Jasper Jones Summary

Craig Silvey

Jasper Jones

  • Plot overview and analysis written by an experienced literary critic.
  • Full study guide for this title currently under development.
  • To be notified when we launch a full study guide, please contact us.

Jasper Jones Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey.

Craig Silvey’s 2009 novel Jasper Jones received and was shortlisted for several major awards, including the 2009 Indie Book of the Year Award, the 2009 Western Australian Premier’s Book Award, and the 2012 Michael L. Printz Honor Award. It was chosen by the University of Canberra as the Inaugural UC Book of the Year for 2013. It was adapted into a film by the same name released in 2017.

The novel takes place in the late 1960s in the small town Corrigan in Australia. One late night, Jasper Jones knocks at Charlie Bucktin’s window . Jasper tells Charlie to come out with him, and Charlie agrees because of the respect he has for Jasper.

Jasper, half-white and half-Aboriginal, is called “half-caste.” Because of his race, Jasper is often blamed for unfortunate events in Corrigan. Jasper has to take care of himself because his father is a drunk. Jasper lives and sleeps in a clearing in the bushes; he leads Charlie there. Jasper reveals the body of a young girl, Laura Wishart, hanging from a tree where Jasper found her. Jasper asks Charlie for help getting rid of the body, because they will blame Jasper if they go to the police as Charlie suggests. Charlie agrees, and the two boys throw the body into the nearby river. They decide they must find the real killer, suspecting Mad Jack Lionel, a reclusive old man.

Charlie spends time with his parents, Wesley and Ruth the next day. Charlie admires his writer father, but dislikes his controlling mother, who came from wealth and hates her modest Corrigan life. Charlie’s best friend is Jeffrey Lu, a smart, clever boy from Vietnam. Jeffrey, too, must deal with racism from the rest of the town, and is forbidden from playing cricket with the other boys. A woman had poured hot water on his mother, blaming her for her husband’s death in Vietnam.

Charlie has a desperate crush on Laura’s sister, Eliza, and every time he sees her, he struggles to keep quiet about the truth. He begins researching serial killers near Corrigan in the library. When he returns from the library, he discovers his parents are furious at him for leaving without telling them; there is a search party out for Laura, and Charlie’s parents were worried. Charlie is punished—made to dig a hole and then fill it again.

Jasper is arrested and beaten by the police. He plans to sneak onto Mad Jack’s property to look for evidence, and explains to Charlie that he feels responsible for Laura’s death. If he had not been out of town that night, he believes he would have been able to stop it. Charlie is greatly sympathetic. He discovers a clue written on the tree that Laura was hanged: the word “Sorry.”

Charlie is again grounded for leaving the house, and Ruth blames Wesley for their son turning against them. After two weeks, Charlie is released, just in time to watch Jeffrey play as a substitute for a cricket player. He plays and wins for his town, winning him the grudging respect of his fellow teammates. Meanwhile, Charlie sits next to Eliza and charms her; they kiss, and Charlie is thrilled.

Jasper tells Charlie he found the word “Sorry” carved into an old car on Mad Jack’s property. He plans to confront him, and Charlie goes with him. They speak to Jack, who is very nice and polite. He admits to killing “her,” but then Jack reveals that he is Jasper’s father. He accidentally killed Jasper’s mother, Rosie, while trying to drive her to the hospital when she had appendicitis many years ago, and has never recovered from the guilt. Jack used to hate Rosie for being Aboriginal, but has since come around. Jasper’s father, however, thought differently, and never told Jasper the truth.

The boys leave, stunned. Charlie sees his mother with another man, and is furious. Then he runs into Eliza, who says she is responsible for Laura’s death. She had followed Laura into the glade the night she died. Laura appeared to be waiting for someone, but instead of seeing Mad Jack or anyone else, Eliza says Laura left a note, tied a rope around her own neck, and hung herself.

The note is addressed to Jasper. It says that Laura’s father has raped and abused her for years, and the night she killed herself she had found out she was pregnant. Her mother would not believe her, and afterwards Laura was beaten again. Eliza had heard this, and followed Laura into the woods. Eliza had written the word “Sorry” on the tree several days later, haunted by guilt. Charlie admits his part in disposing of the body, and Eliza painfully forgives him. Jasper then arrives, and after hearing the news, begins to scream, and dives into the water. Charlie jumps in as well, saving his friend. Jasper admits his guilt to Eliza, who wants to go to the police about her father. Once again, though, Jasper will be blamed, so they agree to do nothing.

The next day, Jasper disappears from Corrigan forever. So does Ruth.

Charlie stages a fake fight with Mad Jack to impress his classmates, promising to make Jack dinner later to make it up to him. Suddenly, there is smoke in the air. Eliza has set her house on fire; her father suffers from severe burns. Charlie does not understand Eliza’s motives, but knows that Jasper will once again be blamed. Charlie approaches Eliza and whispers “the perfect words” in her ear.