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Bridge to Terabithia | Study Guide

Katherine Paterson

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Bridge to Terabithia | Chapter 12 : Stranded | Summary



Jess and his parents go to the Burkes' house to pay their respects. As they arrive, Prince Terrien joyfully jumps on Jess, who picks the dog up to pet him. Unknown adults are sitting around the golden room, either in silence or whispering. Leslie's grandmother introduces herself and thanks them for coming, but she tears up and excuses herself. Jess is glad when she goes, thinking it too strange to see people crying. "I'm not crying," he wants to say. Then it occurs to him he'll be important at school now, and his classmates will "probably whisper around him and treat him with respect." He imagines everyone will have to be nice to him now.

Bill enters the room and gives Jess a long hug that makes him uncomfortable; he doesn't want to see Bill crying. He feels a sudden anger that Leslie isn't there to cheer everyone up. Then Bill tells Jess how much Leslie loved him and thanks him "for being such a wonderful friend to her." Jess listens as Bill tells Mr. Aarons of their decision to have Leslie's body cremated and bring her ashes to the family's home in Pennsylvania. Jess rages inside that "Leslie belonged to him," but no one consulted him about what to do with her body. He resents the mourners, who he feels are crying for their own suffering, not for Leslie. He wants to punch Bill for bringing Leslie to "this rotten place." Finally his anger shifts to Leslie, who "went and died just when he needed her the most." She "made him leave his old self behind and come into her world," and now he can't go back to what he was before.

Jess runs home and punches May Belle when she eagerly asks if he saw the body. He snatches the art supplies Leslie gave him and runs to the stream. He sees the frayed rope swinging above and realizes, "I am now the fastest runner in the fifth grade." Jess screams and throws the paints and paper into the stream. His father finds him and pulls him into a hug while Jess cries and rages, "I hate her. I hate her." Then when Jess asks if Leslie will go to hell, his dad reassures him that "God ain't gonna send any little girls to hell." The entire family—even Brenda—is gentle with Jess when he and his dad get home. Bill arrives and asks Jess to watch Prince Terrien while they are gone for Leslie's funeral. Jess curls up with the dog and sleeps through the night.


When Jess first arrives at the Burkes' house, he is still numb to what has happened. He judges those crying as selfish but equally selfishly imagines how Leslie's death will improve his status at school, singling him out for positive attention. It is not surprising for Jess to be uncomfortable with the emotional displays of those around him, for he has been raised to suppress his own tender feelings because they aren't "manly." So for him to see adults mourning openly feels wrong somehow. Bill especially makes Jess uncomfortable by showing his emotions openly and giving him a long, intimate hug. Nonetheless the message he has for Jess is significant. Bill acknowledges the depth of Jess's friendship with Leslie, as if recognizing the boy's unspoken thought that Leslie "belonged to him."

Jess then shifts from the denial stage of grief to full-blown anger at everyone around him. He wants to punch Bill, but instead punches May Belle later for turning Leslie's death into macabre curiosity. Jess can't bear to have Leslie debased in such a way, even though May Belle is clearly too young to understand what she has done wrong. Jess is even angrier with Leslie, who has left him "stranded" in an unfamiliar place in life. At this point Jess already has fully opened himself to her magical way of thinking, leaving the comfort zone of his old thought patterns and ideas. Leslie challenged him to be courageous, encouraged his art and imagination, and provided him with a safe haven to be vulnerable and grow emotionally. All of these worlds are still new to Jess, and he was counting on Leslie to continue to guide him. He does not want to go back to life as it was before Leslie—lonely and dull—but he is not sure he can go forward on his own. He never imagined Leslie could leave his world so abruptly, and his rage spills over into his false assertion of "I hate her," when it is actually the circumstance of her death he hates.

These feelings are closely connected to his irrational act of throwing Leslie's gift of art supplies into the creek. It is difficult to determine a single motive for getting rid of them, but it certainly is possible he feels incapable of creativity without Leslie's presence. If she is gone, so is the world she brought to him and created with him. It is, after all, his first experience with death and he is a very young boy.

Jess's anger mingles with shame as he views the dangling rope and realizes he is now the fastest runner in the fifth grade. His father again is there when Jess needs him, providing emotional support and helping Jess release his feelings. Jess's qualms about Leslie going to hell show how deeply influenced he has been by religion, even though his family goes to church only once a year and he tunes it out. He is too young, though, to have formed a clear opinion on God and eternity, so his father's reassurance that Leslie won't go to hell comforts him. The experience of Leslie's death has provided the Aarons family with a chance to grow together and become closer, to learn to support one another emotionally. Even Brenda finally gets a clue and treats Jess more gently than she has before.

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