The Black Balloon and Jasper Jones

Discuss how at least two texts have offered similar or different representations of the same place/group/idea/institution.

The Australian film The Black Balloon and the Australian novel Jasper Jones are both coming of age stories based on a young teenage boy in a small town or suburb dealing with family dysfunction, doing the right thing and friendships. In The Black Balloon, based on a screenplay by Australian screenwriter Elissa Down, Thomas is living through the painful process of being fifteen, starting a new school and having an autistic ADHD older brother who is constantly embarrassing him. In the novel Jasper Jones, written by Australian author Craig Silvey, thirteen year old, bookish and intellectual Charlie Bucktin, tells of the struggles of his new friendship with half-caste, outcast, Jasper Jones, keeping a big secret and his relationship with his parents. I will compare the differences between the two texts regarded as essentially of the same genre, coming of age, in a dysfunctional family.

In both texts family, albeit dysfunctional, play a pivotal role in driving the protagonist. In The Black Balloon, Thomas is fifteen and believes his life is in chaos. His older autistic ADHD brother Charlie creates havoc wherever he goes. An example is when Charlie flees from his home down the street in his undies with Thomas, also in his underwear, in hot pursuit. They pass a squad of army men who shout out “hey, nice undies”. Charlie then charges into a stranger’s house to use the bathroom where Thomas’s love interest Jackie is taking a shower. Thomas is mortified, embarrassed of a brother he is trying to keep secret and by the fact he is in his underwear in Jackie’s (his love interest’s) bathroom. Thomas believes that his mother Maggie, who is heavily pregnant, focuses all her energy and attention on Charlie. This causes Thomas to resent his brother even further, resent both parents feel isolated at home and therefore isolated from friends. Thomas believes...