Jasper Jones

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Jasper Jones Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The morning after the events of the previous chapter, Charlie wakes up covered in sweat. For a split second, his mind is blank, and then he remembers everything that happened the night before. He notices that there’s a ring of grime and dirt around him in bed. He goes to the bathroom, urinates, and draws a bath. Charlie then washes himself with granite soap. He looks at his body—he’s scrawny and pale, nothing like Jasper Jones.
There’s something poignant about the moments before Charlie remembers why he’s so sweaty and dirty. For now, he doesn’t know how lucky he is to be able to forget about the sight of Laura’s body, even if it’s only for a split second. Charlie also continues to think of himself as immature and cowardly, just because his body is not as developed as Jasper’s.
Themes
Understanding, Innocence, and Sympathy Theme Icon
It occurs to Charlie that Jasper may have been responsible for Laura’s death after all. While Charlie finds this possibility unlikely, based on the time he’s spent with Jasper, he admits to himself that he barely knows Jasper Jones at all. Jasper’s biggest alibi, Charlie thinks, is that he went to Charlie for help—if Jasper had killed Laura, he would never have brought anyone else to the scene of the crime. Charlie also finds it difficult to doubt anything Jasper says, because he speaks with such conviction.
Even after he agrees to help Jasper, Charlie continues to have some doubts and reservations. Just because Jasper is a victim of racism doesn’t mean it’s necessarily racist to suspect Jasper of the crime. Still, Charlie is able to reason his way through Jasper’s guilt, and decides, for very intelligent reasons, that Jasper is probably innocent.
Themes
Fear Theme Icon
Understanding, Innocence, and Sympathy Theme Icon
Charlie walks into the kitchen, where his parents are sitting. For a moment, he thinks that they’re going to demand to know where he was the night before—but instead they laugh and tease him for sleeping too late. His mother sarcastically asks him if he’s enjoyed his stay in the “hotel.” Charlie thinks that his mother is always sarcastic, especially when she’s annoyed with something, which she nearly always is. Charlie tells his mother that her hair looks nice, a remark that she treats with great suspicion, eventually snapping, “Thank you.” Charlie’s father finds this exchange amusing. Charlie’s mother gives him coffee, which Charlie accepts silently.
Silvey establishes the dynamic between Charlie and his parents right away. Charlie doesn’t get along with his mother, and vice versa—she doesn’t understand his personality, and he doesn’t “get” her humor. Charlie’s father, by contrast, is gentle and kind, and doesn’t try to tease Charlie to the same degree his wife does.
Themes
Fear Theme Icon
Appearances and Secrets Theme Icon
Charlie’s father asks him what he was doing last night. Charlie explains that he was up late reading Pudd’nhead Wilson. His father muses that it’s been years since he read that. He also tells Charlie that Jeffrey has been waiting for Charlie to wake up. Charlie remembers that today is the day of the “Test”—an important trial run for professional cricketers—featuring Jeffrey’s favorite cricket player. Jeffrey is probably listening to the match via radio right now. Charlie finds cricket dull, but he gets up to leave the house and find Jeffrey, quickly drinking all the coffee his mother gave him.
Charlie and his father clearly have a closer bond than do Charlie and his mother. They love many of the same things—writing, reading, etc. It’s a little comical that Charlie can be thinking about cricket and his friends so soon after seeing a dead body, but perhaps this testifies to Silvey’s ability to find humor and lightness in the darkest of places—and also to portray the distractibility of the teenage mind. Charlie goes to see Jeffrey, who will be the source of much comic relief in the book.
Themes
Fear Theme Icon
Understanding, Innocence, and Sympathy Theme Icon
Escape, Guilt, and Writing Theme Icon
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In the hot sun, Charlie walks to Jeffrey Lu’s house, which is near his own. Jeffrey’s mother greets Charlie warmly and tells him that the cricket match has been rained out. Charlie walks into the house and finds Jeffrey, who calls Charlie an idiot for missing most of the match. Jeffrey’s mother brings them food, and Charlie and Jeffrey laugh and joke when she tells Jeffrey to let Charlie eat first.
Immediately, Silvey shows that Charlie’s relationship with Jeffrey is largely based on good-natured “trash talking.” As much as the two friends insult each other, they clearly like and respect one another a great deal. Charlie’s friendship with Jeffrey is proof of his attraction to outsiders, and his indifference to the racist status quo of the town.
Themes
Fear Theme Icon
Racism and Scapegoating Theme Icon
Understanding, Innocence, and Sympathy Theme Icon
Escape, Guilt, and Writing Theme Icon
Jeffrey asks Charlie if he’d rather be burned or frozen to death. Charlie finds the question silly, but Jeffrey presses on, and teases Charlie about Eliza Wishart. This reminds Charlie of the sight of Laura Wishart’s body. He feels nauseous, and tells Jeffrey to “piss off.” Jeffrey seems not to notice Charlie’s internal agony—he continues telling jokes, and notes that his mother doesn’t know swear words in English. Charlie contemplates telling Jeffrey about Laura. He decides not to, though he has a strong urge to blurt it out.
Right away, Charlie struggles with the challenges of keeping a secret from one of his closest friends. Charlie may seem to be acting normal to Jeffrey (who comes across as a little oblivious in this scene) but inside, he’s going through the agony of reliving the night before. Charlie will consider telling many other people about Laura, but he’ll almost never give in to his urge, nobly keeping Jasper’s secret safe.
Themes
Fear Theme Icon
Racism and Scapegoating Theme Icon
Understanding, Innocence, and Sympathy Theme Icon
Appearances and Secrets Theme Icon
Escape, Guilt, and Writing Theme Icon
Jeffrey and Charlie spend the rest of the afternoon listening to the radio for more information about the cricket match, even though it’s been rained out. Then they play Scrabble, which Charlie wins. Jeffrey tells his mother that they’re going to play “fucking cricket,” knowing that she won’t understand the swear word. They go outside to play cricket at the courts on the eastern side of town. Charlie is horrible at cricket, but Jeffrey is uncannily talented, despite being small and thin. Charlie notes that Jeffrey will be great if he’s ever given the chance to play a real game of cricket.
Charlie’s observation about Jeffrey is a dark, poignant reminder that Jeffrey is the victim of racial stereotyping not just in his town, but in his entire country—there’s no way a Vietnamese boy will ever be allowed to play professional sports at this time, not even in Sydney, the capital. With this in mind, it’s impressive that Jeffrey remains as bright and optimistic as he does—he seems to have an almost magical ability to ignore his misfortune. Charlie, as we’ve seen, lacks this gift, and that’s why he can’t stop thinking about Laura.
Themes
Fear Theme Icon
Racism and Scapegoating Theme Icon
Understanding, Innocence, and Sympathy Theme Icon
Escape, Guilt, and Writing Theme Icon
Jeffrey and Charlie walk to the eastern side of Corrigan and bicker about superheroes. Jeffrey argues that Spiderman is useless outside of New York City, because there’s nothing for him to swing from in smaller towns like Corrigan. The best superhero, he continues, is Superman, because he’s the most powerful in every way. Charlie counters that Superman is too powerful—he’s boring. As they argue, Jeffrey good-naturedly insults Charlie by calling him an idiot and a Communist. Charlie argues that Batman is the best superhero—despite the fact that he has no superpowers, he is highly intelligent, strong, and resourceful. Superman needs no courage or intelligence, since he’s essentially invincible, while Batman requires great bravery to fight crime. Jeffrey finds it difficult to disagree with Charlie, but he concludes that Superman could beat Batman in a fight.
This exchange about superheroes will become very important later on, but for the time being, it’s important to note that Jeffrey adopts the side of the invincible, perfect superman, while Charlie defends Batman, who has flaws, weaknesses, and secrets that Superman, as an alien, lacks entirely. This corresponds to the internal conflicts that Charlie goes through during the novel. It’s as if he empathizes with Batman because he knows how horrible it can be to experience death and other tragedies. Jeffrey, who is happier and more optimistic, sees no point in “wallowing” in sadness. For him, Superman is better, case closed.
Themes
Fear Theme Icon
Racism and Scapegoating Theme Icon
As Charlie and Jeffrey argue about superheroes, Jeffrey points out Eliza Wishart walking toward them from down the street. Charlie notices that she looks redder and thinner than usual. She is usually a little nervous, Charlie thinks. He feels a strong temptation to tell her about Laura, and to assure her that Jasper Jones didn’t kill her. When Eliza crosses paths with Charlie and Jeffrey, she greets Charlie cheerily, but Charlie doesn’t reply, noticing that Eliza’s eyes look like Laura’s. When Eliza has walked on, Jeffrey teases Charlie about his silence.
Even in the midst of his fear and anxiety, Charlie continues to be attracted to Eliza. Nevertheless, his attraction is somewhat minimized by the resemblance between Laura and Eliza, as Charlie isn’t ready to think about Laura, not even in this indirect way. It’s clear that Eliza will be an important part of the novel, however, especially because she’s related to the murder victim.
Themes
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When Jeffrey and Charlie arrive at the cricket courts, they see that the courts are occupied by the Corrigan Country Week, the local cricket team. Charlie wants to turn back, but Jeffrey insists that they try to play around the others. They walk toward the players, and Charlie notices that Warwick Trent, his “arch-nemesis,” is playing. Warwick is a large, bullying boy who’s in Charlie’s grade because he’s been held back twice. He’s stolen more peaches from Mad Jack’s trees than anyone else, and he claims that he’s had sex. Whenever Charlie uses a big word in class, Warwick beats him up later. This has only encouraged Charlie to read and study more, learning new words and writing stories and poems in notebooks.
Warwick is the embodiment of everything Charlie hates about Corrigan. Warwick is stupid, close-minded, aggressively athletic, and masculine without being kind, charming, charismatic, or helpful. We also see that Charlie is braver than we’d initially thought—instead of giving into Warwick and refraining from using big words, Warwick’s bullying encourages Charlie to use more big words than ever. Even if Charlie lacks the bravery to sneak onto Mad Jack’s property, he expresses his bravery in other, subtler ways.
Themes
Fear Theme Icon
Racism and Scapegoating Theme Icon
Understanding, Innocence, and Sympathy Theme Icon
Escape, Guilt, and Writing Theme Icon
Charlie notices that Jeffrey is approaching Warwick and his friends. Warwick calls Jeffrey a “gook” and tells him to “fuck off.” Charlie thinks about how these exchanges at the cricket courts usually go. Jeffrey is sometimes allowed to play with Warwick, and on these occasions, the other players aim their serves to his body, taking bets on what they can hit. Jeffrey is an excellent “bowler” (in cricket, the counterpart to a pitcher), but his talent wins him little respect. Today, Charlie watches as Jeffrey bowls to Jacob Irving, who misses the ball. He sneers and calls Jeffrey “Cong,” which makes the other players, including their coach, laugh.
The fact that these exchanges have happened many other times indicates that Jeffrey is even more of an optimist than we’d initially suspected. Long after most people would leave, either because of anger or hopelessness, Jeffrey continues to show up, savoring every opportunity to play his favorite game. The racism of the cricket team members is an illustration of the town’s racial hierarchy, but also a sign of their own insecurities—they insult Jeffrey because he’s better at cricket than they are.
Themes
Fear Theme Icon
Racism and Scapegoating Theme Icon
Understanding, Innocence, and Sympathy Theme Icon
Escape, Guilt, and Writing Theme Icon
Charlie thinks about Jasper Jones’s talents as a football player. While Jeffrey is mocked in spite of his abilities as a cricketer, Jasper has earned a grudging respect from his teammates on the Corrigan Colts. He is smaller and younger than the other players, but he’s nonetheless intimidating, strong, and fast. Even the same people who ignore Jasper in public cheer for him when he’s playing football for Corrigan. Perhaps Jeffrey hasn’t won the same limited respect for himself because cricket isn’t a game of aggression like football.
As frustrating as it may be, one of the only ways for non-white people to gain respect in the town of Corrigan is to play sports. Clearly, however, there is a limit to how far the white townspeople are willing to go in letting go of their own prejudices. Jeffrey, so far, has won no respect in spite of his athletic prowess, and even Jasper, held up by Charlie as an example of how athleticism can empower minorities, only wins a brief, fleeting moment of respect before he’s scapegoated again.
Themes
Fear Theme Icon
Racism and Scapegoating Theme Icon
Understanding, Innocence, and Sympathy Theme Icon
Escape, Guilt, and Writing Theme Icon
Jeffrey continues to bowl for the cricket team. His throws are excellent, but when the ball rolls off the court, the other players refuse to help him by throwing the ball back to him—instead, Jeffrey must run after the ball himself. The players make fun of Jeffrey and Charlie. Charlie privately wishes that Jasper were with him—Jasper could beat up Warwick, just as Warwick beats up Charlie. As Charlie thinks all this, he notices that Eliza Wishart is walking by the cricket court. She waves, and Charlie waves back at her, smiling. He imagines walking over to her and asking her to come to the river with him—there, he’d show Eliza Laura.
Jeffrey endures bullying and harassment from the other players, but continues to be energetic and optimistic. Charlie, by contrast, can’t act so optimistic, mostly because he has a huge secret to conceal. For the second time, he contemplates telling someone else about Laura, and once again, he refrains from doing so. This testifies to his enormous loyalty to Jasper Jones. As much as he likes Eliza, his father, and Jeffrey, Charlie respects Jasper and his innocence even more.
Themes
Fear Theme Icon
Racism and Scapegoating Theme Icon
Understanding, Innocence, and Sympathy Theme Icon
Escape, Guilt, and Writing Theme Icon
Just as Charlie resolves to walk over to Eliza, Warwick yells out. Charlie turns and sees that he’s pulled out his penis and is waving it at Eliza. Eliza walks away from the courts, very quickly. Charlie hopes that Eliza doesn’t think that Charlie is friends with Warwick.
Eliza clearly isn’t attracted to Warwick, with his vulgar displays of masculinity. This scene is a clue that Eliza is actually more attracted to Charlie, who offers an alternative to the aggressiveness and cruelty of Corrigan.
Themes
Fear Theme Icon
Charlie thinks that in only a few hours, Laura will be reported missing. He can’t imagine how anyone could murder a girl, and doubts that Jasper has bought himself more than a few hours by throwing Laura in the river. As he muses about this, Charlie notices that Jeffrey has bowled to the batsman, even though the other players are continuing to mock him. The batsman hits Jeffrey’s cricket ball out of the court, into the trees. This crushes Charlie, since he knows that the ball was a birthday gift that Jeffrey loved.
Charlie is deep in thought about Laura and the implications of murder, but he isn’t completely immersed in these thoughts—he also has the perception and sympathy to feel sorry for Jeffrey when Jeffrey loses his prized cricket ball. This illustrates how much he likes Jeffrey, in spite of the insults he throws at his friend for hours at a time.
Themes
Fear Theme Icon
Understanding, Innocence, and Sympathy Theme Icon
Charlie notices that the cricket coach is chuckling at the other players’ mockery of Jeffrey. Furious, Charlie thinks that the coach may be capable of murdering a girl. Meanwhile, Jeffrey leaves the court and rejoins Charlie. He smiles and brags about his bowls, and Charlie jokingly compares him to Muhammad Ali. Charlie mutters that he hates Warwick and his friends. Jeffrey points out that if no one had stolen Muhammad Ali’s bicycle, he would never have learned how to box. He also tells Charlie that Eliza has been following Charlie around town, probably because she likes him.
Silvey shows how the two “halves” of this chapter fit together: Charlie’s observations about Jeffrey’s mistreatment effectively answer his questions about how a resident of Corrigan could be capable of murder. Clearly, the townspeople are capable of enormous cruelty and meanness. At the same time, some townspeople, like Jeffrey himself, are positive, kind people.
Themes
Fear Theme Icon
Racism and Scapegoating Theme Icon
Understanding, Innocence, and Sympathy Theme Icon
Jeffrey and Charlie walk back to Jeffrey’s house, where Jeffrey’s father, An, is watering the garden outside the house. This garden, Charlie thinks, is one of the most beautiful sights in the town, and many of the townspeople visit it. Charlie finds the garden difficult to enjoy because he hates the insects that live there: bees, wasps, hornets, and more. Jeffrey and Charlie joke with each other about Batman and bees, and then part ways. Charlie notices that Jeffrey’s father yells something angry and stern at Jeffrey, and Jeffrey stands very still.
Here we get a better picture of Jeffrey’s life. Like Charlie, he has a sensitive, creative father, but one who also seems sterner and more assertive than Charlie’s father. This shows how lucky Charlie is: he’s given huge amounts of love and freedom by his parents, in stark contrast to both Jeffrey and Jasper Jones.
Themes
Racism and Scapegoating Theme Icon
Charlie walks into his house. A short time later he sits down to dinner with his parents, and afterwards he goes to his room with Pudd’nhead Wilson. His father asks him if he’s all right, but Charlie only says he feels like reading. In his room, Charlie finds it impossible to concentrate on anything but the sight of Laura Wishart. He wishes Jasper were there—it’s not right, he thinks, that he should have to be alone. He notices a passage in his book about how courage is resistance to fear, not the absence of fear. He writes the quote in his notebook, and wonders why he can’t force himself to be braver. He thinks that Jeffrey might be the bravest person he knows, even braver than Jasper.
This is an important passage, because it establishes two of Silvey’s most important points about guilt and bravery. Guilt is a hard burden to bear, and many people find it immensely difficult to keep secrets—they need help from others to “carry the load.” Thus, Charlie needs Jasper’s help to carry the weight of Laura’s death. Silvey also shows that bravery isn’t a question of eliminating fear altogether. Even after Charlie recognizes that this point is true, however, he doesn’t instantly mature—it’ll take the entire novel for him to understand the meaning of these words.
Themes
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Escape, Guilt, and Writing Theme Icon
Charlie looks through his notebooks. He finds the novel that he and Jeffrey wrote together last winter. Jeffrey was responsible for the action scenes, while Charlie was responsible for the plot and witty dialogue. The story concerned a Detroit detective named Truth who had to fight Joseph Stalin, who disguised himself as the Pope. Charlie often thinks about their novel, noting with amusement that one day he’ll write a real book and go to Manhattan to become a real author.
In this novel within the novel, we see the differences between Charlie and Jeffrey. Jeffrey is younger, more immature, and more physically-minded. Charlie, by contrast, is more cerebral and serious. He’s concerned with what the characters think, not just what they do. We also see Charlie’s fantasy life. He survives in Corrigan in part because he dreams of leaving, and the dreams give him strength and hope.
Themes
Escape, Guilt, and Writing Theme Icon
Charlie suspects that his father is secretly working on a novel of his own. He goes to his library and stays there for hours with the door locked. The library used to be a bedroom for Charlie’s younger sister, who died before she was born, nearly killing Charlie’s mother and preventing her from ever having children again. Charlie wonders if his father would tell him about his writing if he told his father about his own.
Everyone in this novel has secrets, not just Charlie. Even Charlie’s beloved father keeps some things from his loved ones. This suggests that secrets are an essential part of growing up. One develops an active inner life and learns how to keep this inner life from other people.
Themes
Escape, Guilt, and Writing Theme Icon
Charlie thinks about Eliza Wishart. He wonders if she’s wondering where her sister is. Perhaps the police have already been called—perhaps they are investigating leads, drinking coffee, and planning what to do next. Charlie feels a deep sense of dread, and realizes that Jasper has led him to this feeling. He tries to think about Eliza, and imagines smelling her, holding her hand, and touching her waist. Yet as he imagines her warmth, it just reminds him of Laura.
Charlie shows more signs of being attracted to Eliza than he had previously. Even so, he continues to find Eliza a little repulsive, since she reminds him of the sight of Laura’s corpse hanging from the tree. It will be some time before Charlie “works through” his feelings of disgust and gives in to his feelings of attraction.
Themes
Fear Theme Icon
Understanding, Innocence, and Sympathy Theme Icon