Jasper Jones

Jasper Jones Summary and Analysis of Chapter 2


Charlie wakes up at home, shocked that he hasn’t been caught for sneaking out the night before and that the police haven’t come to arrest him for his involvement with Laura’s disappearance. He is exhausted and his body aches, and since he is sweaty and covered with grime, he runs himself a bath. He sits in the cool water and wonders if Jasper didn’t kill Laura himself after all. After some consideration, he decides that Jasper didn’t, both because it didn’t make sense to bring a witness to the scene of your crime, and because he simply trusts Jasper. In Charlie’s conception, Jasper might be the most honest person in the town, since he has nothing to lose—“he has no reputation to protect” (44). Charlie says this distinguishes Jasper from other people, as “most people you meet, they’ll talk to you through fifty layers of gauze and tinting” (44). When he enters the kitchen for breakfast, it is already almost noon, and his parents mock him for having slept for so long.

Charlie finds it difficult to act natural with his parents at breakfast, calling it a “role”: “Charlie Bucktin at breakfast: Scene One” (47). He doesn’t feel like the same kid and is “uneasy in [his] own skin” (47). He is paranoid at all times that he will be caught, that policemen will barge into the home in order to arrest him. His parents tell him that Jeffery has been over repeatedly that morning looking for Charlie, which reminds him that Jeffery had a cricket game he was looking forward to. Charlie leaves his house and heads to visit Jeffery, who lives across the street and four houses up. Jeffery is excitedly listening to his cricket game on the radio in the living room when Charlie arrives. He is disappointed about the game, which has been delayed due to rain.

Jeffery’s mother brings in snacks and tea for the boys, which lightens the mood. They begin to amicably bicker back and forth. Jeffery poses a question: “Here’s one: would you rather die of the heat or the cold?” (49). Charlie refuses to respond, which causes Jeffery to up the ante: you have to respond, it’s the Russians, they have a gun to your head, and your parents, and Eliza Wishart too. At the mention of Laura’s little sister, Charlie gets tense. He realizes that he has been pushing the girl out of his mind all day. He cusses out Jeffery as his mom enters the room, which causes him a large amount of mortification until Jeffery reassures him that his mom doesn’t know any English curse words: “Ma! Chuck really fucking loves these orange balls! He really fucking loves balls!” (50). The boys laugh about this for a long time.

Charlie is queasy about his secret and doesn’t know if he should tell Jeffery about last night. On one hand, it won’t do any good for Laura, the information “doesn’t dredge that poor girl from the depths of the dam, doesn’t breathe her back to life” (51). On the other, the secret is attacking Charlie from the inside, and he wonders if sharing the burden might lighten his load. He reckons that he can’t anyway, as he made a promise to Jasper, and even though he trusts Jeffery, Jasper trusts him, in an “unusual contortion of [his] loyalties” (51). Jeffery tells a bad joke that snaps him out of his musings. They play board games in the living room until the broadcast ends, although there is very little chance the rain will let up. Jeffery decides they must leave the house and head to town to play some cricket for themselves. On the cricket field, they have a serious and heated argument about the merits of different superheroes. Charlie holds that Batman is the best superhero because his mortality means he is the most courageous.

Jeffery grins. “I hope you’re feeling brave,” he tells Charlie (56). Eliza Wishart is across the street, standing outside the bookstore. This confirms to Charlie that nobody knows about Laura yet. Charlie wonders how Eliza can be so serenely browsing books when her sister is missing. She is as calm as ever: “She seems troubled, yet infinitely untroubled” (57). The boys approach her despite Charlie’s inner turmoil. He wants to tell Eliza the truth and to comfort her. He wants to tell her not to blame Jasper. When they arrive, Jeffery gets her attention. Charlie is struck by how beautiful she is, but uneasy about how much she looks like her sister: “She has the same eyes, and the same dark moons beneath them” (58). As they walk past her, Charlie can only muster a short nod and a tight-lipped smile. Jeffery mocks him for this short interaction, and Charlie regrets his awkwardness. He wishes he could go back and be “strong and forthright,” and wants to “look at her face, see if [he] can detect anything out of the ordinary” (58).

The boys proceed to the cricket field in town. When they see that it is full, Charlie suggests they leave and play in the street. Jeffery decides to approach the groups and ask to play. One of the people playing is Warwick Trent, a large kid and a nemesis of Charlie’s. He is the record-holder for having stolen the most peaches from Mad Jack Lionel’s house. He has also had sex, won countless fights (including one against a middle-aged man), and has a tattoo. He is “surly and volatile,” and Charlie “hate[s] him like poison” (59). He bullies Charlie for his proficiency in school, and if he ever uses a word that Warwick deems too clever, the bully will seek him out after class or during lunch to punch him. Charlie feels stuck in accepting this punishment for his cleverness, thinking that to do anything in response would just make it worse. This feeds some of Charlie’s hunger for knowledge, as “every new word is like getting a punch back” (60). He collects words he doesn’t know in notebooks and then uses them in the stories and poems he writes every night. Charlie is nervous for Jeffery, who has reached the group and placed his stuff down with theirs.

Jeffery sets himself up but is shoved away from his net. The boys tell him to leave and call him a racial slur. Charlie can’t understand why Jeffery is still trying to take his turn at the net when he “has tried this before and it never ends without some kind of humiliation” (61). Jeffery pushes on, bowling balls that glide past the goalies. In retaliation, his ball is seized and thrown out of the pitch with a racial slur. Jeffery runs after the ball and comes back to be “jostled and bumped around the pack” (62). A coach on the side of the pitch is laughing. But Jeffery proceeds, all the while outplaying everyone else on the pitch. Charlie wonders why Jeffery’s talent here has never been acknowledged when the community has been able to get over their hatred of Jasper for long enough to cheer him on at sports. As the torment continues, Charlie gets more and more upset but stays silent.

Eliza walks by and the boys jeer at her and call for her to take off her shirt. Charlie wishes he were brave enough to go and talk to her, especially wishes he were brave enough to stand up for her. As she walks away, Warwick flashes her while being cheered on by the team and coach. They let Jeffery take another shot, but as he gets up to hit, they pull his pants down to his ankles. The batsman has grabbed the ball and thrown it over the back of the nets, into a piece of wooded area. It’s gone for good, and this breaks both the boy’s hearts, as “that ball was a birthday gift that he’d sweated on for months” (66). Charlie becomes angrier than ever, but once Jeffery has admitted defeat, he walks to Charlie with a smile. He is proud of his good hits and spends some time celebrating them. Charlie says, “I hate those bastards,” and Jeffery responds, “Chuck, if nobody had stolen his bike, Muhammad Ali wouldn’t have hit anybody” (68).

They walk home. Jeffery’s father is out in front of his home, tending to the garden. They dish a few more jabs and jokes and go their separate ways. At dinner, Charlie tries to determine if there is any news yet about Laura Wishart, but his parents are not forthcoming. Charlie retreats to his room, under the guise of reading. He tries to write as a means of ordering everything that is in his head, but the words don’t come. Eventually, he falls asleep thinking about Eliza.


On the first day since Laura’s death, we learn more about Charlie’s coping mechanisms. He is shocked that his life hasn’t been irrevocably altered by the horror of the night before. Although he aches and feels angry and sad, he does a lot of avoiding his grief about Laura’s death. When he sits in the bath, he refuses to cradle his head, because he knows that if he does, he will begin to cry. He wants comfort from his parents but doesn’t allow himself to ask for it. About his mother, for example: “I want to go hug her, to be held by her, but it would be too awkward and unusual” (46). Some part of him desperately wishes to confess to his father: “I want to tell him everything. I want him to wrap me in his arms and reassure me,” but again he abstains from doing so (47). Charlie is paranoid. He feels as though he has changed, and feels “uneasy in [his] own skin” (47). Despite all of this, we also see that Charlie still believes Jasper, even though the other boy isn’t there to remind him why he does. This tells us that even though Charlie is suffering, he is true to his word.

Charlie is weighed down by what he has done the night before, and this lie makes him consider the importance of honesty. While reflecting on why he trusts Jasper as much as he does, Charlie notes Jasper’s incredible honesty. Since Jasper has a bad reputation, he has little to lose, which means that he doesn’t have to lie about his actions or intentions. This makes it easy for Charlie to trust him: “See, most people you meet, they’ll talk to you through fifty layers of gauze and tinting. Sometimes you know they’re lying even before they’ve started speaking” (44). Jasper, on the other hand, speaks plainly and hides little. Honesty is one of the metrics by which Jasper and Charlie measure each other, and dishonesty from before Laura’s death threatens this trust: “See it’s these lies that precede him, these foggy community fibs that I’ve been led through: they’re the source of these miggling doubts in my head” (45). Later in the chapter, Jeffery and Charlie have a conversation about honesty, and Jeffery believes that all one needs to be a good liar is conviction: “Listen: people are willing to swallow any old tripe as long as you say it without flinching… So if you say it like you really mean it to be true, then you’re away” (75). This provides us with insight into Jeffery’s character and shows us that Jeffery might be a little less naïve than his friend. But both Jeffery and Charlie seem to agree that most people make a habit out of lying.

Jeffery and Charlie also consider the power of courage. This theme arises in their conversation about the merits of Batman as a superhero. Jeffery makes the case that Superman is the best superhero, but Charlie argues that Batman is actually the best. Jeffery argues that Batman is just a mortal man, so there is nothing super about him, but Charlie responds that “'super' just means greater than usual. So in every aspect, he is superhuman” (55). He goes on to argue that Batman is the “ultimate human,” and that he teaches people that “with enough dedication and desire, we could all be Batman. Batmen. Batpeople” (55). Ultimately, Charlie argues that Batman is more courageous than Superman, who isn’t afraid of anything: “He’s a man of steel… He’s invincible. He doesn’t need to be brave. If a bullet can’t possibly hurt you, how is it brave to stand in front of one?” (56). Batman, on the other hand, “has the same vulnerabilities as the rest of us, so he has the same fears as us” (56). That is why he is braver than Superman: “because he can put those aside and fight on regardless” (56). He sums up his point with: “The more you have to lose, the braver you are for standing up” (56). Later, as Charlie watches his friend insist on playing cricket even though the team bullied him as he did so, Charlie wonders if Jeffery isn’t the bravest out of all of them.

Charlie’s character is developed more in this chapter, and we see him struggle with bravery. He is intimidated by Eliza’s presence at the bookstore, and so he is unable to say hello even though he desperately wants to talk to her. When Jeffery is being bullied, he stands aside without saying anything even though he is livid on behalf of his friend. When Eliza is harassed by the team, he similarly doesn’t say anything in her defense. He is unable to enjoy the flowers in front of the Lu home due to his fear of bees, wasps, and hornets. Charlie considers why it is that he struggles with bravery and thinks it might be harder for him than other people to be brave: “I think the less meat you’ve got on you, the more you know, the more you’re capable of being beaten, the more it sets you back” (73). As he argues about Batman, “the more you have to defend, the harder it is to press forward without looking back” (73).

Heat is an important motif of the novel. This chapter establishes its significance often. Charlie struggles with the heat of his bath, as the water comes out of the pipes scalding. He cites heat as the reason he didn’t sleep the night before to his parents at breakfast. He can’t escape it in his morning coffee and complains about it while he walks to Jeffery’s house. The heat follows him and mixes with a metaphorical heat: that of his lie, the crime, and his coping. He worries about what will happen once the town realizes that Laura is dead. That pressure is manifested as heat, everywhere and odious in the Australian summer. The heat also arises whenever Charlie’s situation becomes more stressful or anxiety-inducing. While Jeffery is being bullied, Charlie is “chewing the inside of [his] mouth and [his] face is hot” (66). When comforted, however, Charlie can find a reprieve from the heat, as when he finds that “it’s much cooler” at Jeffery’s house (48).

Charlie’s relationship with Jeffery is a very significant part of his life. They are best friends who maintain a witty back-and-forth. They usually speak in a joking and unserious manner, spending the time telling bad jokes, would-you-rather games, and talking about comic heroes. Charlie admires Jeffery, both for his attitude on life, which is incredibly positive, and his cricket skills, which are “so impressive, [he’s] not even envious” (52). He compares cricket-playing Jeffery to “an animal, aggressive and focused,” and “some kind of sword-wielding hero” (52). Insults and curse words are also a large part of their relationship. They often use language that demeans other groups in order to insult each other, including ableist and homophobic slurs. At other times, they call each other idiots (often), bigots (for when Charlie makes the case against Superman), and communists (for when Jeffery believes Charlie is wrong about something). The use of these words tells us more about the community they boys live in and can be connected to the racial intolerance that also exists in Corrington and plagues both Jeffery and Jasper’s lives.