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Australian Identity in Literature: Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey and The Turning by Tim Winton

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 Did your grandparents ever tell you that they rode a kangaroo to school? It was all a load of BS. That’s right your oldies have been telling you lies this whole time. And you fell for it. We have all heard that Australians rode the good old kangaroo to school or work, but it’s just a typical Australian stereotype. Australian identity was a lot of different things because you can’t base Australian identity off the one Australian, everyone has their own identity. BUT it has been found that Australians have similarities with their identity, and that is that we Aussies are all for mateship, loyalty, and inclusion. Identity has changed over time due to the fact that people are changing. It happens everywhere not just in Australia. Look at it like this, you are not what your grandparents would have expected back in the 1960s. In 2020 Australia’s identity has become blonde hair, nice brown tan, and blue eyes, well that’s not really your identity, if you look around you there are a lot of Aussies who have brown eyes and black hair, so I guess that rumor was just an Aussie stereotype. It just depends on the person’s genetics. You’re not going to wear suitable swimmers at the beach anymore it’s gotta be those skin-showing bikinis to show off your supermodel body. That’s YOUR identity, not Australia’s. But there’s one thing that most Aussies wear, and those are the flaming thongs. We’ve all heard of the typical stereotypes of Australia, that’s the thing their stereotypes are, they’re WRONG and they always will be. So yes, Australians’ identity is completely different to what it was in the 1960s because we have changed after all we are human beings and we adapt to our changing environment.

Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey clearly shows Australian identity-based in the nineteen sixties. The book follows the story of an Australian white boy Charlie and a ‘half cast’ Jasper Jones and the white Australian dead girl.

The story follows the boys through their journey and the way their Australian identity is shown. The book it represents a lot of the Australian issues that we are facing today showing that we have not solved all our problems and instead we use humor to cover our problems up, some of these problems include racism and bullying. It shows this with the words ‘half cast’, Jasper gets left out of a lot of the town’s social events because of his family background. His mother is Aboriginal, and his dad is Caucasian. This led to the town calling him a ‘half cast’. This is not the only racism in the book, Charlie’s best friend Jeffery is teased and mimicked because of his race and because he is from Vietnam, at the time this book is taking place there is a war in Vietnam, and this is shown on page 267 when Charlie says “A Lu is on the ground now. Huddled on their front lawn. And they keep going. They hit and spit on him. Swinging and kicking, I can hear them yelling red rat! Red fucking rat” this shows that they are bullying An Lu for being Vietnamese, not Australian and them losing their Jobs. Throughout the whole book, Charlie refers to Jasper as the town’s outcast’. This is because of the reputation that Jasper has bought upon himself. Jasper is pictured as a thief, liar, thug, and a fraught person. His reputation doesn’t quite represent Australians of the 21st century. Jasper Jones clearly shows the rebellion of the 21st century starting to form, with Charlie sneaking out to help Jasper with his discovery.

The turning by Tim Winton is a more recent book ranging with stories from the 1970s to now. The first story Big World, it clearly shows the rebellious side of teenagers in the 21st century with the main character and his best mate running away. Australian teenagers are looked upon by the world and Australian identity is based on what the teenagers look like and what we do. In Big World, it shows that Australians have changed slightly BUT we still face problems such as racism and bullying. Although these problems are shown throughout the story it still has a great representation of the slang Australians use. The words “old men sit in dinghies offshore” clearly show the Slang through the word “dinghies” which in Australia it represents small boats, our slang shows that we are not afraid off shortening our words. On pg7 of the turning the main character talks about how he got bullied every day since he started at his new school. “on the second Monday of term 1 I was shoved into a hedge, tripped in the corridor so that my books sprayed out across the linoleum and had my fingers slammed in a desk”, this showing that although Australians are changing with the growing environment, we still have not fixed our problem with bullying.

Throughout Jasper Jones and the turning, Australian identity is clearly represented. Although Jasper Jones shows a clear representation of Aussie identity, the turning shows how Australians have adapted to the changing environment. In the turning, the narrator goes on a journey with his best mate Biggie and their mateship is tested when a girl comes into the equation. Throughout the story the narrator explains how he and biggie became friends, he tells the reader “it sounds weak. But he saved my life” this shows that Australians are very loyal to people who help them through the tough times. In Jasper Jones, it shows that a lot of people in the 1960s didn’t have to know the person to show your loyalty this is shown in the text when Charlie says “it’s a strange coalition, me and jasper Jones, we’ve never really even spoken” I mean this quote clearly shows that Charlie had no idea that Jasper even knew him. This shows that Australians in the 1960s were very trusting with their neighbors because the crime hadn’t really started. In Big wold, the narrator uses humor to get through his problems, it is proven when the narrator says “Meg is as thick as a box of hammers” this means that he is trying to use humor by saying that she is stupid, while he is driving and Biggie is talking to Meg. This is because they picked up some random stranger and Biggie finds her attractive and the narrator is angry because he gave up heaps of girls for his friendship with Biggie.

In conclusion over the past 61 years, Australian identity has changed dramatically, due to the fact that Australians are changing with the growing environment, this being so that they fit in with the growing world. You don’t really need to ride a Kangaroo around Australia to be Australian, it’s just a myth, you are Australian as long as you were born in Australia.  

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Australian Identity in Literature: Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey and The Turning by Tim Winton. (2022, May 24). GradesFixer. Retrieved August 15, 2022, from
“Australian Identity in Literature: Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey and The Turning by Tim Winton.” GradesFixer, 24 May 2022,
Australian Identity in Literature: Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey and The Turning by Tim Winton. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 15 Aug. 2022].
Australian Identity in Literature: Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey and The Turning by Tim Winton [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 May 24 [cited 2022 Aug 15]. Available from:
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