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Harper Lee’s unveiling novel To Kill a Mockingbird is often compared with Rachel Perkin’s film adaption of Jasper Jones due to the interpretation of harsh racism in the small town of Maycomb and Corrigan. The context of being an outsider and not fitting into society’s typical stereotypes are explored through the use of main characters Scout and Charlie and social tension. This major social tension is then explored through minor tensions such as gender expectations, isolation, racism and family differences.
Harper Lee and Rachel Perkins explore the fundamental truths of racism, gender expectations and isolation through a child’s perspective in Jasper Jones and To Kill a Mockingbird. Focusing on the 1960’s, both writers follow the childhood of two isolated but adventurous children to show readers the way racism effects everyone. Known as ‘A Decade of Promise and Heartbreak’, the 1960’s allowed both authors share the truths of how brutal racism became and still is. By seeing through the lens of a child it shows the innocence and honesty of their uneducated minds; not knowing why people of colour were segregated from the rest of the community. To Kill a Mockingbird focuses on the perspective of Scout, a young and vibrant child who beholds a lot of questions, making it her purpose to explore such an unbelievable concept in America – why people of colour never had justice. Following on, Jasper Jones, directed by Rachel Perkins, focuses on similar themes. Following the journeys of a two conflicting young teens – Charlie and Jasper – who make it their aim to find out who ‘killed’ Laura Wishart. Similar to To Kill a Mockingbird, Jasper Jones explores the thoughts of Charlie – once again, a young child who cannot fathom why Jasper (an indigenous Australian) was being convicted of misconducts he never committed. Charlie was soon to find out, the convictions came down the one thing: racism. Rachel Perkins is Australian and directed the film Jasper Jones for the purpose of entertaining an audience, while depicting to them the hope of cultural transformation throughout Australia, which many years later became more accepting. Harper Lee, an American novelist and author of To Kill a Mockingbird, also wrote with the same purpose as Perkins. Lee wanted readers to see that the justice system in the 1960’s was not discriminating, and that everyone should see things through the eyes of an innocent child. To Kill a Mockingbird and Jasper Jones present similar ideas, an ethnic novel and an emotional film, both which entertain and inform. The perspective of Charlie and Scout are knowingly similar, due to their backgrounds and involvement in the racism faced in the 1960’s. The audience for both text types is largely aimed towards Western people. Mainly focused on those who have an interest towards culture and racism, and those who seek information regarding cultural differences. Also, both texts delve into the effect of racism on young children and their understandings.
Both protagonists in Jasper Jones (Charlie) and To Kill a Mockingbird (Scout) are classified as ‘outsiders’ in the small towns they occupy, their characterisation is depicted in way that does not justify the gender preconception. Both Lee and Perkins characterise their main characters to go against the regimes of their respective gender roles. Scout is written to lack general feminine qualities, always wearing overalls, never presented formally, and would never be caught not socialising with Jem and Dill. Contrastingly, Charlie is seen with reading glasses, too big for his face and his shirt’s top button is always done up. This shows us that Charlie is lacking the athleticism and physical build that a ‘typical teenager boy’ should always have. This is evident when Charlie falls when trying to escape from the window. Charlie’s ‘irregularity’ is less criticised in Corrigan as opposed to Scouts in Maycomb, but both are still genuinely classified as an outsider. Throughout To Kill a Mockingbird, Scouts childhood is based around taunts from the elder women around her. Most women classify her as ‘disgraceful’ and often whine that she should only be dressed in a, “…dress and a camisole…” Also, Charlie’s uniqueness is never ignored by the occupants of Corrigan, even Jasper – an outsider himself – says Charlie, “…is an outsider like [him].” However, Scouts incompetence to fit in her respective gender role is much more emphasised throughout To Kill a Mockingbird. Both Vintage Lee and Rachel Perkins utilise specific characteristics for both Charlie and Scout to emphasise the gender preconceptions in the town’s Maycomb and Corrigan which led to them both becoming outsiders. Through both text types, we are able to comprehend that the gender preconceptions have rarely changed since the 1960’s.
To Kill a Mockingbird and Jasper Jones solely focuse on the theme of racism and that innocent people were being convicted of crimes they did not commit based on their backgrounds. Both Lee and Perkins show readers that not only those who were POC, but also those who associated with POC were considered inferior. This is proven when Atticus, a lawyer, who was the lawyer for a black person, was mocked when doing his job. Confronting Scout one day, Mrs. Dubose said, “Your father’s [Atticus] no better than the nigger and the trash he works for!” Not only was Atticus reprimanded for this but so was Mr. Dolphus. Jem, a young teenager, criticised him for affiliating with ‘blacks’, especially once he was seen having romantic connections with some black females. Jem stated that, “He likes ‘em [blacks] better ‘n he likes us [whites], I reckon.” However, with Jasper Jones it’s not only the blacks who were looked down on, but other races too. It is obvious that minorities should not have to ‘prove’ their worth to the community, Perkins directs to show that the whites can overcome racism by the admiration and respect for others actions. Firstly, Jasper earns a reluctant respect from the townspeople of Corrigan, for his football skills. Whereas, Charlies Vietnamese best friend, Jeffery Lu, known as “Cong” to his teammates, finally wins over his teammates with a winning performance. However, we all know this kind of respect can be breakable – knowing someone is only valuable when doing something exceptional, then they aren’t considered valuable as a human being themselves. This is proven when Jasper Jones never stops being the scapegoat of Corrigan, and when Jeffery’s father is beaten only few hours after his, “…superb…” cricket performance.
Whites, because they considered themselves superior to POC, expected POC to do everything for them perfectly without any excuses. Calpurnia – also known as Cal – was an African-American housemaid for the Finch family. Even being so close with the family, she was still mocked by whites. Scout exclaimed that when, “…she [Cal] poured one tablespoon of coffee into it and filled the cup to the brim with milk. I thanked her by sticking out my tongue…” Both text types prove that even when the blacks exceeded expectations, they still were mocked by those around them. Aunt Alexandra is the perfect example of someone who always makes a mockery and who always targets Calpurnia. Stating to Scout she says, “Jem’s growing up now and you are too. We decided that it would be best for you to have some feminine influence.” This allows us to see that even though Cal was a highly capable female, Aunt Alexandra over-looked this, because of her race. Not only were the black’s mocked and not appreciated they were also never looked after. Jasper grew up without a motherly and fatherly figure and is known as, “…a thief, a liar, a thug and a truant.” Corrigan – a small mining town – was very discriminating towards Jasper as he did not fit into their norm. Unfortunately for Jasper, during the 1960’s indigenous Australian’s did not have rights and racism was never frowned upon.
Since racism was so strong and everywhere you looked in both Maycomb and Corrigan, there were always excuses made for the whites, who always had each other’s backs. Reading to Kill a Mockingbird and watching Jasper Jones it was obvious that Bob Ewell and Pete Wishhart were bad men. Both whom were abusive towards their daughters, Mayella Ewell and Laura Wishhart (who’s abuse was so bad, she committed suicide). Instead of the fathers being convicted, two innocent blacks were: Tom Robinson and Jasper Jones. It wasn’t the two blacks that violated them, it was the two superior white men. However, in the end, the people of Maycomb over-looked the evidence that was in favour of Tom Robinson, just because he was black. Conversely, at the end, Eliza sets her father’s house on fire to get revenge, and Jasper Jones gets the justice he always wanted and between Charlie, Eliza and Jasper, they all know he is innocent.
In Rachel Perkins’s film take on Jasper Jones and in Harper Lee’s grasping novel To Kill a Mockingbird there is an array of obvious cases of racism, isolation and gender expectations. Barriers – legal or illegal – to racial equality have somewhat been torn down. Racial segregations from the welfares of civilization and the human rights of residency are no longer as harmful as they once were. However, discrimination of any other nationality other than Western still continues to have limitations on the opportunities and suppresses the faith, dreams and rights of many African Americans, Indigenous Australians, Vietmanse refugees as well as many other minorities. Considering the dominions of employment, medical care, education and employment, American is still considered how it was in the Commission Report on ‘Civil Disorders’, as, “…two separate Americas.” At this point in many nation’s history, it is serious that everyone finally moves forward in improving the effects of discernment. Unfortunately, most of those who successfully gain civil rights preparations for us are not supported by the officials and authorities. Many of us, however, can see that as long as the world we live in continues to be provoked with race-based problems, we will forever need plans to fix these race-based problems. While through the years many nations have come a long way, there is still a long way to go with many years devoted to just this.
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