Bridge to Terabithia | Study Guide

Katherine Paterson

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Course Hero. "Bridge to Terabithia Study Guide." Course Hero. 11 May 2017. Web. 17 Dec. 2017. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Bridge-to-Terabithia/>.

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Course Hero. (2017, May 11). Bridge to Terabithia Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved December 17, 2017, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Bridge-to-Terabithia/

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Course Hero. "Bridge to Terabithia Study Guide." May 11, 2017. Accessed December 17, 2017. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Bridge-to-Terabithia/.

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Course Hero, "Bridge to Terabithia Study Guide," May 11, 2017, accessed December 17, 2017, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Bridge-to-Terabithia/.

Bridge to Terabithia | Chapter 10 : The Perfect Day | Summary

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Summary

Jess awakens early, as does May Belle. He shows affection for his scrawny little sister, holding out the promise of watching cartoons together later in the morning, and decides to milk Miss Bessie to get the chore out of the way. It is still raining hard, and Jess thinks about his fear of the creek as he milks the cow. He decides to ask Leslie to teach him how to swim, to "grab that old terror by the shoulders and shake the daylights out of it." He reflects on his strong friendship with Leslie, knowing she won't make fun of him if he says he doesn't want to cross the stream.

May Belle, imitating Ellie's prissy tone, interrupts his thoughts to fetch him for a phone call—an unusual event, as Jess, of all people, in a day when children never had phones, would never be called by anyone. It is Miss Edmunds, who invites him to go to Washington, D.C., to escape the miserable weather and visit a museum. Jess tiptoes into Momma's room and asks her permission while she is not quite yet awake. "She was likely to say no if she woke up and thought about it," he reasons. When Miss Edmunds arrives, Jess races to get away before Momma wakes up and leaves May Belle to relay to their mother the details of his outing.

On the drive Jess realizes he could have asked if Leslie could go too but feels a "secret pleasure" that it is just the two of them. Miss Edmunds chats with Jess and asks if it's his first trip to an art gallery, and he acknowledges it is. "Great," she says, "My life has been worthwhile after all." The pair sightsee in the city and then go to the National Gallery, where Jess drinks in the artwork. "Entering the gallery was like stepping inside the pine grove," Jess reflects, sensing it as "obviously a sacred place." Miss Edmunds treats him to lunch, tactfully explaining, "I'm a liberated woman, Jess Aarons. When I invite a man out, I pay." They also visit the Smithsonian, and by the time they finish, the sun has come out and it's a beautiful afternoon. They chat happily on the ride home, with Miss Edmunds telling funny stories of her year in Japan. Jess is happy. "This one perfect day of his life was worth anything he had to pay," he thinks.

Jess's joy is short lived, for he arrives home to find his anxious family sitting in grim silence. Momma breaks down into hysterical sobs as May Belle insists, "I tolja he just gone off somewhere." Jess has no idea what is going on until his blunt sister Brenda pipes up: "Your girl friend's dead, and Momma thought you was dead, too."

Analysis

Jess shows he is growing up when he decides to tackle his fear of the water by learning to swim. He makes the mature—and emotionally vulnerable—decision to be honest with Leslie about his fear. Jess cannot be open and emotionally vulnerable with his family because they are harsh with each other, and he is expected to act "like a man," which means suppressing his emotions. For the first time he feels as though he can be honest with someone, Leslie, about his fears and insecurities. Their friendship is strong enough for him to feel safe in being who he truly is; he knows she won't make fun of him.

When Miss Edmunds invites Jess out, the reader may begin to hope things are finally turning around for Jess. Because the narrator shares only Jess's thoughts and feelings with the reader, it is natural the reader will bond with him as a character and root for him to succeed. His joys become the reader's joys, and his sorrows become the reader's sorrows. On this "perfect day," Jess fully allows himself to get caught up in the magic of life. While it's true he could have suggested Leslie join them, one can hardly blame him for wanting a little joy that is all his own.

Miss Edmunds remarks that by helping Jess her life has been made worthwhile. This remark is more than mere tongue-in-cheek, for it touches on the truth. Miss Edmunds surely must feel at times that she is wasting her life in Lark Creek. Her ideas are so different from those of the general populace there, and she is likely viewed by most residents with either disdain or bemusement. The comment shows a cynical edge, which contrasts with her usual upbeat focus on prevailing ideals like equality and peace. It seems likely, though, that the statement is at least partly genuine. Miss Edmunds knows introducing Jess to the wider world of art may inspire him to pursue his talent and could, at the least, change his world, if not the world at large. Like the Burkes, Miss Edmunds provides Jess with a glimpse of the world outside Lark Creek and helps him expand his horizons.

Teacher-student boundaries are somewhat ambiguous for Jess and Miss Edmunds, who may or may not realize that Jess has a bit of a crush on her. Modern readers might find it hard to imagine a teacher phoning a student and whisking him away, by himself and without obtaining a parent's permission, on a spontaneous road trip. The reader might also be uncomfortable when Miss Edmunds compares their outing to a date: "When I invite a man out, I pay." However, Miss Edmunds is not an ordinary teacher; she ignores conventions and may occasionally overstep boundaries to provide a deserving student with some extra attention and open doors that have been shut until now. Miss Edmunds is simply making a generous gesture to a lonely boy who needs support from someone so he can emerge from his shell. In calling him a "man," Miss Edmunds is trying to build his self-esteem and spare him embarrassment over who pays for lunch, rather than actually flirting with him.

Unfortunately for Jess, the best day of his life turns into the worst. Just as the best part comes with no warning, so does the worst—the morning's good news delivered by the earnest and good-natured May Belle, the afternoon's bad news delivered by the clueless and pouting Brenda. Jess's family is so stunned no one knows what to say or how to say it; Brenda, however, blurts out what happened with no regard for Jess's feelings.

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