Jasper Jones

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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Jasper Jones, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Charlie Bucktin, the protagonist of Jasper Jones, spends most of the novel in a state of fear. He’s afraid that Eliza Wishart, his crush, will think he’s awkward, he’s terrified of insects, and he’s frightened by bullies like Warwick Trent. The event that begins the novel—Charlie’s discovery of Laura Wishart’s dead body hanging from a tree—is so frightening and bizarre that it traumatizes Charlie for the remainder of the book…

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Jasper Jones is set in 1960s Australia, where non-white people are often the targets of bullying and cruelty. Because he is half-Aboriginal, Jasper Jones is routinely blamed for other people’s crimes and indiscretions. The townspeople of Corrigan also bully and even attack the Lu family. The novel takes place during the Vietnam War, when Australia sent many troops to fight against the Vietcong. As a result, racism against the Vietnamese was very high, and the…

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As Charlie is exposed to murder, racism, and other crimes, he struggles to understand the wrongdoers’ motives, with mixed success. Traumatized and deeply confused by the sight Laura’s dead body, Charlie goes to the library to research the other crimes that have taken place in his town. There, he discovers a string of grisly murders. In one case, the murderer was a lonely man named Cooke who had been bullied for most of his…

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Corrigan, the small town in which Jasper Jones is set, is obsessed with appearances. The white townspeople judge non-white people like Jasper Jones and Jeffrey Lu based entirely on their appearances, and their racist preconceptions about how Asian or “half-caste” people should behave. More generally, the townspeople talk constantly about people’s appearances. Any hint of impropriety or oddness is immediately the subject of gossip.

Because Corrigan places so much stock in gossip and appearances, all…

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One of the first pieces of information we learn about Charlie Bucktin is that he loves reading and writing. At many points throughout the novel, he uses literature as a form of fantasy, through which he can momentarily escape from his feelings of guilt and anxiety.

After Charlie’s discovery of Laura’s body, he is profoundly traumatized, and it’s only by fantasizing about the day when he can move to New York and be a…

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