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Bridge to Terabithia | Study Guide

Katherine Paterson

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Bridge to Terabithia | Chapter 11 : No! | Summary



Jess, in shock, denies Leslie could have drowned. When his father explains that the rope broke and Leslie fell and likely hit her head, Jess yells, "I don't believe you! You're lying to me!" and he runs out of the house, down the road. He hears his father's pickup behind him and tries to outrun it, but his dad overtakes him and scoops him up "in his arms as though he were a baby." They drive in silence back to the house, though it seems as though his father wants to say something. Once back home, Jess lies down and sleeps.

Jess wakes up in the dark of the night, imagining he has had a dreadful dream in which Leslie is dead. He shakes it off, thinking "Leslie could not die any more than he himself could die." He even imagines he could go to see Leslie right then, and they could "swing themselves into Terabithia" despite the dark. He plans to apologize for leaving her behind on the outing with Miss Edmunds. "I'm really sorry, Leslie," he thinks. "I was dumb not to think of asking." Jess's thoughts disturb him, and he decides not to think about Leslie anymore. He relives his day with Miss Edmunds and plans to tell Leslie all about it the next day.

When Jess remembers he didn't milk Miss Bessie the night before, he pulls on his shoes to do the task, but his mother stops him in the kitchen. She tells him his father is already milking the cow and asks if he wants breakfast. Brenda and Ellie gawk at him as he digs hungrily into a stack of pancakes. "You don't even care. Do you?" Brenda demands. Jess is puzzled, not understanding her meaning. Brenda, Ellie, and Momma snap at each other, talking about death and crying, but Jess tunes them out. His father returns from milking the cow and suggests he, Jess, and Momma go to the Burkes' house to pay their respects to "the little girl." Dumbfounded, Jess asks, "What little girl?" His father takes his son's hand and explains again about Leslie's death. The three of them prepare to go.


Jess exhibits a classic stage of grief, denial, when he refuses to acknowledge Leslie's death. Now Jess is the person living in a fantasy world rather than seeing reality, an abrupt shift from his usual down-to-earth character. In the back of his mind he knows the truth of what has happened, but he pushes away these uncomfortable thoughts of Leslie in favor of the self-delusion he can make things right with her by apologizing. While it is not stated directly, Jess clearly feels guilty because he thinks if he had asked Leslie to go to Washington, he could have prevented her death.

For the most part Jess's family pulls together to try to support him during this time. His father reaches out with the affection and compassion Jess has longed for throughout the story, though Jess is not in a position to understand or accept it. The lack of emotional intimacy and trust between them is apparent when Mr. Aarons tries to speak to Jess but can't find the words. However, his attempt to do so is a hopeful sign he is trying to connect with and help his son. He carries Jess home when the boy runs off, and he does the chores to allow Jess some extra rest to recover from the shock. May Belle, in her earnest innocence, is frightened. Because Leslie is a nonbeliever, May Belle fears Jess's friend will face eternal damnation, confirming the fears May Belle voiced at Easter. Momma does what she can by cooking pancakes as a means of comforting Jess. Brenda, being her uninformed self however, shows her lack of compassion and understanding when she badgers her brother because he is eating and not showing grief.

Mr. Aarons shows kindness and patience with Jess, explaining to him again about Leslie and suggesting they go to pay their respects. Jess is so deep in denial that it seems he doesn't even know whom his father is talking about. His father likely believes visiting with the Burkes will help Jess accept the reality of the situation, and so he gently but firmly prompts him to get ready to go.

The symbol of the rope is important in this chapter. As the entryway into Terabithia it led Jess and Leslie to their fantasy world where they ruled and overcame all threats. With the breaking of the rope, the entrance is barred. Terabithia has fallen under siege, and the queen is dead. Indeed it seems Terabithia may no longer exist.

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