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The Concept of Racism in Craig Silvey’s Novel Jasper Jones

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People are judgmental of others who differ from society’s norm. 1960’s Australia is represented in Craig Silvey’s novel “Jasper Jones”, which explores the concept of racism and the behaviours of Corrigan’s residents who have been exposed to limited diversity. Silvey’s characters Jeffrey Lu and Jasper Jones both suffer from extreme racism due to the values upheld by individuals in the town.

Australians had a strong hatred for the Vietnamese population. In the 1960’s, Australians relied on current events including the Vietnam War to form the basis of their values. The Vietnam War was a massive influence on the behaviour of individuals and how they treated the Vietnamese. Australians were very hostile towards the Vietnamese, treating them with hatred. Particularly in Corrigan, residents took a strong dislike to Jeffrey Lu and his family due to their belief that all Vietnamese people were communists. Jeffrey’s cricket team displays racist behaviour, bullying Jeffrey constantly because of his culture. This is seen at cricket training when, “Someone kicks his ankle and says, F*ck off, Cong.” The use of the negative connotation ‘Fuck off’ implies the hatred the cricket team and Corrigan as a whole have for the Vietnamese population. The noun ‘Cong’ symbolises Jeffrey’s different ethnicity and the displeasure his teammates have in being around his culture. This offensive word is used to highlight the Australians belief that their race is far more superior, therefore making fun of the Vietnamese race. The reader understands that Jeffrey is bullied because of his nationality and is constantly at the receiving end of their hate. Australian beliefs were largely influenced by current events causing the Vietnamese to receive constant hate and torment.

Ignorant people discriminate against those who act differently. During the 1960’s, Australians were very ignorant and rude to those who acted and lived different lifestyles. People who were homeless or very poor were always discriminated against due to their lack of similarities with society. Jasper Jones lived a completely different lifestyle to those in Corrigan, he was without a home and generally had no parental supervision. Due to his circumstances, the local boys always treated him differently, he was laughed at and called rude names: “I’d heard Jasper Jones described as a half-caste.” The noun ‘half-caste’ describes the perspective of Corrigan’s local boys and how they see Jasper Jones. The term is used offensively to imply that Jasper is different and no good because he has an Aboriginal parent. The reader gains an understanding that Aboriginals were discriminated against during the 1960’s and lived life as an outcast. Along with the local boys, the adults also victimise Jasper Jones. Parents, in particular, see Jasper as a role model for bad behaviour simply because of his background and lifestyle. As a result, Jasper is singled out and blamed for the misdoings of the community whether he was involved or not. The adults describe Jasper in many ways that show their resentment, stating “He’s a Thief, a Liar, a Thug, a Truant.” The use of the power of three emphasises the hatred Corrigan’s residents have for Jasper Jones, calling him names that don’t actually apply. These strong words imply that Corrigan’s adults firmly believe that Jasper is no good and therefore should be left alone. The reader feels disgusted at the actions of the town’s residents and feels more empathy towards the victim. Craig Silvey’s characterisation of the town displays the racist and discriminatory behaviour of Australians to those who act and live differently from society.

Ignorant people ignore those who are different from society. 1960’s Australia was a very racist time period with Australians ignoring and isolating minority groups and individuals. Corrigan’s residents uphold this idea, constantly excluding Jasper Jones from local events and ignoring his presence. Jasper receives no recognition and is always being neglected by his community. People in Corrigan are very oblivious to their surroundings and peers, ignoring those who don’t matter: “Jasper Jones fell out of the world and nobody noticed. Nobody cared.” Craig Silvey uses a metaphor to emphasise how unaffected Corrigan’s ignorant residents would be if Jasper disappeared. Jasper Jones can’t literally fall out of the world but the metaphor is used to imply that his disappearance would have no emotional reaction. Symbolism has also been used to convey the attitudes of the world into a single town. The noun ‘world’ symbolises the relationship between the world and Corrigan, highlighting the similar actions and behaviours between individuals. The reader understands how small-minded Corrigan and the world are and the unjust treatment Jasper receives because of his differences. Craig Silvey’s crafting of Corrigan’s residents emphasises the ignorant values of Australians who exclude and ignore those who are different from society.

Ignorant people judge, exclude and discriminate those who are different from society. Craig Silvey’s novel displays the racist behaviours of Corrigan’s residents during the 1960’s, highlighting the negative impact these behaviours have on Jeffrey Lu and Jasper Jones. Even though racism is wrong, people disregard the effects and rely on beliefs and values to discriminate against those who differ from society’s norm. 

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The Concept Of Racism In Craig Silvey’s Novel Jasper Jones. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved August 15, 2022, from
“The Concept Of Racism In Craig Silvey’s Novel Jasper Jones.” GradesFixer, 06 Aug. 2021,
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