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Reflections on the Fact That Behavior Is Often Based on Ignorance, as Exemplified by Craig Silvey's ‘Jasper Jones’

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Prejudicial behavior is often based on ignorance and fear which leads to significant consequences for marginalized individuals. ‘Jasper Jones’ by Craig Silvey is a bildungsroman about an adolescent boy, Charlie Bucktin, which illustrates the concept that choices are a powerful part of human behavior. The text is a realistic representation of the replete discrimination, conformity and racism of the 1960s in rural Western Australia, allowing the reader to understand how racist societal values lead to the marginalization of those perceived as unorthodox. Craig Silvey’s contemporary, gothic novel offers an ideal platform which investigates the ideologies and attitudes of characters due to their environment. The tone for the novel is mischievous and adventurous, whilst the use of the mood, tone, metalanguage, characterization and imagery amplifies this idea. ‘Jasper Jones’ mainly focuses on the difficulties of overcoming diversity, where Silvey uses characters to manifest this idea.

Fear arises when we face something unfamiliar or when someone we love is under threat. The small, insular community of Corrigan persistently alienates Lu’s family out of fear for the Vietnamese heritage, a culture outside Corrigan’s norm. This is due to the arising fear of conflict between Vietnam and America, where its consequences took a toll on Australian soldiers, particularly Sue Findley’s son and husband. Jeffrey Lu is subject to derogatory, dehumanizing and racist slurs including his nickname ‘Cong’, which symbolizes the Viet-Cong. This nickname reveals the challenges Jeffrey faces to earn respect from both his teammates and the broader community. The family is constantly isolated from the community of Corrigan, and this is represented through Jeffrey’s exclusion from the towns cricket team. Silvey uses the juxtaposition to draw a comparison between cricket as a form of identity and belonging in Corrigan. Charlie uses the metaphor ‘Corrigan is a town whose social currency is a sport’ to describe the identity of the community is epitomized through sport. This indicates that within the sporting arena success and skill is rewarded, but this is one of the only aspects of the attitudes of Corrigan’s townspeople. In the town, things start to be more favorable for Jeffrey as he helps the cricket team win against their archrivals until a local racist vandalizes and attacks his family home: “He’s involved! He’s a red! Fucking! Rat!”. The term red symbolizes means of putting a negative stance on communist values and ‘rat’ refers to the spreading of disease and the infestation ‘Vietnamese culture’ forced onto society. Silvey uses exclamation marks to convey the petulance anger and outrage of Australians at the time because of the Vietnam War. The reader is shown the reality of race and ethnicity, and the difficulties for minorities within the town of Corrigan. The community’s fear of the Vietnam War led to significant consequences for the Lu’s such as a lack of belonging, identity and isolation from the community which is highlighted by the cricket team.

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“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity” - this affirms that the prejudicial stereotypes of Corrigan are dangerous. The alleged antagonist Jasper Jones is a half-caste Aboriginal in a community of predominantly white Australians, by who he is constantly abused because of his background. Jasper Jones’ character is victimized and estranged by prejudice, proven by “Jasper Jones has a terrible reputation in Corrigan. He’s a Thief, Liar, a Thug, a Truant. He’s lazy and unreliable. He’s a feral and an orphan, or as good as… He’s the rotten model that parents hold aloft as a warning”. Corrigan blames Jasper whenever a crime or misdemeanor happens – such as the burning of the post office, and furthermore the disappearance of Laura Wishart. Based on the town’s prejudice, by which Jasper is used as a tool in Corrigan, ignorance is used as an excuse for prejudice. This hyperbole implies how the people in the town of Corrigan demonized and segregated him from the community, ultimately amplifying his supposed actions. The death of Laura Wishart develops Jasper’s inner strength and resilience, but also illustrates Jasper’s humanly emotions which are seemingly stripped from him. This is evident in the quote “We got to bury her. Hide her. Here. Ourselves”, where Jasper Jones is confirmed to be illiterate with poor diction, and also in the scene where Charlie has to read Laura’s letter to Jasper. The colloquial language establishes and reinforces the social identity of Jasper Jones. The metaphor “This town, they think I'm a bloody animal” highlights Corrigan's non-tolerance toward racial differences. The first-person perspective delineates the calamitous effect that prejudicial attitude has on the outsiders of the community. Ignorance of prejudicial behavior is a toxic ideology, which results in innocent individuals being marginalized from the rest of Corrigan’s small-town society.

The xenophobic atmosphere of Corrigan is reinforced through Silvey’s continual depictions and examples of prejudice. Jasper acknowledges the ignorance towards the outcasts in the community. This is evinced by the quote “See, everyone's afraid of something and nuthin. This town, that’s how they live, and they don’t even know it. They stick to what they know, what they bin told”. Ignorance is reinforced by several incidents which are made to provoke sympathy for Jones at the hands of Corrigan’s hypocrisy and corruption. This aspect of the novel helps the reader understand the boundary between truth and lies, by showing an example of both the lies we tell others and repeat to ourselves. The conflict is mainly caused by the town’s unfounded accusations and prejudices towards Jasper, which helps us understand how the boundary can be crossed when a lie is easier to believe in than the truth.

The town of Corrigan is isolated and parochial in the attitudes and beliefs of the individuals. This text is an exploration of consequences when ignorance, fear and prejudice are infiltrated in every aspect of society. It shows us the effect on an individual who is unorthodox from societal norms. By eliminating this prejudice, we can create an understanding of the individuals within a community.

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Reflections on the Fact That Behavior Is Often Based on Ignorance, as Exemplified by Craig Silvey’s ‘Jasper Jones’. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 4, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/reflections-on-the-fact-that-behavior-is-often-based-on-ignorance-as-exemplified-by-craig-silveys-jasper-jones/
“Reflections on the Fact That Behavior Is Often Based on Ignorance, as Exemplified by Craig Silvey’s ‘Jasper Jones’.” Edubirdie, 15 Dec. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/reflections-on-the-fact-that-behavior-is-often-based-on-ignorance-as-exemplified-by-craig-silveys-jasper-jones/
Reflections on the Fact That Behavior Is Often Based on Ignorance, as Exemplified by Craig Silvey’s ‘Jasper Jones’. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/reflections-on-the-fact-that-behavior-is-often-based-on-ignorance-as-exemplified-by-craig-silveys-jasper-jones/> [Accessed 4 Mar. 2024].
Reflections on the Fact That Behavior Is Often Based on Ignorance, as Exemplified by Craig Silvey’s ‘Jasper Jones’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 15 [cited 2024 Mar 4]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/reflections-on-the-fact-that-behavior-is-often-based-on-ignorance-as-exemplified-by-craig-silveys-jasper-jones/
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