During 1930s America, and 1960s Australia, African-Americans and Aboriginals are highly excluded and thought very low in all societies. In the film and novel, the characters question their conventional thinking of what is right and wrong as they navigate small-town morality, racism, and hypocrisy. Harper Lee’s novel, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (TKAM), and Rachel Perkins’ film adaptions of Craig Silvey's novel, Jasper Jones (JJ) both explore youthful characters who experience loss of innocence and subsequently growth in maturity as they become more cynical and conscious of the strengths and weaknesses evident in individuals and societies.
In both texts, loss of innocence is demonstrated through youthful characters who become more aware of the societies beliefs when they are faced with adult-like experiences. In TKAM, Lee uses the youthful character, Scout Finch when she discovers the truth about Arthur Radley. At the start of the novel, Scout was naïve and had a childlike nature. Arthur was presented as a supernatural and mysterious character who was majorly misunderstood by Scout. However, after losing innocence, she becomes more cynical about him stating, “Well, it’d be sort of like shooting’ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?” (pg 304). Knowing that Arthur represents a mockingbird and was a benevolent person, she lost her innocence as her behavior towards Arthur was majorly reflected in society. Due to this, she was beginning to learn about the unbending prejudice of people in Maycomb which was reflected in her own actions and behaviors toward people who didn’t meet expectations. Similarly, in JJ, Silvey highlights the loss of innocence through the character of Charlie Bucktin. Corrigan society’s strong perspective of people who don’t meet the norm has influenced Charlie's opinion of right and wrong. Charlie was commencing to discover prejudice that existed within the community. In that one night – and then the days that follow – Charlie is forced to step away from childhood innocence and see the world around him for what it is. He loses his innocence when Jasper is falsely blamed for the murder of Laura due to the fact that he was different. He always thought that Corrigan consisted of the best people until he was experiencing adult-like circumstances. Both authors have demonstrated loss of innocence through young and coming-of-age characters whose beliefs and visions were reflected by society.
Through extraordinary circumstances, adolescent characters represent the theme of coming-of-age in both TKAM and JJ. Coming-of-age is a young person's transition from being a child to being an adult. In TKAM, Scout is an open-minded girl whose opinions are based on society's beliefs. Scout represents coming of age because she is showing maturity and growth in her character stating, 'I drew a bead on him, remembered what Atticus had said, then dropped my fists and walked away... It was the first time I ever walked away from a fight” (pg 85). Although Scout falls into her old ways soon after this incident, she realizes her failure in obeying Atticus. She demonstrates a certain maturity in trying to keep her father from more stress about the Tom Robinson case. As a result of this incident, she questions and notices the strengths and weaknesses of individuals which is a major contribution to her coming of age. Concurrently, in JJ, a Bildungsroman film, grappling with the world’s evident immorality is the factor of Charlie’s coming of age. There is gradual progress in moral understanding that Charlie endures as he observes the world of adulthood. Charlie faces harsh realities when he uncovers the truth about his mother he had previously thought highly of. Another aspect of Charlie's coming of age is finding his drunk mother around another man, who leaves him when confronted which forced him to realize his reality was not as it seemed. His mother leaving made him more independent and caused him to form a better relationship with his dad. Through Charlie’s journey in the text, he begins to realize that ordinary people are capable of doing horrible things. Both authors have represented coming of age in youthful characters who are majorly influenced by society's beliefs and values.
Adult-like experiences have resulted in a growth in courage and maturity in characters who are coming of age. In TKAM, Jem Finch during the story progresses to discover the meaning of true courage. A factor of this development is his little understanding of the world and assumed the truth by what he saw and told. However, when he saw something wrong in front of the jailhouse, he steps up to protect his father Atticus who is seen in danger stating, “’ Son, I said go home.’ Jem shook his head” (pg.168). Symbolically, this scene marks Jem’s transition from boy to man, as he stands beside Atticus and refuses to “go home,” since only a child would do. Though he disobeys his father, he does so not sullenly but maturely. Due to his loss of innocence, he becomes a strong and mature character which leads to growth in courage. At the same time, in JJ, Charlie is a timid boy who deals with unexpected circumstances which allow him to develop into a more courageous and mature man. Throughout the film, he accepts that he’ll always be afraid of the thing that frightens him and that his fears allow him to be brave. In a conversation with Jeffery, Charlie makes a comment about Batman and Superman. He argues that although Superman is stronger, and faster, Batman’s lack of superpowers actually makes him more powerful. As a result, Batman has to learn to accept his fears and weaknesses, overcoming them to protect people. Knowing this, Charlie steps out of his comfort zone to fight for what is correct which represents the theme of fear of the unknown as his viewpoints were influenced by the societies. He also grows courage by the end of the novel, something he laments about lacking in the beginning.