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Jasper Jones is a 2009 novel by Fremantle-based writer Craig Silvey. The novel was the overall winner in the 2009 Indie Book of the Year Award, and won that Award’s fiction prize. It was shortlisted for both the 2010 Miles Franklin Literary Award and the 2010
NSW Premier’s Literary Award – Christina Stead Prize for fiction.
Its protagonist is teenager Charlie Bucktin. In 1965 he is visited by Jasper Jones, an outcast in the regionalmining town of Corrigan. After Jasper shows Charlie a horrible discovery, the latter struggles with friends, family and society at large. Late on a hot summer night in the tail end of 1965, Charlie Bucktin, a precocious and bookish boy of thirteen, is startled by an urgent knock on the window of his sleep-out. His visitor is Jasper Jones, an outcast in the regional mining town of Corrigan. Rebellious, mixed-race and solitary, Jasper is a distant figure of danger and intrigue for Charlie.
So when Jasper begs for his help, Charlie eagerly steals into the night by his side, terribly afraid but desperate to impress. Jasper takes him through town and to his secret glade in the bush, and it’s here that Charlie bears witness to Jasper’s horrible discovery. With his secret like a brick in his belly, Charlie is pushed and pulled by a town closing in on itself in fear and suspicion as he locks horns with his tempestuous mother; falls nervously in love and battles to keep a lid on his zealous best friend, Jeffrey Lu. And in vainly attempting to restore the parts that have been shaken loose, Charlie learns to discern the truth from the myth and why white lies creep like a curse. In the simmering summer where everything changes, Charlie learns why the truth of things is so hard to know, and even harder to hold in his heart.
1. When you first read of Jasper’s discovery in the clearing, who did you think was the culprit?
2. Do you think that Charlie did the right thing in helping Jasper?
3. Why do you think Charlie agreed to become an accomplice?
4. Did you ever have a friend like Jeffrey?
5. What do you think the novel says about Australia in the middle of the Twentieth century?
6. Which of the characters do you think is the most courageous?
7. Discuss the role of the ‘Boo Radley’ character in the children’s collective imagination.
8. What impact do you think the discovery of his mother’s transgression had on Charlie?
9. Do you think that the novel accurately captures the experience of adolescence, if so, in what ways?
10. Would you choose the spider hat or penis fingers?