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Bridge to Terabithia | Study Guide

Katherine Paterson

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Bridge to Terabithia | Chapter 5 : The Giant Killers | Summary



May Belle brings a package of Twinkies to school for lunch, a rare treat from her father. She brags about it on the bus and is overheard by seventh-grade bully Janice Avery, who later steals the Twinkies from her. May Belle runs to Jess, demanding he beat Janice up and then calling him "yeller" when he sensibly refuses. Leslie calms May Belle down and promises she and Jess will get revenge on Janice.

Later that day in Terabithia Jess and Leslie devise a plan. Leslie proposes they write a fake love note to Janice from Willard Hughes, the seventh-grade heartthrob. In the note they lay it on thick with words of love and adoration and ask Janice to meet Willard behind the school so they can walk home together. Leslie predicts—in fact, counts on it—Janice will brag to her friends about the note and will thus be humiliated.

Jess plants the note in Janice's desk while Leslie distracts Mrs. Pierce, the seventh-grade teacher. As predicted, Janice doesn't get on the bus that afternoon, and her friend Wilma Dean tells the bus driver Janice is meeting Willard. Billy Morris, a student on the bus, contradicts Wilma, having just seen Willard leaving on another bus. Wilma and Billy have a shouting match over it, and there is no doubt the story will be all over school the next day. "Poor old Janice Avery," laments Jess. When Janice gets on the bus the next day, she is fuming, and Leslie whispers the reason to May Belle. "We wrote that letter ... but you mustn't tell anyone, or she'll kill us." May Belle agrees, "her eyes shining."


While Jess and Leslie may pretend to slay giants in Terabithia, the real giants they face are people like Janice Avery—bullies who act dishonorably and target the helpless. While Jess might not stand up for himself in similar circumstances, he feels compelled to take action against Janice when she victimizes his younger sister May Belle. Here again he stands up for the underdog. Jess also loves May Belle and feels loyal to her because she is family and has demonstrated her own loyalty to him.

This incident is an opportunity for Leslie to prove her friendship, too. Leslie throws in her lot with Jess and makes his problem her own, even though she could choose to keep out of it. Leslie's cleverness is crucial to the success of their revenge: it is she who dreams up the idea, she who dictates the words of the letter, and she who distracts Mrs. Pierce at the critical moment. Jess, on the other hand, performs the physical acts of the plot, from writing the letter to stashing it in Janice's desk. Leslie is the brains of the operation, and Jess is the brawn; together they make an unbeatable team. This successful plan serves to bolster Jess's confidence, something Leslie helps him do often in the book. In addition, Jess's status as a hero in May Belle's eyes is reconfirmed when he gets revenge on her behalf. Leslie also lifts up May Belle by letting her in on the secret and making her feel like one of the gang for a change.

Still Jess can't help but feel compassion for "poor old Janice Avery" and regret at what they've done when Janice faces humiliation from the other students. Jess has been there himself, and it makes him squirm to see anyone suffer in such a way, even an unbearable bully like Janice. He knows somehow that even giants have feelings, and that no one is all bad. Leslie can't understand Jess's point of view and insists Janice deserves the punishment. On this issue Jess is more mature and more humane than Leslie and is able to see Janice's humanity despite her history as a villain.

Conformity and fitting in are again important themes in this chapter, but this time for Janice. Janice is mocked by her classmates for being overweight; she doesn't fit their notion of what an ideal female should look like. These children don't yet understand the psychological reasons that may cause a person to overeat, so they judge her rather than feel compassion or try to help.

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