Jasper Jones


Craig Silvey

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Jasper Jones Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Craig Silvey's Jasper Jones. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Craig Silvey

Silvey grew up in a small town in Western Australia, on which the town of Corrigan in Jasper Jones is loosely modeled. He was a precocious child who spent huge lengths of time indoors reading books, and his favorite authors were American Southerners like Harper Lee and William Faulkner. Charlie Bucktin, the protagonist of Jasper Jones, shares many of his habits and literary tastes with Silvey. When he was only 19, Silvey completed his first novel, entitled Rhubarb. It was a minor success, earning him good notices and a place in the prestigious “Books Alive” campaign. Four years after publishing Rhubarb, Silvey published Jasper Jones, which won several notable literary prizes, including the Printz Honor award from the American Library Association. He lives in Fremantle, where he is working on another novel.
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Historical Context of Jasper Jones

Jasper Jones takes place in Australia in the late 1960s, shortly before the Apollo 11 moon landing (which occurred on July 20, 1969). At this time, the United States was involved in a lengthy, bloody conflict in Vietnam. In the Cold War between the capitalist United States and the communist Soviet Union, the United States increased its military force to prevent communism from spreading to the developing countries of the world, such as Chile, Cuba, Indonesia, Iran, and Vietnam. To this end, it sent tens of thousands of its own citizens to fight in South Vietnam to prevent the region from falling under the control of Communist forces—the Vietcong—who were based out of North Vietnam and led by the charismatic Ho Chi Minh. Because Australia was an ally of the United States, it sent many tens of thousands of its own troops to fight in Vietnam, and many of them died in horrific ways. Because Australia had a significant Asian immigrant population at the time, Asian residents of Australia often had to endure harassment, bullying, and outright violence from Australians who resented that their friends and loved ones were being sent to fight the Vietnamese. In Silvey’s novel, Jeffrey Lu and his family are the victims of violence and bullying from residents of Corrigan who have family members fighting in Vietnam.

Other Books Related to Jasper Jones

Jasper Jones explicitly references dozens of novels, nearly all of them written by American authors after World War II. Charlie Bucktin’s favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Like Lee’s novel, Jasper Jones deals with themes of racism, scapegoating, and compassion in the framework of a coming-of-age story. In interviews, Silvey has expressed his admiration for the American novelists who wrote in the “Southern Gothic” style, such as Flannery O’Conner, Truman Capote, William Faulkner, and Harper Lee. The Southern Gothic novel often involves a mysterious individual with a shadowy past (such as Boo Radley) whom the main character must come to understand. In Jasper Jones, this mysterious individual is Mad Jack Lionel—a troubled old man whose life story is crucial to understanding the main characters.
Key Facts about Jasper Jones
  • Full Title: Jasper Jones
  • Where Written: Fremantle, Australia
  • When Published: 3 Oct, 2009
  • Literary Period: The young adult “boom”
  • Genre: Gothic, young adult, Bildungsroman
  • Setting: Corrigan, Australia
  • Climax: Charlie discovers how Laura Wishart died.
  • Antagonist: Pete Wishart / Warwick Trent / the racist townspeople
  • Point of View: First person

Extra Credit for Jasper Jones

Rock star: Silvey may have carved out a place for himself in the literary world, but he’s arguably best known as the lead singer and songwriter for the Australian indie band The Nancy Sikes. Even the name of Silvey’s band betrays his literary predilections—Nancy Sikes is a character from Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.

Readers of all ages: It’s hard to classify Jasper Jones’s target audience—while it’s about children, and has a charmingly mysterious tone, it’s full of dark, disturbing events that aren’t exactly suitable for young readers. Silvey is no stranger to writing books for young readers, though—his second book, The World According to Warren, is a picture book about a dog.