Jasper Jones

Jasper Jones Summary and Analysis of Chapter 4


The next day, Charlie is playing cricket on his front lawn with Jeffery. They take a lunch break, during which the boys discuss a nightmare Charlie had about the Wizard of Oz the night before. Although Jeffery disapproves of this subject matter for not being scary enough at first, he considers that a story depends on the perspective it is told from. If the Wizard of Oz were told from the perspective of one of the witches, it would be a much darker tale of murder and thievery. Jeffery brings up Laura, but Charlie changes the subject quickly by asking Jeffery how he got out of being grounded so quickly. Jeffery seems to be hiding something when he “shrugs and wipes his cheek with his shoulder in a strange way” (115). Lunch ends, and the boys return to their game.

The streets are empty as most kids are respecting the new curfew, which gives the afternoon an eerie quality. Jeffery skillfully strikes every ball that Charlie sends his way until one of the balls rolls into An Lu’s garden. The boys fight about who should get it even though it is Charlie’s turn because he is afraid of the bees in the garden. The arrival of two search planes overhead quiets Charlie, who suddenly feels very afraid. In an effort to find cover, he returns home. His father is out helping with the search, and Charlie resolves to ask to join the next day.

Later that evening, someone knocks on Charlie’s window. Charlie is excited and relieved that Jasper has finally returned for him, but is disappointed to find Jeffery there once he pulls his blinds. Jeffery is excited about a cricket player’s scores on the game that day. Charlie lets Jeffery in through the back door, which causes him to be rebuked by his mother. Jeffery has noticed the mound of dirt leftover from Charlie’s punishment the night before. He asks, jokingly, if that is where Charlie buried Laura Wishart’s body. He is acting strangely and wiping his shoulder with his cheek again. He gives Charlie a sympathetic wince when he is told about what occurred between Charlie and his mother the night before: “She wanted me to suffer. She wanted me to experience all the pain of death without actually going all the way” (118).

And then, suddenly, Jeffery tells Charlie the truth of why he has been acting strangely all day: “Some of my family got killed” (118). His mother’s brother and his wife were killed by a bomb in the village his mother grew up in. He confides in Charlie that his mother has been distraught about the news, and has not stopped wailing since she heard. Charlie asks if the couple had any children and Jeffery reveals he has two cousins, whom his parents are attempting to bring to Australia to care for. Jeffery doubts they will be able to immigrate easily to the country, even though they are orphans. Charlie wonders aloud if humans are the only animals that know they are going to die one day. Jeffery posits that they must be, because humans are taught to fear death by other humans, and other animals don’t have the capacity for communication to achieve that. Jeffery notes that he would choose to know when he dies, even though he reckons that most people would rather not know. Soon, Jeffrey leaves, and Charlie notices that his shoulders are more rounded than he has ever seen them before.

That night, Charlie watches the news with his dad. He is hoping for some information about what happened to Jeffery’s family’s village in Vietnam, but the war isn’t mentioned. Instead, Corrigan is being highlighted as Laura’s story finally gains national attention. The broadcast is brief and is still pushing the idea that Laura simply ran away from home. After it, Charlie’s dad tells Charlie that earlier that day the Wisharts had confided in the search party that Laura would slip out for long walks in the middle of the night. Her parents never did anything to stop it, but they thought she might have been meeting someone by the river. Charlie stops cold in his tracks, but after grilling his father he ascertains that Jasper and Laura’s relationship is still a secret.


This chapter begins and ends with a nightmare about The Wizard of Oz. The dream is significant not because of what occurs during the dream, but because of the conversation it sparks between Charlie and Jeffery about the importance of perspective. Although at first, Jeffery is dismissive of the nightmare, he considers that The Wizard of Oz can be portrayed as a story of terror if its focus is shifted just a bit: “A young girl arrives in a strange place where she discovers she has killed someone. After she loots the body and recruits three friends, she travels to another city, where she commits her second murder and steals again. Then she flees” (114). This conversation causes Charlie to contemplate the power of one’s perspective of and proximity to violent situations, which is in many ways the backbone of this chapter and becomes a key theme of this novel. Charlie’s town, which lives in denial both of the war and of the brutality occurring within its own borders, is a great example of how people use perspective and distance to shield themselves from an awful truth.

As the truth about Laura begins to reach more and more people, Charlie becomes less able to control his emotions around Jeffery and his parents. It begins with Jeffery, who he snaps at when the boy brings up Laura’s disappearance. Charlie’s aggression puts Jeffery on the offensive, and he jokingly accuses Charlie of being the one who abducted Laura. Charlie’s reaction to this quip, which would have been normal in any other situation, is one of frightening aggression: “It takes all my mental resolve not to beat him within an inch of his life” (114). Later, Charlie insists on getting more information from his father on what the man knows, even though it upsets his mother and causes a fight between his parents. He objects and glowers when his mother suggests the information is too much for Charlie, especially when his father, who is usually his ally against his mother, agrees. Charlie's response causes his mother to yell at his father, but Charlie isn’t concerned about the discord he creates. He is desperate to find out as much as possible.

In this chapter, the topic of death, which has been in the background until now, comes to the fore and the characters begin to reflect explicitly on what it means to die. Although Charlie has spent time thinking about why and how people die, he has not yet thought too deeply about the effects of death on those who survive it, and more existentially, the effects of death on those who know they will one day die. The topic emerges when Jeffery asks Charlie how he isn’t dead when he finds out Charlie had cursed at his mother the day before, to which Charlie responds death would have been too easy. Later, the boys consider whether humans are the only animals that know they are going to die one day. This causes Jeffery to claim that he would rather know when he was going to die, so that he could make the most out of his life up to that moment. Charlie considers whether the awareness of one’s own mortality is a “curious gift,” as it causes us to live life to the fullest, but is also a depressing knowledge. Charlie thinks about this conversation later as he is falling asleep, and he wonders if the Wisharts deserve to know that Laura is dead. He wonders if not knowing that she is dead is worse than knowing, because the not-knowing never allows one’s heart to rest: “You’d crave the truth most of all, wouldn’t you? No matter what it meant” (128). Even if the truth were ugly and heartbreaking, “even coming to know that your daughter, your sister, is anchored at the bottom of a water hole. That she was assailed and beaten and hanged. That she was taken from you. Stolen. And buried without you tossing dirt or murmuring goodbye” (128).

In this chapter, we learn more about Charlie’s empathetic abilities as he reads Jeffery’s nonverbal cues. He notices that Jeffery is wiping his cheek against his shoulder repeatedly, seemingly a sign of emotional distress. In his room, he also notices Jeffery looking down a lot, and “every so often, something washes over his face like a glaze” (118). After Jeffery tells Charlie that some of his family was killed, he kicks out from his position on the edge of Charlie’s bed. His swinging kick, which persists through the conversation, is a key to Jeffery’s anxiety and emotional distress. Although he seems distant from the news, his body language tells Charlie that he is not unaffected. The death of Jeffery’s family members does something interesting to Charlie’s understanding of violence and death, as it widens the scope at which he understands violence. He is surprised that the truth can be said “Simply. Like any other sentence” (118).

The war in Vietnam is an important backdrop for everything that is happening in Corrigan this summer. Charlie’s obliviousness about the war is apparent when he asks Jeffery why his father might have stopped his mother from going to Vietnam for her brother’s funeral. Jeffery is a little taken aback when he responds, “Well, because there are bombs, Chuck. It’s a war. It’s pretty dangerous, even for me” (120). Charlie’s surprise that there is no mention of the bombing of the village on the news is proof of this. He senses that there should be, because something awful has happened, but does not consider the many other villages that must have been bombed and ignored by the media in similar ways. Charlie’s distance from the war is apparent in the following passage: “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” (126). This is because there is no clear villain: “there’s no evil mug shot, no bloody grove. It’s hard to figure out who to blame” (126).