"This is how you’ll end up if you’re disobedient.’’
Jasper is seen as being a negative influence by the community, and as a result, many consider him a villain. When their children misbehave, the parents of Corrigan will often use Jasper as a negative example and tell their children that if they are disobedient, they will end up just like him. By doing this, they encourage their children to develop the same type of mentality as their parents and to manifest prejudice against a person they barely know and understand. Charlie seems to note a strong community-wide pressure to conform to a certain set of pre-approved behaviors.
"How was it that Gertrude Baniszewski could seduce so many children into committing these acts?"
In the third chapter, Charlie goes to the local library where he reads about different crimes. While there, Charlie reads about the case of Sylvia Likens, a young girl who was raped, tortured and murdered by the family that was taking care of her. What is truly horrifying about the case is that many people knew about Sylvia and about what was happening to her, but they chose to do nothing. Charlie thought about how those who knew about her and even her sister could go on about their day without doing anything and without acting in any way to stop it. What the author wanted to highlight through this example was the fact that sometimes, humans are capable of truly horrific things, one of them being the capacity to ignoring something horrific entirely if they think that revealing the truth will not benefit them.
"Eliza Wishart knows something."
Eliza is Laura’s little sister, a girl roughly the same age as Charlie. Despite being the same age as him, Eliza is much more mature and wise than Charlie, and behaves like a grown-up. This prompts Charlie to think that she knows something about her sister and about what happened to her. What he does not know, however, is just how much Eliza knows and how little he knows compared to her. Towards the end of the novel, Charlie will find out just how misinformed he was compared to her.
"And it happens like that. Like when you first realize there is no such thing as magic. Or that nothing actually answers your prayers, or really even listens. That cold moment of dismay where your feet are kicked from under you, where you're disarmed by a shard of knowing."
When Jasper tells Charlie that the police will blame him for Laura's death, he reminds Charlie that his first reaction was to suspect Jasper as well. This causes Charlie to realize that he is as much a part of the problem as anyone else in Corrigan. Charlie realizes the implications of who Jasper is, in particular his racial background, in relation to this crime, and realizes that Jasper is very much at risk. The "shard of knowing" not only forces Charlie to face his own inherent prejudice, but it signifies Charlie's realization that he will help Jasper through this situation no matter what.
"My point is this: the more you have to lose, the braver you are for standing up."
Charlie says this during his debate with Jeffery on the merits of Superman versus Batman, but it takes on a larger life once Charlie has made this point, as it begins to frame how Charlie examines the courageous natures of those around him. The debate tells us a lot about what Charlie values in a person's character and illuminates one of the main themes of the novel. For someone who, at this moment in the story, doesn't consider himself very brave, Charlie nevertheless knows what bravery looks like. This is why he is so admiring of his best friend, as Jeffery is often brave in the face of neighborhood bullies who target him because of his race and nationality.
"Strangely, of all the horrible things I've encountered and considered recently, dropping a bomb seems to be the least violent among them, even though it's clearly the worst. But there's no evil mugshot, no bloody grove. It's hard to figure out who to blame. There's something clean about all that distance. Maybe the further away you are, the less you have to care, the less you're responsible. But that seems wrong to me."
In this passage, Charlie is considering the death of Jeffery's family members in Vietnam. He feels as though it is wrong that the bombing of Jeffery's family's village isn't on the news the night that it happens. Charlie doesn't realize that a bombing of this nature probably occurs daily in Vietnam during the war and that many innocent people were facing worse atrocities than that. Charlie thinks that there are good and bad things in the world, and trusts resources like news outlets to be a source of good. This passage introduces the important themes of relativity, perspective, and culpability in the novel. Charlie is beginning to understand how the world works and how adults often cope with violence by ignoring it.
"What a World! Said the green witch in my Wizard of Oz dream. I bet she was happy to go. I bet a part of her was relieved to melt into nothing. For some people, it must be nice to know about dying. It must be a relief."
In this chapter, Charlie is facing the ugliness of the world. He is realizing that the world is not as fair or safe of a place as he once thought, and this is a traumatizing realization. Charlie is coming to terms with death overall without coming to terms with Laura's death specifically. He realizes that knowing about death might be a relief for other people, but it still isn't one for him. Charlie is tormented by his knowledge of what happened to Laura and is beginning to consider whether the Wishart family deserves to know the truth. Charlie wonders what it means to know that you will one day die, and accordingly to expect to die.
"Everyone can learn a trade and pay taxes and have a family. But that's not growin up. It's about how you act when your shit gets shaken up, it's about how much you see around you. That's what makes a man."
Jasper and Charlie discuss Jasper's plan to leave Corrigan when the Laura situation dies down, and Jasper challenges Charlie's perception of what differentiates a kid from a grown-up. Charlie empathizes with Jasper's notion that Corrigan is a dead-end town that he must escape. After this conversation, Charlie gets convinced that he must leave Corrigan too, and by doing so escape all that he has seen and done.
"Every character in every story is buffeted between good and bad, between right and wrong. But it's good people who can tell the difference, who know when they've crossed the line. And it's a hard and humbling gesture, to take blame and admit fault. You've got to get brave to say it and mean it."
In this passage, Charlie is considering what the etched "sorry"s, found on the cypress and on Jack Lionel's car, mean. He wonders if the apology is as condemning of Jack Lionel as Jasper thinks, because Charlie thinks that knowing when to say sorry indicates the kind of empathy that isn't found in a killer. At the moment, Charlie has more to be sorry for than ever before in his life. He is beginning to understand the grey areas of life. He is also beginning to understand the complexities of his own actions. The fact that the word is "sorry" makes Charlie think that it might not have been the killer who etched the word into the cypress: "If you're capable of that kind of evil, can you be capable of an equal share of remorse?" (206).
"The world isn't right. It's small and it's nasty and it's lousy with sadness. Maybe that's what this town is so content to face in on itself, to keep everything so settled and smooth and serene. And at the moment, I can't say that I blame them."
Charlie and Jasper have just learned that Jack Lionel is Jasper's grandfather and that their hypothesis that he killed Laura is incorrect. Charlie is buckling under the pressure of everything he has learned, and something has to give, soon. He has lost all of his innocence and hope, and is beginning to better understand the town he criticized for so long. Charlie is coming to realize that prejudice and tragedy are everywhere one looks, and that stories never end as tidily as one hopes they might.
Jasper Jones Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Jasper Jones is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.