significant Asian immigrant population at the time, Asian residents of Australia often had to endure harassment, bullying, and outright violence from Australians who resented that their friends and loved ones were being sent to fight the Vietnamese. In Silvey’s novel, Jeffrey Lu and his family are the victims of violence and bullying from residents of Corrigan who have family members fighting in Vietnam.
Other Books Related to Jasper Jones
explicitly references dozens of novels, nearly all of them written by American authors after World War II. Charlie Bucktin’s favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird
, by Harper Lee. Like Lee’s novel, Jasper Jones
deals with themes of racism, scapegoating, and compassion in the framework of a coming-of-age story. In interviews, Silvey has expressed his admiration for the American novelists who wrote in the “Southern Gothic” style, such as Flannery O’Conner, Truman Capote, William Faulkner, and Harper Lee. The Southern Gothic novel often involves a mysterious individual with a shadowy past (such as Boo Radley) whom the main character must come to understand. In Jasper Jones
, this mysterious individual is Mad Jack Lionel—a troubled old man whose life story is crucial to understanding the main characters.
Key Facts about Jasper Jones
Full Title: Jasper Jones
Where Written: Fremantle, Australia
When Published: 3 Oct, 2009
Literary Period: The young adult “boom”
Genre: Gothic, young adult, Bildungsroman
Setting: Corrigan, Australia
Climax: Charlie discovers how Laura Wishart died.
Antagonist: Pete Wishart / Warwick Trent / the racist townspeople
Point of View: First person
Extra Credit for Jasper Jones