Jasper Jones

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Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Ember edition of Jasper Jones published in 2012.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Jasper Jones has a terrible reputation in Corrigan. He’s a Thief, a Liar, a Thug, a Truant. He’s lazy and unreliable. He’s feral and an orphan, or as good as. His mother is dead and his father is no good. He’s the rotten model that parents hold aloft as a warning: This is how you’ll end up if you’re disobedient. Jasper Jones is the example of where poor aptitude and attitude will lead.

Related Characters: Charlie Bucktin (speaker), Jasper Jones
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

Early on in the novel, Charlie, the young narrator, introduces us to Jasper Jones. Here, Charlie doesn't tell us what he thinks of Jasper--instead, he tells us what the people in his community think of Jasper. Apparently, they regard Jasper as bad in almost every way--he's untrustworthy, criminal, no-good, etc.

One of the most important things to notice about this passage is the way the people of the community talk about "ending up" like Jasper--as if Jasper is a mature man, at or near the end of his life. Nobody seems to recognize that Jasper is still very young--he's still a teenager, after all. The unsympathetic townspeople don't treat Jasper as a child of any kind--as far as they're concerned, he's responsible for his own ruin--thus, it makes a certain amount of sense that they'd think of him as an adult instead of a youth. In general, the townspeople treat Jasper as a scapegoat, not a human being. Instead of extending love and compassion to Jasper, they blame him for everything bad that happens, and measure their own "goodness" against his badness.


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“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?”

Related Characters: Jasper Jones (speaker), Charlie Bucktin
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

Jasper and Charlie find a dead body, belonging to Laura Wishart, Jasper's former girlfriend. Jasper immediately tells Charlie that their only option is to lie--they can't report the death to the police for fear that Jasper will be arrested for the crime.

Jasper lives with the assumption that any problem will be pinned on him, and so he's apparently terrified that he'll be automatically arrested for this murder. And there is, of course, a legitimate possibility that the police will blame Jasper, simply because he's a known troublemaker--and a person of color, too. As Charlie has already verified, the people of the community despise Jasper, primarily because he's seen as "other" because of his Aboriginal mother.

At the same time, Charlie can't dismiss the possibility that Jasper really is guilty. A part of him wants to believe the racist townspeople--he wants to think that Jasper is dangerous and untrustworthy (and just because racists hate Jasper doesn't necessarily mean he's not a murderer). At this early point in the novel, Charlie doesn't know what to do--he just knows that he's overwhelmed and afraid.

I am dizzy and sick. And it’s as though touching her has sealed my fate. I am in this story. She can’t be ignored. She’s real. I’ve touched her now. I’ve been privy to her last moments of heat, her last wisps of smoke.

Related Characters: Charlie Bucktin (speaker), Laura Wishart
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Charlie describes his experience touching the dead body of Laura Wishart, which Jasper has discovered in the woods. At first, Charlie feels like he's in a dream--everything he says and does seems vague and foggy. But when Charlie helps Jasper throw Laura's body in the river, he can no longer pretend that he's living in a dream--touching Laura's corpse brings home the reality of the situation in the most unforgettable way.

The passage shows Charlie as both an actor and an observer. Charlie's a peculiar character: his primary "job" is to witness and write about the other characters' actions (even his own book is named after someone else), and yet Charlie also gets involved in these characters' actions. Charlie tries to remain an impartial third party, but almost right away, he becomes personally invested in Laura's disappearance.

Chapter 2 Quotes

I wish I could tell Jeffrey everything. I really do. I wonder what it is about holding in a secret that hurts so much. I mean, telling Jeffrey doesn’t change anything, it doesn’t take anything back. It’s just information. It doesn’t dredge that poor girl from the depths of the dam, doesn’t breathe her back to life. So why do I feel like I need to blurt it all out?

Related Characters: Charlie Bucktin (speaker), Jeffrey Lu, Laura Wishart
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

Charlie--who's now an accomplice to Jasper, having hidden a dead body at the bottom of a lake--contemplates spilling his secrets to his best friend Jeffrey Lu. Although Charlie and Jeffrey are close friends, Charlie knows that he can't share his secret with anyone--he swore an oath to Jasper to keep silent about the previous night.

Charlie's behavior during this scene suggests a strong need to tell someone about his traumatic experiences with Laura's dead body. By telling someone about his trauma, Charlie hopes to lessen the burden of remembering Laura. In a sense, Charlie is trying to lessen the burden by writing the book we're reading. In other words, Jasper Johns represents Charlie's attempt make sense of his frightening, complex experiences.

He doesn’t need superpowers. That’s my point. You’re an idiot. He can hold his own. He has an alter ego. He has a costume. He fights for Truth and Justice. He has arch enemies. And he does all this without any weird mutations. He’s just really determined. That’s what makes him interesting. The fact that with enough dedication and desire, we could all be Batman. Batmen. Batpeople. And that’s what makes him the best.

Related Characters: Charlie Bucktin (speaker), Jeffrey Lu
Related Symbols: Batman versus Superman
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Charlie and Jeffrey have a strange, trivial-sounding conversation about the differences between Batman and Superman—a conversation that ends up being more thematically important than it seemed at first. Jeffrey argues that Superman is the superior hero: he’s stronger than Batman, faster, can fly, etc. Charlie makes the interesting argument that while Batman is physically weaker than Superman, and has no superpowers, his humanity makes him the braver, more heroic person. Superman has very little to fear—he knows he’s essentially invincible. Batman, on the other hand, faces his fear every day. He’s learned to embrace fear and move past it—a kind of heroism Charlie admires more than brute strength or speed.

Charlie’s argument reinforces one of the key themes of the book—overcoming one’s fear. Charlie deals with a series of frightening and intimidating situations. Gradually, he comes to accept that bravery isn’t the opposite of fear at all: true bravery involves first facing fear, then summoning the willpower to continue on.

Chapter 3 Quotes

How was it that Gertrude Baniszewski could seduce so many children into committing these acts? How could they turn up, day after day, to do the unspeakable? And how could they return home of an evening, no words of shame or remorse tumbling out of their mouths? What did Sylvia Likens do to deserve this? Or was it just shit luck and chance?

Related Characters: Charlie Bucktin (speaker), Sylvia Likens, Gertrude Baniszewski
Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:

As Charlie becomes increasingly involved in Laura Wishart’s disappearance (first lying about it, then actually helping Jasper get rid of her body), he starts to wonder what could lead a human being to hurt a child. Being a bookish, nerdy teenager in a pre-Internet age, Charlie goes to the library and does some research on the subject. During the course of his research, he comes across a woman named Gertrude Baniszewski, who tortured and murdered a child (Sylvia Likens) for no discernible reason, and enlisted her own children to help her. Appalled by what he reads, Charlie tries to grasp what could have led Gertrude to act the way she did.

In the first place, it’s important to notice that Charlie is trying to understand Gertrude. While most of the people in Charlie’s community don’t offer any sympathy for the criminals, or people they perceive to be criminals (like Jasper), Charlie genuinely wants to understand people who are unlike him. This certainly doesn’t mean that Charlie wants to forgive Gertrude for her actions—but he’s too intelligent and open-minded to accept that Gertrude is purely “evil” and normal people are “good.” Indeed, the facts of Gertrude’s case practically prove that there are no normal people: Gertrude was able to convince other children to hurt her victim—innocent, everyday people were capable of committing astounding acts of cruelty, and other "normal" people ignored the crimes until it was too late. Charlie’s investigation may shed some light on the actions of his neighbors—average Australian people who nonetheless greet Vietnamese immigrants with violence and bullying.

I think about Eliza’s manner. So dry and centered. So matter-of-fact amid the panic. I watch her climbing the garden steps to their front door, holding her weeping mother. Someone is there to meet them with an outstretched hand and a look of concern. I shrink behind the branches. And then, swift as a knife, it occurs to me. A rash of sparks coats my skin. My heart almost leaps from my chest, and my brick slides.

Eliza Wishart knows something.

Related Characters: Charlie Bucktin (speaker), Eliza Wishart, Mrs. Wishart
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Charlie thinks about Eliza Wishart. Eliza is the sister of Laura—the young woman whose body Jasper and Charlie found at the beginning of the novel. Charlie has a massive crush on Eliza, and wants to tell her all that he knows about Eliza’s sister. He struggles to withhold his secret from Eliza, remembering the promise he made Jasper to say nothing. As Charlie thinks about keeping his secret from Eliza, he comes to the surprising realization that Eliza is also keeping secrets from him. Her calm, complacent manner parallels Charlie’s own—both teenagers are concealing a big, terrible secret.

The fact that Charlie and Eliza have so much in common—they both seem to be wracked by a guilty conscience—foreshadows the romance that will arise between them. More to the point, though, the passage suggests Charlie’s struggle to understand people who are—he believes—unlike him. Eliza Wishart seems completely different from Charlie in every way—she’s pretty, popular, well-spoken, etc. Thus, it’s a surprise for Charlie when he comes to realize, here, that he and Eliza aren’t so different after all.

It’s occurred to me that one day she might not come back at all. She might simply refuse. I know her family pressure her. I know they coddle her with self-serving concern, that they constantly remind her of the things she’s missing, the things they feel she deserves. And I don’t really blame her for being seduced by it. It’s what she grew up with, I guess.

Related Characters: Charlie Bucktin (speaker), Ruth Bucktin
Page Number: 101
Explanation and Analysis:

Charlie doesn’t get along well with his mother, Ruth. Ruth is strict, spoiled, and not particularly loving. In this scene, Ruth punishes Charlie by making him dig a hole in the hot sun. As Charlie digs, he thinks about his mother, remembering that she comes from a wealthy, powerful family that never approved of her marriage to Charlie’s father. Several times a year, Ruth leaves Charlie to stay with her family, far away. Charlie resents his mother for leaving him so often, but he’s also sympathetic to her desire for luxury and solitude. By striving to understand Ruth—a woman he seems not to like very much, even though she’s his mother—Charlie is training himself to understand far stranger, less forgivable people.

Chapter 4 Quotes

Strangely, of all the horrible things I’ve encountered and considered recently, dropping a bomb seems to be the least violent among them, even though it’s clearly the worst. But there’s no evil mug shot, no bloody globe. It’s hard to figure out who to blame. There’s something clean about all that distance. Maybe the further away you are, the less you have to care, the less you’re responsible. But that seems wrong to me. It should be in the news. It’s wrong that they died. But if they weren’t Jeffrey’s family, would I care so much? That’s hard. Probably not, I guess. I mean, if you took every bad event in the world to heart, you’d be a horrible mess.

Related Characters: Charlie Bucktin (speaker), Jeffrey Lu, Mrs. Lu, An Lu
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Charlie thinks about the news he's just heard: his friend Jeffrey Lu's uncle and aunt were killed in a bombing in the Vietnam War. Charlie feels horrible, but his sympathy is mostly directed at Jeffrey, his best friend. Charlie is less concerned by the death of Jeffrey's relatives than he is by the death of Laura Wishart: one girl's death seems to outweigh an entire village's destruction.

As Charlie's thought process suggests, there's a limit to the amount of compassion and understand one can feel for other people. Nobody can muster sympathy for everyone else--one must choose which people to feel sympathy for. Proximity and similarity usually determine how much sympathy one feels--i.e., Charlie feels sorriest for the people he knows, or for close friends and relatives of the people he knows (there's also often a subconscious racial or nationalistic aspect to this kind of empathy as well).

Charlie's thoughts also imply that there's a limit to the amount of understanding he'll be able to muster for criminals like Gertrude Baniszewki. Even if it's possible, in an abstract sense, for Charlie to sympathize with this murderer, he simply doesn't have the moral strength to understand and sympathize with all similar people--if he tried to do so, he'd be a "horrible mess."

Chapter 5 Quotes

Jasper Jones has lost his girl, maybe his best friend, too. His only friend. It seems so infinitely sad to me, I can’t even imagine. To lose someone so close, someone he had his hopes pinned on. Someone he was going to escape with, start anew. And to see her, right there, as she was. Right where I’m sitting. What a horrible series of events this has been. But Jasper Jones has to keep that poker face. He has to throw that cloak over his heart. I wonder how much of Jasper’s life is spent pretending his doesn’t give a shit.

Related Characters: Charlie Bucktin (speaker), Jasper Jones, Laura Wishart
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:

Charlie tries to understand what his friend Jasper is going through. Jasper's girlfriend, Laura, has died recently; while a young woman's death would be sad under any circumstances, it's particularly moving since Jasper has few friends--his status as an outsider and  a scapegoat in his community means that he's forced to hold his friends especially dear.

Charlie also realizes that Jasper has to hide his emotions: his sadness, his loneliness, and especially his fear. Unlike Charlie, Jasper denies that he's afraid of anything; a lifetime of bullying and scapegoating has trained him to put on a tough face whenever anything frightening happens to him.

I had to make things work when I could. Soon as you can walk and talk, you start makin your own luck. And I don’t need some spirit in the sky to help me do that. I can do it on my own. But, see, that’s what I reckon, Charlie. It’s that part inside me that’s stronger and harder than anything else. And I reckon prayer is just trustin in it, havin faith in it, just askin meself to be tough. And that’s all you can do.

Related Characters: Jasper Jones (speaker), Charlie Bucktin
Page Number: 154
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Jasper tells Charlie about the personal "religion" to which he subscribes. Jasper claims not to believe in any organized faith--he doesn't think there's a god, a heaven, or anything of the kind. Instead, Jasper subscribes to the belief that he is capable of anything: he believes in his own "spirit" of hope and inner strength. Jasper even suggests that all forms of religion are just versions of his own belief in himself; when a Christian, for example, prays to God for help, he's really praying that he'll find the spirit and the courage to help himself.

Jasper's trust in his own abilities parallels Charlie's quest to find bravery and strength through the act of writing. Just as Jasper prays to his spirit in times of uncertainty, so does Charlie turn to writing and self-expression when he's frustrated. Charlie tries to use words to inspire himself to be braver than he thinks possible--to summon the same strength that Jasper embodies.

I look over at An Lu, who is returning to his home, his hands behind his back, his chin on his chest. I wonder what he’s thinking. There’s something about his posture that convinces me he’s judging me poorly. I feel so ashamed, I feel like everyone in this town is disappointed in me. And that’s when I resolve it, with my father’s hand on my back. When Jasper Jones goes, when he leaves town after this mess is over, I’ll be going with him. I’ll be leaving too. Leaving Corrigan behind. For good.

Related Characters: Charlie Bucktin (speaker), Wesley Bucktin, An Lu
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:

Charlie has just returned from a late-night meeting with Jasper--he's disobeyed his parents' orders to stay in the house. Charlie reunites with his mother and father, both of whom were worried that Charlie--like Laura Wishart (or so they think)--had been kidnapped. As he embraces his parents, Charlie notices that a good chunk of his community has turned out to search for him. The sight of Jeffrey's father, An, among other disappointed neighbors, then convinces Charlie that he wants to leave his hometown as soon as he can.

Although Charlie has just learned that many people in the community are invested in his safety, he seems to take an entirely different conclusion from this. He's exhausted with the constant surveillance of small-town life: he has the sense that someone (whether it's his mother, his father, or Jasper) is always watching him and judging him. Charlie wants to go far away and behave like a free-wheeling character in one of his beloved American novels, such as On the Road or Huckleberry Finn. The more smothering his parents' attention becomes, the more strongly Charlie feels the need to get away from his family altogether.

Chapter 6 Quotes

I was terrified, but something kicked in me. I discovered a gift for lies. I looked straight at them and offered up the best story I could muster. It was like I’d clicked opened my suitcase and started spinning a thread at my desk. Weaving between the factual and the fictional. It was factitious. And Jeffrey was right, it was all in the delivery. I had them. I’d reeled them in. They all nodded like it was the truth, writing it down on a yellow pad.

Related Characters: Charlie Bucktin (speaker), Jeffrey Lu
Page Number: 165
Explanation and Analysis:

Immediately after returning from his late-night meeting with Jasper Jones, Charlie is taken to speak with the town's police officer. Charlie's parents--afraid that their son was kidnapped by the same person who kidnapped Laura Wishart--have called the police, and now Charlie is forced to lie about his whereabouts (he can't mention anything about Jasper for fear that he'll incriminate Jasper).

Under pressure, Charlie learns some important lessons about the power of writing, and about fear. Although Charlie is nervous and frightened of being caught in a lie, he uses his intelligence and familiarity with books to craft an elaborate lie that disguises his nervousness perfectly. As we've already seen, Charlie uses writing and communication to keep himself sane--he keeps a diary of his experiences in order to mitigate some of his trauma and anxiety. But here, Charlie uses storytelling to keep himself and Jasper out of danger--and he discovers a pleasure in telling these lies, and convincing others of their truth.

Mostly, I spent the time writing. Almost obsessively. Every day and every night. It’s the thing that gave me company. Along with reading, it’s what got me out of the house without them being able to stop me at the door.

Related Characters: Charlie Bucktin (speaker), Wesley Bucktin, Ruth Bucktin
Page Number: 169
Explanation and Analysis:

After being caught sneaking away from the house, Charlie is forbidden from leaving the house at all. Because he has no alternative, Charlie spends his time in his room, reading books and writing. Charlie's love for books allows him to escape from the smallness and dullness of life in his town--he can imagine going elsewhere even when he's imprisoned in his bedroom. In a similar way, Charlie's writing abilities continue to keep him sane. He hasn't forgotten the gruesome spectacle of Laura Wishart's corpse. It's only by writing about his experiences that Charlie avoids becoming wracked with guilt; by putting ink to paper, he establishes a safe distance between himself and his own trauma.

The next ball Jeffrey punches through cover, zipping through for two runs. And it’s with complete disbelief that I hear real encouragement from the sideline. His teammates. In unison those belligerent bastards, yelling, “Shot, Cong!” across the field, at once turning an insult into a nickname.

Related Characters: Charlie Bucktin (speaker), Jeffrey Lu
Page Number: 187-188
Explanation and Analysis:

Although Jeffrey Lu is hated in his community--he's Vietnamese, and therefore a representative of the country with which Australia is currently fighting a war--he's eventually allowed to play a game of cricket with the rest of his town's team. Surprisingly, Jeffrey's abilities slowly earn him the admiration of his peers--he's so good at cricket, and so useful to his team that eventually his teammates have no choice but to admit it.

Jeffrey's performance in this scene shows one way that minorities have struggled for equality: through personal achievement. It's unfair, of course, that Jeffrey should have to succeed at cricket just to be treated as a human being, but it's undeniable that in this instance his talents help convince his peers to accept him, at least for the time being.

“Go home!” my father explodes. He stands up, tall and intimidating. He glares with real anger. And I can’t help but feel a blush of pride, seeing it. I’ve been wrong about him.

Related Characters: Charlie Bucktin (speaker), Wesley Bucktin
Page Number: 211
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, a group of townspeople attack the Lu family's house. They destroy An Lu's prized garden and beat him up--partly because of Jeffrey's success as a cricket player earlier, and partly because of their general hatred for Vietnam (the novel takes place during the Vietnam War). To Charlie's surprise, his father, Wesley, bravely defends An from harm, fighting the gang of townspeople and ordering them to go home.

Charlie is surprised with his father's bravery; based on Wesley's behavior around Charlie's mother, Charlie has imagined that Wesley is generally meek and submissive. As Charlie struggles to summon the bravery to act in his own life, he's inspired by his father's example. Thanks to Wesley's behavior in this passage, Charlie has a new role model.

Chapter 7 Quotes

We’ll be like Kerouac and Cassady. We could steal away in boxcars, ride all the way across the country. Melbourne, Sydney. Every town in between. I could document our adventures. Maybe one day I could get our story published under a nom de plume. I’d have to move to New York City. The famous writer who fled from his hometown and shunned the limelight.

Related Characters: Charlie Bucktin (speaker), Jasper Jones
Page Number: 227
Explanation and Analysis:

Charlie, increasingly exasperated with his town's behavior, fantasizes about escaping the town altogether, with Jasper Jones by his side. Charlie has read plenty of books about people who travel around the world, never getting too comfortable in any one place. Here, he imagines that he and Jasper could model their behavior on Jack Kerouac, the seminal Beat writer who wrote On the Road.

Charlie's fantasies are appealing, but they're also naive and a little cowardly. Charlie has ample reason to hate his town: townspeople have bullied and beaten his best friend's father, simply because he's Vietnamese. And yet Charlie is too hasty in his plan to leave town altogether: he's never had any real experience with being on the road, and wouldn't know the first thing about how to go about moving from place to place. Moreover, Charlie's desire to leave the town suggests that he's still too afraid to stand his ground and protect the people he cares about: he'd rather avoid his peers altogether than protect those in need.

I don’t know who this man is, but he didn’t kill anybody. I’ve done everything wrong. Mad Jack Lionel isn’t a criminal. He’s probably not even mad. He’s just old and sad and poor and lonely.

Related Characters: Charlie Bucktin (speaker), Mad Jack Lionel
Page Number: 241
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Jasper and Charlie go to confront "Mad" Jack Lionel, a grumpy old man, rumored to be a killer, who lives in the town. Jasper is confident that Jack murdered Laura Wishart--he thinks that by talking to Jack face-to-face, he'll be able to convince Jack to confess, clearing his own name in the process.

When Jasper and Charlie visit Jack, however, it quickly becomes clear that Jack 1) didn't kill Laura, and 2) isn't remotely as dangerous as he's rumored to be. Jack's reputation as a crazy, dangerous man is just another example of the townspeople's need for a scapegoat. Just as Charlie's neighbors bully Jeffrey and blame Jasper for everything, so too do they fear Jack. And Jasper, too eager to protect himself from being scapegoated by racist police officers, has accidentally been scapegoating Jack himself.

Here, Charlie begins to realize that Jasper isn't always the clever, confident leader he's pretended to be: on the contrary, he's just a lonely, frightened kid, way out of his depth. Charlie, on the other hand, discovers new levels of bravery and empathy here. Because he tries to understand and sympathize with other people, he has an easier time than Jasper realizing that Jack isn't Laura's murderer, and in fact isn't frightening at all.

We’d gone to confront Mad Jack Lionel about murdering Laura Wishart only to find that he was driving the car that killed Jasper’s mother. The world isn’t right. It’s small and it’s nasty and it’s lousy with sadness. Under every rock, hidden in every closet, shaken from every tree, it seems there’s something horrible I don’t want to see. I don’t know. Maybe that’s why this town is so content to face in on itself, to keep everything so settled and smooth and serene. And at the moment, I can’t say as I blame them.

Related Characters: Charlie Bucktin (speaker), Jasper Jones, Mad Jack Lionel, Laura Wishart, Rosie Jones
Page Number: 244
Explanation and Analysis:

Charlie and Jasper have just visited Jack, hoping to convince him to confess to Laura Wishart's murder. Instead, they wind up discovering that Jack is Jasper's own grandfather. Jack had always called out at Jasper whenever he saw him, because he feels responsible for the death of Jasper's mother (Jack was driving the car when Jasper's mother was rushed to the hospital with appendicitis).

Thinking back on everything he's just learned, Charlie reaches some bitter conclusions: life is a mess; the world is meaningless, etc. Charlie even comes to sympathize with his townspeople--the same people who beat up his best friend's father just a few days before. In the past, Charlie has resented his neighbors for ignoring injustice and pretending that everything is perfect. Now, Charlie can understand his peers' behavior--they're just trying to forget how horrible life can be.

And yet in spite of his understanding, Charlie himself doesn't try to forget about the horrors of life. Instead, he converts these horrors into literature. By writing about Jack, Laura, and Jasper, Charlie finds a more powerful and honest way of coping with tragedy: he deals with his problems head-on instead of repressing them.

This is what happened. And I’ve got to get it out quick, I’ve got to loosen the valve on it and let it go, fizzing and spraying, because it’s too hard, it’s too heavy, it’s too much. I can’t hold on to it for too long because it’ll burn. Do you understand? It’s the knowing. It’s always the knowing that’s the worst. I wish I didn’t have to. I want the stillness back. But I can’t. I can’t ever get it back. So. Thisiswhathappened.

Related Characters: Charlie Bucktin (speaker), Eliza Wishart
Page Number: 258
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Charlie frantically tries to write down everything he's just learned. We can feel his anxiety as he repeats the words "this is what happened."

Charlie has just discovered that Laura Wishart's father--a respected member of the community--was raping his daughter, and even impregnated her before her death. This piece of information, along with many others, is almost more than Charlie can bear. But where a weaker, less intelligence teenager would be traumatized, Charlie uses his writing to cleanse of himself of some of his trauma. By writing down the horrors of his community, Charlie establishes a firm distance between his self and his horrifying experiences. Put another way, by writing everything down, Charlie seems to say, "I've experienced a lot, but I am still me."

I also have a suspicion that Eliza might be less concerned with what’s right, less concerned about uncovering the truth, than she is about ensuring that she and Jasper Jones, and maybe her father, too, are meted out the penance that she feels they each deserve. I think she wants to do something with all this blame and hurt. I think she just wants to tie rocks to all their feet.

Related Characters: Charlie Bucktin (speaker), Jasper Jones, Eliza Wishart, Pete Wishart
Page Number: 282
Explanation and Analysis:

Jasper and Charlie find out the truth about Laura Wishart's death--she hanged herself after being raped by her own father--by talking to Eliza, Laura's sister. Eliza explains that she witnessed Laura's suicide; instead of intervening, she just watched. Eliza insists that the only "right" thing to do is tell the police about her father's actions, ensuring that he'll be arrested for rape and child molestation. Jasper angrily points out that going to the police will implicate him in Laura's death, since he moved Laura's body. But Charlie realizes that Eliza wants to punish herself and punish Jasper for their roles in Laura's death.

The passage reiterates Charlie's abilities to understand people's reasons for doing strange things, while also making an important point: sometimes, people do the right thing for the wrong reasons. While Eliza's decision to go to the police might seem like the only moral action, it's also clearly motivated by a desire for revenge.

Chapter 8 Quotes

It’s so smart and sad and beautiful that I’m not even jealous. And I have a warm feeling in my belly that says someone important is going to believe in it. That one day I’ll see my father’s name on a straight spine on a bookstore shelf, standing proud and strong and bright.

Related Characters: Charlie Bucktin (speaker), Wesley Bucktin
Page Number: 292
Explanation and Analysis:

Wesley, Charlie's father, has been working on a novel for a long time. After he's finished with it, Wesley shows his work to Charlie. Although Charlie has previously been jealous of his father's writing, he's proud of his father for writing such a tremendous book, and even hopes that someone will publish it soon.

Charlie's pride in his father shows that he's become more secure in his own identity as a writer. Previously, Charlie was afraid that Wesley was competing with him for literary success; Charlie didn't trust his own literary abilities enough to support any writing other than his own. Now, though, Charlie has the self-confidence to be confident in other people, as well. He has a story of his own to tell, and so he's not concerned about his father finishing his book first.

Chapter 9 Quotes

But what no spectator that day will ever know or anyone who will later lend their ear to an account, is that it requires more courage for me to tentatively bend and snatch up that rotten fruit from amid that sea of bees. My hands tremble. I can barely work my fingers. But I get them.

Related Characters: Charlie Bucktin (speaker)
Related Symbols: Peaches
Page Number: 304
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the novel, Charlie proves his bravery to the townspeople by sneaking onto Mad Jack Lionel's property and completing a traditional town challenge: stealing some of Jack's famous peaches. Unbeknownst to anyone else, Charlie isn't the least bit afraid of sneaking onto Jack's property, since he's now friends with Jack. Instead, the scariest part of Charlie's mission to steal the peaches is picking up the peaches themselves, which are surrounded by bees--Charlie is frightened of bugs and insects, and dislikes having to touch them.

The passage shows that although Charlie is no longer afraid of Mad Jack, he continues to feel some irrational fears, which he then proceeds to overcome. Charlie has learned that Jack shouldn't be feared, but much more importantly, he's learned that fear itself can be dealt with. Like Batman, Charlie doesn't deny his fears; he accepts them and moves past them, reaching into the bees that he finds so disgusting.

And for some reason I’m reminded of Eric Cooke, haggard and angry, at the moment they finally asked him the question. I just wanted to hurt somebody, he replied. But that was never the whole story, was it? Only he could have known that, and he held his secrets tight in his fist, in his chest. And there’s always more to know. Always. The mystery just gets covered in history. Or is it the other way around. It gets wrested and wrapped in some other riddle. And I think of Jenny Likens, who also watched her sister die, who said nothing until the end, who got brave too late.

Related Characters: Charlie Bucktin (speaker), Jenny Likens, Eric Edgar Cooke
Page Number: 308-309
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the novel, Charlie rushes to the Wishart house to find that Eliza has set it on fire, horribly burning her father. Charlie realizes that Eliza, frustrated that she's unable to alert the police to her father's crimes, has taken matters into her own hands with an act of fiery revenge.

As always, Charlie tries to understand things from Eliza's point of view: he tries to understand how someone could commit a crime that, on the outside, might seem barbaric. Charlie has researched many such crimes--for instance, the murders committed by Eric Cooke, a shy, harelipped man. Previously, Charlie wondered if he could sympathize with Cooke's desire to hurt people. But now he realizes that even Cooke's stated motive for murder wasn't the truth--Cooke's motive must have been more complicated, just as Eliza's reasons for burning down her own house are more complicated than any police officer would be able to determine.

Charlie isn't excusing Eliza or Eric Cookie for their actions; rather, he's trying to understand them. While Charlie admits that his understanding will never be perfect, he has one important insight about Eliza. Eliza blames herself for her sister's suicide: by standing back and watching, Eliza allowed her sister to hang herself. Now, Eliza seems to want to be punished for her actions. Watching her sister hang herself, Eliza acted to late--now, she's overcompensating for her passivity, lashing out at the world with a big, horrific crime.

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