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The Theme of Identity in Craig Silvey's Jasper Jones and Allison Gibbs the End of the Earth

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Essay Q: A sense of identity is often only considered after traumatic experience. Discuss in relation to “Jasper Jones” and “The Ends of the Earth”

One’s Identity is the soul characteristic that defines an individual, their personality, interests, values and role in society. This multiplex attribute is constructed throughout one’s life from personal and social experiences in society.

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‘Jasper Jones’ by Craig Silvey in combination with ‘The ends of the earth’ by Alison Gibbs, investigate the effects of encountering a trauma. The impacts of such an experience and the change of an individual’s perspective as well as the concept of scapegoating. Furthermore, exploring the development of one’s sense of identity through the acquisition of an immersed understanding of society and the values and interests involved.

A sense of identity is weakened after a traumatic experience in which one’s physical and emotional fortitude change. Jasper Jones: Chapter 1, Charlie Bucktin and Jasper Jones encounter their first crucial complication, the murder of Laura Wishart.

Few comments later, Charlie suggests directing this incident to the police. Jasper responds, ‘Bloody hell, Charlie we can’t tell anyone. No way. Specially the police. Because they are gonna say it was me. Straight up. Understand?’ The quote indicates the inaccuracy of Jasper’s Reputation and the notion of scapegoating. Jasper Jone’s identity prior to Laura’s murder was falsely misjudged because of his nationality, socio-economic status and appearance. These unappealing social qualities eventually lead to Jasper securing the procession of town’s scapegoat. Whenever an incident occurred Jasper was the primary suspect. The previous quote exerts a stereotype of Jasper as being a scapegoat because of his low grade reputation. Thus showcasing how unconfident Jasper is in terms of his identity, hence he can’t be himself because he’ll simply get accused of murdering Laura. For Jasper Jones experiencing this trauma has lowered his sense of identity, bringing down his self confidence, by realising he is a scapegoat.

Insecurities in one’s sense of Identity contrast between fear and bravery. Contrary to Jasper’s sense of identity, Charlie’s sense of identity is stocked with fears and insecurities, yet is rather conventional. Charlie fails to sympathise with others during the beginning of the novel but progression throughout the novel outlines, Charlie’s change in perspective through his experiences.

However the Crucial turning point of Charlie’s sense of identity was the confronting of Laura’s murder. After witnessing Laura’s disoriented monstrosity hanging from “Jasper’s tree”, Charlie drowns with disgust, fear and confusion. He quotes, ‘I am dizzy and sick. And it’s as though touching her has sealed my fate. I am in this story. She can’t be ignored. She’s real. I’ve touched her now. I’ve been privy to her last moments of heat, her last wisps of smoke.’ The quote is presented in form of a monologue providing insight on Charlie’s current thoughts about the incident, outlining the distraught and paranoia from being traumatized. Charlie’s sense of identity initially becomes weaker and obscure. However throughout the text, Jasper reassures Charlie, repeating the line, ‘You gotta be brave Charlie’. Jasper uses high modality language to emphasise on the importance of replacing an anxious mentality with a stable one. Eventually the paranoia and anxiety Charlie endured transform into contentment and bravery. Charlie’s actions become more diplomatic and his sense of identity is reborn. From the simpleminded yet insecure individual he was into an individual who is content and courteous about his actions and approach towards issues and resolutions.

Experiences contribute to the construction and deconstruction of one’s sense of identity. The Ends of the Earth by Alison Gibbs features a couple, Mack and Chantou undergoing preparation to what is interpreted as the end of the world. The basis of Mack’s theory on the End of the world isn’t distinct however is interpreted as a modern trend due to religious beliefs or ancient phropercy. On the contrary, Chantou is within the boundaries of the norm and doesn’t believe in such a disaster however due to her sense of identity she cooperates with Mack. Chantou has a mild nature and obedient personality, stereotyping the typical expectations of an Asian women/wife. When Mack forces Chantou to live in a cave with me for shelter, she responds, ‘I don’t want, I don’t want to. I done it, okay? When I was little, for days and days. I don’t want to do it now’. For Chantou the thought of living in cave triggered the traumatic experience of war. The quote capitalises on epanalepsis, repeating the same line ‘I don’t want’ emphasising the resistance and significance in her actions. Similar to Charlie, Chantou’s sense of identity grew stronger and gave her the courage to stand up herself instead of always being compliant.

A sense of Identity is a fundamental human component which can be altered in both positive and negative aspects from experiencing a trauma. A traumatic experience can shadow your sense of identity and cage your possibilities by creating further insecurities; on the other hand it can strengthen one’s self and rebuild one’s identity with the production of reinforced and contemporary traits. Jasper Jones and Charlie Bucktin are polar opposites in regards to their identities after experiencing a traumatic event. Jasper Jones crawled into an even smaller shell, while Charlie burst out of his bubble. Chantou similar to Charlie, gained confidence and courage, thus obtained a stronger sense of identity when reminiscing a traumatic event. In Summary, people’s sense of identity varies when experiencing a traumatic event but a change in them will always be present.


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