Jasper Jones

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Jasper Jones Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
An unidentified narrator says that a young man named Jasper Jones has come to his window. The narrator has no idea why, but guesses that Jasper is desperate and in trouble. The narrator says that he lives in a small “sleepout” with only one window. Because it’s summer, and very hot, the narrator reads at night. Tonight, Jasper Jones knocks at the narrator’s window, frightening him.
The novel begins on a note of uncertainty. Who is Jasper Jones, who is the narrator, and how do they know each other? There is something charming as well as sinister about this initial scene—it feels both mischievous and adventurous, setting the tone for the novel.
Themes
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Escape, Guilt, and Writing Theme Icon
Jasper Jones calls to the narrator, whom he addresses as Charlie, to come out. Charlie does so, thinking that this is the first time he’s ever snuck out of his home. He’s also excited that Jasper Jones needs his help. As he squeezes through his window, he feels like a foal being born.
This is a symbolic “birth” scene, as Charlie sneaks out of his house for the first time in his life, meaning that, in a way, he is being “reborn” as a new person.
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Escape, Guilt, and Writing Theme Icon
Jasper and Charlie walk through the moonlight, away from Charlie’s house. Charlie thinks that his mother is asleep, and he studies Jasper. Jasper is a year older than Charlie, but he’s much stronger and bigger. He wears no shoes, and looks like an “island castaway.” Before Jasper and Charlie have gone far, Charlie runs to the back steps of his house to fetch his sandals. As he puts them on, he senses that he’s somehow proving himself weak and effeminate.
Silvey contrasts Jasper and Charlie. Jasper is rugged, adventurous, and masculine, while Charlie is timid and slightly effeminate. We don’t know much about either Charlie or Jasper, but these are their respective “appearances” and first impressions. Silvey will study and question the accuracy of these appearances throughout his novel.
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After Charlie puts on his sandals, he and Jasper head out of the small town where Charlie lives: Corrigan, Australia. Jasper offers Charlie a cigarette. Because Charlie has never smoked before, he puffs his cheeks and sighs, as if to say that he’s smoked too much already. Jasper shrugs and lights a cigarette for himself.
Cigarettes function as a symbol of masculinity and machismo here. Jasper, as the more experienced adult of the two, is an experienced smoker. Charlie clearly wants to appear mature and manly, which is why he pretends that he smokes.
Themes
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Jasper and Charlie reach their destination: the house of Mad Jack Lionel. Charlie feels a twinge of fear. Mad Jack is a notorious person among the children of Corrigan, largely because no child has ever seen him. There is a local legend that Mad Jack killed a young woman years ago, and the children like to prove their daring by stealing peaches from the tree that stands on his property.
Silvey doesn’t tell us much about who these characters are—instead, he tells us what they seem to be to other people. We can sense that there’s a lot more to the story of Jack Lionel than meets the eye, but for now, we’re stuck with the tantalizing mystery of how he killed the young woman.
Themes
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Charlie wonders if Jasper has brought him to Mad Jack’s house to steal a peach, and hopes that this isn’t the case. Charlie wants to become more popular, and stealing a peach would guarantee this—but he’s neither fast nor brave. He asks Jasper where they’re going, and Jasper says that they must keep moving. Jasper adds that he’s seen Mad Jack many times, and Charlie believes him. When Charlie asks Jasper what Mad Jack looks like, Jasper ignores him and walks on.
Here, we get the first hint that Jasper’s aura of maturity and bravery isn’t entirely accurate. He doesn’t say what Mad Jack looks like, implying that he may be stretching the truth about having seen him many times. We also begin to get a sense of life in Corrigan, where bravery, speed, and athleticism are the principal virtues. People like Charlie, who seemingly lack all three, are outcasts automatically.
Themes
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As Charlie and Jasper walk along the river, Charlie thinks of everything he knows about Jasper. Jasper’s mother is dead, and his father is “no good.” Jasper has a reputation for being a thief and a criminal. As a result, the other families of Corrigan warn their children to be good, or they’ll end up like Jasper. When the children do something wrong, they can blame Jasper, and their parents almost always believe them.
Jasper is an outcast in Corrigan, and this is clearly what attracts Charlie to him, at least in part. Charlie romanticizes Jasper’s status as a roamer, and he seems to find a similarity between his own outsider status and Jasper’s—although Charlie obviously doesn’t have to experience all the economic difficulties and racial prejudice that Jasper does.
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Once, Charlie heard that Jasper was “half-caste.” He brought this up with his father, who is a calm, intelligent man. When he did so, his father became angry, and told Charlie that it was impolite to talk about people’s race. Later, he gave Charlie a collection of books by Southern authors: Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Harper Lee, and Mark Twain. Charlie was pleased, because he’d always wanted to read his father’s books. He enjoyed Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird best, though he told his father that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was his favorite.
With Jasper (and later Jeffrey Lu), racism becomes one of the key themes of the book. It’s notable that Charlie’s father thinks it’s impolite to talk about race. The townspeople of Corrigan judge people based on their race constantly, but almost never talk about race explicitly. We also see the extent of Charlie’s love for literature. Elements and motifs from Lee, Faulkner, and Twain show up again and again in the novel. Jack Lionel, for instance, resembles Boo Radley from To Kill a Mockingbird.
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Charlie thinks about how he fits into Corrigan. As a lover of books, he’s something of an outcast, since most of the children love sports, and most of their parents work at a mine. Charlie is a good student and bad at sports, meaning that he’s generally resented. His best and only friend is a Vietnamese boy named Jeffrey Lu, who’s a year younger than Charlie and skipped a grade of school. Jeffrey is bullied because he’s Vietnamese. Still, he’s always optimistic, and in many ways braver than the children who steal peaches from Mad Jack. Besides Jeffrey, Charlie’s only competitor for being the cleverest student in school is Eliza Wishart—and he has a crush on her.
Charlie is drawn to other social outcasts, even if they’re outcasts for different reasons. Thus, his best friend is Jeffrey—not a particularly bookish person, it would seem, but still shunned for being Vietnamese. The fact that the novel takes place during the Vietnam War is important as well, since it helps to explain—though not justify—the racism of the townspeople toward Asian families like Jeffrey’s. We also see Charlie thinking about bravery and hope in this section. Charlie’s progress from a coward to a hero forms a major arc of the novel.
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Escape, Guilt, and Writing Theme Icon
Charlie follows Jasper away from the river. He asks Jasper where they’re going, but Jasper only tells him to follow. Charlie thinks that he and Jasper have barely spoken before tonight, and in fact, he’s surprised that Jasper knows his name at all. Charlie wonders what would happen if he were to disappear tonight—his parents would probably assume that he’d been kidnapped. Funnily enough, he thinks, he would then be the only child in town who could honestly say that Jasper had gotten him into trouble.
Charlie is attracted to Jasper without knowing anything about him, and it’s difficult, as of now, to see exactly why this is. One hint Silvey gives is that Charlie is a voracious reader, so he may be romanticizing Jasper, treating him like a rugged character from one of his beloved Southern books. Charlie is also aware, Silvey suggests, that Jasper doesn’t deserve his reputation for being a criminal or a vandal.
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Jasper leads Charlie into a thick patch of bushes. He stops here, and tells Charlie to look through a wattlebush. He adds that he thinks he can trust Charlie. Charlie thinks that if it were anybody other than Jasper, he would leave immediately. Yet for reasons he can’t fully explain, Charlie stares through the bush. There he sees a dead girl, wearing a white nightdress. She has dirt and bruises on her face, and she is hanging by the neck from a eucalyptus tree. Charlie’s eyes fill with tears, and he feels himself silently screaming, but he can’t look away. Jasper cannot bear to look.
This is arguably the central image of the novel, one that Charlie will try and fail to get out of his head for the next 300 pages. The sight of a dead girl comes as a huge surprise to the reader as well—previously, we’d thought of this book as being a childish adventure, not a gruesome horror story. Silvey is fond of disrupting the reader’s expectations in this way. It’s also psychologically significant that Charlie continues to look at the girl while Jasper averts his eyes—Charlie is the archetypal author/narrator, a dedicated observer who doesn’t look away, even when the sight is horrific.
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Charlie, terrified by the sight of the dead girl, asks Jasper who it is. Jasper tells him that the girl is Laura Wishart. He insists that Charlie help him, since Jasper doesn’t know what to do. He explains that Laura is hanging from the same rope that Jasper uses to swing. Because Jasper always hides his rope by wrapping it around a high, inaccessible branch, it’s impossible that Laura hanged herself—she was murdered.
Silvey begins to establish the central mystery of the novel—who killed Laura? Right away, Jasper is a suspect, since it is his rope from which Laura now hangs. In only a few pages, Silvey has established one idea of what kind of novel this will be, and then established a completely different idea. This won’t be a clichéd adventure yarn—it’s a tough, often horrific mystery.
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Charlie, still panicking at the sight of the dead girl, asks Jasper if he killed Laura. Jasper looks confused and disdainful, and denies that he has anything to do with the girl’s death. Still, Jasper says, Laura died at the same place in the bushes that he has been using as a makeshift shelter. He points to Laura’s face and says that someone beat her before she died. Charlie feels as if he’s living in a nightmare. He looks at Laura’s body and thinks that it’s nothing but an empty bag now.
Even Charlie, who likes Jasper, can’t help but think that Jasper is somehow responsible. There’s something childishly innocent about the fact that Charlie asks Jasper, point blank, if he killed Laura—one can imagine the adults of Corrigan simply accusing Jasper of the crime instead of asking. Charlie also shows his identity as a writer here. Even when he’s looking on a horrific sight, he has an instinct to transform his horror through metaphor and analogy—thus, Laura is an “empty bag.”
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Charlie insists that he and Jasper have to alert the police to Laura’s death, a suggestion that Jasper immediately disagrees with, since the police will undoubtedly blame him for the crime. Charlie denies that this will happen, but Jasper points out that even Charlie immediately thought of Jasper when he saw the dead body. Charlie realizes that Jasper is right: everyone in Corrigan will blame Jasper for the girl’s death. Jasper insists that they must find the real criminals responsible.
Silvey covers the basic “logistics” of the book—Jasper and Charlie must “race against the clock” to clear Jasper’s name and find Laura’s killer. The assumption here is that the truth will ultimately triumph. By discovering who killed Laura, Jasper and Charlie can disrupt the townspeople’s racist assumption of Jasper’s guilt.
Themes
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Appearances and Secrets Theme Icon
Charlie asks Jasper if he ever brought Laura to the bushes. Jasper replies that he did, but always by a circuitous path. This prevented Laura from learning how to get to the bushes by herself. Jasper preferred to be the only one to know how to get there. He tells Charlie that “it wasn’t like that,” a statement that Charlie doesn’t understand at all. Jasper explains that Laura was clever, but not like Charlie—her cleverness was a kind of “wisdom.”
Jasper seems to allude to sex in this section, and the “it” he refers to is beyond the young, naïve Charlie’s comprehension. Though we never get a direct portrait of Laura in this novel, we get a lot of information from other characters about the kind of person she was. Jasper’s description of her as “wise” is the first indirect description of Laura, but not the last.
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Jasper tells Charlie that he thinks Mad Jack killed Laura, since Jack often saw him walking with Laura. Charlie is furious that Jasper would bring him into a dangerous area, when it’s possible that Mad Jack is there. He turns to leave, but then remembers that he has no idea how to get back home. Jasper puts his hand on Charlie and tells him to calm down, adding that he knows Charlie is “a good sort.” He explains that he and Charlie must track down Laura’s real killer before the police find out about her death and arrest him for the crime. Charlie shakes his head and tells Jasper that they’re not detectives—they won’t be able to solve the crime by themselves.
It’s ironic that Jasper is scapegoating Jack Lionel in exactly the same manner that he knows the townspeople will scapegoat him for Laura’s death. Instead of looking to the facts, Jasper assumes Jack’s guilt based on his reputation, a reputation whose accuracy Jasper doesn’t know. Charlie’s reluctance to go along with Jasper is both prudent and cowardly—in part, he’s smart enough to know that it’ll be difficult to find any evidence, but he’s also just too afraid to question Mad Jack.
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Even as he tells Jasper that they won’t be able to track down Laura’s killer themselves, Charlie feels a part of himself wanting to conduct the investigation. Jasper might be right, he thinks—maybe the police would arrest Jasper, and maybe Mad Jack is responsible. Although he prefers reading books to solving crimes, he feels a little proud that Jasper chose him out of everyone in the town. Charlie feels like Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird: calm, intelligent, and committed to justice.
For the first, but not the last time, Charlie compares himself to Atticus Finch, the calm, brilliant lawyer in Lee’s novel. Throughout the book, Charlie will measure himself against his literary heroes, and almost always come up short. Charlie’s love for literature is instrumental in inspiring him to help Jasper. He wants to be like Atticus, and so he overcomes his initial fears and sets the book’s plot in motion.
Themes
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Understanding, Innocence, and Sympathy Theme Icon
Escape, Guilt, and Writing Theme Icon
Charlie proposes that he tell the police about Laura’s death without mentioning Jasper’s name. Jasper refuses to let Charlie do this. If the police find out about the clearing in the bushes, he says, then other girls will come forward, saying that Jasper brought them there, and so Jasper will be a prime suspect in Laura’s death. This will also make Charlie an accessory after the fact, since he will have tried to cover for Jasper. Charlie then proposes that he and Jasper move the body, but Jasper refuses to help with this either. He says the police will see that the body has been moved, and trace the steps back to the bushes.
Jasper’s explanation implicates Charlie in Jasper’s actions for the first time in the book. Charlie isn’t just a passive observer or helper anymore—he’s an accessory after the fact, as Jasper makes very clear. We see how persuasive Jasper can be—whenever Charlie has a reservation or doubt, Jasper manages to convince him otherwise.
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Jasper proposes that he and Charlie throw Laura’s body in the river, so that no one else will find it before he and Charlie have found the real killer. Charlie finds this disgusting and immoral, since it will deny Laura’s family the ability to perform last rites on Laura’s body. Jasper argues that Laura’s parents are “no good,” and besides, they’ll be more interested in the truth about who killed Laura then about how she was buried. Charlie finds it difficult to respond—he keeps staring at Laura’s body, swinging eerily in the breeze.
Charlie seems more compassionate and understanding than Jasper, but it’s not clear if his compassion is justified or not. Even as Jasper goes over the logistics of Laura’s murder, Silvey reminds us of the sheer eeriness of her death, as Charlie continues to stare at Laura’s body waving in the breeze. There’s an unmistakable racial element to this image as well. Both in Australia and in the Southern novels Charlie reads, blacks could often be lynched without a trial, and Laura’s hanging body (even though she’s white) feels like a reminder of this racial violence.
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Jasper tells Charlie to focus—Charlie has to help Jasper prove his innocence. Jasper explains that he’s always been blamed for everything—to the rest of the town, he’s an animal “with half a vote.” He encourages Charlie to be brave, and tells him to look around the area for evidence. Too traumatized to say no, Charlie looks around with Jasper. They find footprints leading back the way Jasper usually took Laura, and also some trampled grass that might suggest that Laura tried to escape before she died.
Jasper seems to be the “voice of reason” in this scene. Charlie is too distracted and frantic to concentrate on anything for more than a few seconds. Jasper, by contrast, seems to be in control of his emotions. He has the will and the determination to do what is necessary—or at least what he thinks is necessary.
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Jasper climbs the eucalyptus tree where Laura is hanging, intending to cut her down. As he climbs, Charlie thinks about Jeffrey Lu, who is undoubtedly awake at the moment, thinking about the upcoming cricket match featuring his favorite player, Doug Walters. Charlie notices that Jasper is climbing very skillfully, using his strength and agility, and he doubts that Jack Lionel, an old man, could have climbed the tree. Jasper reaches the branch where Laura is hanging, and, without looking at her, uses a small knife he carries on his belt to cut the rope. Laura’s body falls to the ground with a horrible thud. Charlie’s heart is beating rapidly, but he can’t force himself to move.
Even in the midst of crisis, Charlie’s mind wanders to more pleasant things, such as his best friend, Jeffrey. It’s as if Charlie’s mind has the power to reflexively avoid thinking about horrifying things. It’s important to notice that Charlie doubts Mad Jack’s involvement in Laura’s death from the very beginning, for very good, practical reasons—it would be impossible for an old man to climb that tree. Charlie remains largely passive in this scene, as his fear paralyzes him and prevents him from doing anything.
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Jasper climbs back down the eucalyptus tree and walks to where Laura’s body is now lying. He tries to untie the knot in the rope around her neck. Charlie is terrified, but he kneels down next to Jasper. Jasper says, “Hey, Charlie,” very casually. Unable to untie the knot, he uses his knife to cut the rope around her neck. He notes that the rope isn’t really a noose at all—the knot isn’t tight enough, suggesting that Laura may not have been hanged at all. Jasper carefully pulls away the rope, revealing that Laura’s neck is covered in dark marks and scratches.
Jasper’s casualness is both impressive and terrifying in this moment. What other things, one wonders, has Jasper seen that allow him to remain so casual now? Jasper’s examination of Laura’s body yields important new evidence as well. She was already hurt before she died, suggesting that the mystery of Laura’s death is even more complicated than Charlie and Jasper first thought.
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As Charlie stares at Laura’s body, he senses that he’ll never be able to forget her. She looks warm and eerily peaceful, almost as if she’s sleeping. Charlie thinks that Laura looks a lot like her sister, Eliza, and wonders what will happen when Eliza finds out about Laura’s death. As Charlie thinks, Jasper walks into the darkness, and returns a moment later carrying a heavy block of granite, which he ties around Laura’s feet using the rope. Charlie notices that Jasper is tying Laura’s feet very gently, and he wonders if Jasper and Laura were in love.
Even if Jasper’s behavior sometimes seems callous and even sociopathic in this scene, Silvey gives him enough compassion to stroke Laura’s body tenderly before he throws her in the river. In many ways, Jasper is actually more compassionate than Charlie here. Whereas Charlie thinks that the “right thing” would be to take Laura to her family, Jasper’s feelings for Laura are based on personal, intimate emotion, not any sense of social obligation.
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Jasper gently runs his hand against Laura’s cheek. For some reason, the sight of Jasper doing this makes Charlie conscious for the first time that he is an accomplice in a crime. Even so, when Jasper tells him to help him pick up Laura, he does so, feeling as if he’s trapped in another person’s body. As he and Jasper carry Laura to the river, he feels the body slipping from his hands. Jasper urges him to be careful, and his words encourage Charlie to find new strength, which he uses to carry the body the rest of the way. Charlie feels as if he’s “getting brave,” as Jasper told him to do.
Jasper’s powers of leadership are on full display in this scene. Simply for Jasper to say the words, “be careful” is enough to invigorate Charlie and encourage him to carry Laura’s body to the water. This shows that Charlie, even in the depths of his trauma, has huge respect for Jasper. This also suggests, for the first but not the last time in the novel, that courage is a choice—one can “choose” to be brave, drawing inspiration from even the most banal of expressions.
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At the river, Jasper directs Charlie to swing Laura’s body into the water. They swing the body three times, and Charlie feels like they’re playing a childish game. They throw the body into the river, and it lands with a dull “plunk.” Charlie watches the body float for a few seconds before the granite stone pulls it to the bottom of the river. He senses that he and Jasper are monsters—they have drowned a girl. He wonders what Laura was doing that afternoon—perhaps spending time with her sister, or walking around the town.
The gruesomeness of this scene hinges upon Silvey’s juxtaposition of horrific and childish imagery. The combination, for instance, of a dead body and a childhood game is more terrifying than the description of a dead body by itself could ever be. The feelings of guilt hit Charlie almost immediately after he throws Laura. He won’t be able to totally shake off these feelings for the remainder of the book.
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Charlie turns and sees that Jasper is bent over, shaking. The sight of Jasper collapsed on the ground makes Charlie weep. He feels drained. At the same time, he’s reluctant to let Jasper know that he’s weeping—thus, he doesn’t sniff.
Here, we get another sign that Jasper isn’t as “cool” and mature as Charlie thinks he is. Jasper, too, shows weakness and “effeminate” emotion. Nevertheless, there’s a clear pecking order of maturity in this scene, as Charlie, not Jasper, is the one who weeps.
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Charlie notices that Jasper is holding a small bottle without a label. Jasper takes a swig, and offers Charlie the bottle. Charlie doesn’t take it, but asks for a cigarette. Jasper gives him one, and Charlie sticks it in his mouth the wrong way, which makes Jasper smile. Charlie reverses the cigarette, and Jasper lights it. Charlie coughs, never having smoked before, though he says that he’s only coughing because of the humidity. They lie on the ground by the river for a few minutes, Charlie coughing and Jasper drinking.
Charlie and Jasper engage in some friendly, masculine bonding. There’s something disturbing about the fact that they attempt to do this so soon after throwing a dead girl’s body into a river, but perhaps this is exactly Silvey’s point—there’s always something artificial and desperate about these displays of manhood. If smoking is a sign of manhood, then clearly Charlie isn’t a man yet.
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After a few moments of silence, Charlie tells Jasper that he feels like he’s in a dream. Jasper says he knows what Charlie means, and tells him that Laura was everything to him—she was his mother, his sister, his friend, and his family. He offers Charlie the bottle again, and this time Charlie accepts it. Jasper informs him that it contains Bushmills. Charlie finds this alcohol disgusting. He thinks that now he’s tried and hated two things that his literary heroes (Sal Paradise, Huck Finn, and Holden Caulfield) revered: booze and cigarettes. He lies and tells Jasper that he doesn’t like the drink because he usually drinks only single malt. Jasper doesn’t press for more details, but explains that he took the bottle from his father, who can’t hold his liquor because he’s white. He insists that he never steals anything from his father that he doesn’t really need.
Even though Charlie “fails” the test of masculinity by coughing after he inhales the cigarette, he becomes closer friends with Jasper in this scene. This suggests that Jasper doesn’t want a masculine, macho friend—he simply wants a friend. We also see where Charlie gets the desire to be a man, as he idolizes masculine literary heroes in books by Kerouac and Twain. Even though Silvey shows that these idols are unrealistic and a little shallow (there’s nothing especially satisfying or heroic about drinking whiskey), he continues to portray Jasper in romanticized terms, like someone out of a Kerouac novel. Thus, Jasper is still very much the “Robin Hood”-style lovable rogue, who steals and lies, but is nonetheless a good man.
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Jasper continues to tell Charlie about his father. He explains that his father spends all of his money on whores and alcohol, rather than buying Jasper three meals a day. For this reason, Jasper is forced to steal his food from others—sometimes strangers, sometimes his father. As Jasper continues drinking, he explains that he is never accused of the crimes he committed: he’s only blamed for crimes of which he’s innocent. Charlie asks Jasper if he ever feels guilty for taking things, but Jasper says that he never does. He believes that he’s had a rough life, and thus he deserves everything he steals. At the same time, Jasper refuses to go through life believing that he’s a victim.
Silvey establishes great sympathy for Jasper Jones. Previously, we’d wondered if Jasper was trustworthy or not, and if Charlie should believe his insistence of innocence. Here, however, he makes it very difficult to question Jasper—he’s clearly the victim of an abusive father and a broken home. Silvey will spend large portions of his novel analyzing the themes of guilt, innocence, and freedom that he first raises in this section. In any case, there is something indisputably inspiring about Jasper rising above the circumstances of his life.
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Jasper takes another drink from the bottle, and tells Charlie that he thinks about leaving Corrigan one day and making his fortune in the oyster business in the north. He asks Charlie what his plans are for the future, and Charlie feels uncomfortable—it seems strange to talk about the future so soon after having thrown Laura in the river. Nevertheless, he tells Jasper, a little nervously, that he dreams of becoming a writer. To Charlie’s surprise, Jasper is supportive of this plan, and tells Charlie that he’ll have to write Jasper’s story one day. Hearing Jasper say this makes Charlie believe that his dreams of becoming a writer are plausible.
Both Jasper and Charlie have fantasies of escape from the small, claustrophobic town they’ve grown up in. Jasper’s interest in Charlie’s dreams of being a writer suggests that he has sympathy for anyone who, like him, feels dissatisfied with Corrigan. This mirrors the sympathy that Charlie feels for Jasper, even before Charlie knows anything about him. Charlie is clearly a little insecure about his plans of writing—if something as banal as a friend’s encouragement can make him feel more confident, then he can’t have been very confident to begin with.
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Jasper finishes the bottle of Bushmills, and almost as soon as he does so, he turns and vomits. He explains to Charlie that he can hold his liquor—just not for long. Suddenly, Charlie notices that it’s dawn—he must return to his house before his parents discover that he’s missing. Charlie and Jasper walk back through the town of Corrigan, and Charlie feels as if he and Jasper are old friends.
Here we get another big hint that Jasper’s masculinity and bravery aren’t as certain as they seem. This is a reminder that Jasper, like Charlie, is still just a child, out of his element and caught up in a big, disturbing crime.
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As Charlie and Jasper pass by the center of Corrigan, the Miners’ Hall, Charlie thinks about Jasper. Though he’s still terrified by the sight of Laura hanging from the tree, he feels thrilled that Jasper views him as a friend and an equal, and that he and Jasper are working together to solve a mystery. He also thinks that Jasper is worthy of respect for surviving on his own from an early age. Charlie feels guilty for having a house and parents to take care of him.
Charlie is still a romantic in this portion of the novel. He wants to believe Jasper, because he’s hungry for adventures like the kind he’s read about in his favorite novels. Silvey also suggests that Charlie wants to help Jasper because of a deep sense of guilt about his own wealth and privilege. Because he has money and parents, Charlie thinks he owes Jasper his loyalty.
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Charlie and Jasper arrive back at Charlie’s house. Jasper helps Charlie climb back into his room through his window. He says he’ll see Charlie soon, and runs away. Alone in his room, Charlie becomes conscious that he’s very dirty and sweaty. He thinks about the facts: Laura was hanging from a tree, she’s now in the river, and only Jasper knew the area where they found her. Charlie concludes that, while he doesn’t know what the future will hold, he feels comfortable having Jasper as a friend and ally.
Silvey ends the first chapter with a summary of everything we’ve learned about Charlie so far. He’s rational, calm, and intelligent. At the same time, he has a soft spot for adventure and mystery, and this sometimes blurs his clear-cut decisions about what to do. Finally, he idolizes Jasper Jones out of all proportion, more for what he seems to represent than for what he actually is.
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