Bridge to Terabithia | Study Guide

Katherine Paterson

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Course Hero. "Bridge to Terabithia Study Guide." Course Hero. 11 May 2017. Web. 18 Dec. 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 18, 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 18, 2017, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Bridge-to-Terabithia/.

Bridge to Terabithia | Chapter 8 : Easter | Summary

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Summary

March is unusually rainy, causing the dry creek bed to swell with water. The Aarons family prepares for Easter, the only time they attend church during the year. Brenda and Ellie whine about wanting new clothes, which Momma usually buys for the occasion. However, Mr. Aarons loses his job, making money tighter than ever. Jess escapes from the tense household by going to milk Miss Bessie, and Leslie arrives to keep him company. Much to Jess's surprise, she asks to go along with his family to Easter services. Jess warns her she can't wear pants, and she sasses back, "I've got some dresses, Jess Aarons." He squirts her in the mouth with Miss Bessie's milk, and they laugh and horse around until Mr. Aarons appears. Leslie slips away, leaving Jess to finish his chores.

The girls get new clothes after all, but Jess gets nothing. He uses this slight as "a little bargaining power with his mother" to get her to agree to Leslie attending church with them. Momma fears Leslie will look down on their family but nevertheless agrees. Leslie accompanies them, on her best behavior and wearing a dress. The service bores Jess, who "could tune it out the same way he tuned out school," but Leslie enjoys it. "It was better than a movie," she says, explaining she finds Jesus's story interesting and beautiful.

May Belle is horrified; she thinks the crucifixion story is "scary," not beautiful. Jess chimes in Jesus died because people are all sinners, and Leslie asks if he really believes that. Shocked, Jess replies, "It's in the Bible, Leslie." May Belle gets upset, insisting people who don't believe in the Bible will be damned to hell. Leslie doesn't believe it, and says so. Still distraught May Belle asks Leslie, "What if you die? ... What's going to happen if you die?"

Analysis

As usual Jess is overlooked when it comes to money in the family. His sisters get new clothes, and he gets nothing. Jess doesn't care about the clothes, however, and turns the situation to his advantage by getting Momma to agree to bring Leslie to church. The narrator reveals a few personal details about Momma here, particularly that she is afraid of being judged by people in the community. She gets new clothes for the girls so "she wouldn't be embarrassed by how her family looked," and she fears Leslie may act snobbishly toward her family. Momma is quite sensitive about others' judgments, showing sadness rather than anger at the family's poverty. These fears touch on the theme of conformity; Momma wants her family to look a certain way so that they fit in and are respected within the community. However, her fears regarding Leslie show her lack of understanding of the girl, who is respectful and anything but snobbish. Perhaps because the Burkes are so far out of Momma's league, she cannot imagine anyone who would behave differently from people with whom she is more familiar.

Jess is surprised by Leslie's interest in going to church, but with her curious nature and love of learning, he shouldn't be surprised at all. Religion is new to Leslie; she has had no exposure to it because her parents are not religious. But spirituality is something to which Leslie is drawn; her version is made up as she goes along, including calling on "spirits" and dreaming up quasi-religious rituals in the "sacred grove" of Terabithia.

Because Leslie hasn't been raised with religious dogma, she open-mindedly and respectfully views the church outing as entertainment or as an opportunity to learn. To her it is "better than a movie" because it is a real-life experience. Leslie easily dismisses any religious notions that seem unbelievable, unrealistic, or illogical, such as the idea that nonbelievers will go to hell. This sentiment is shocking to May Belle, who has never been in contact with a person who questions religion. After all, everyone in her family and in the community believes in the Bible and conforms to religious expectations.

The author's choice of Easter is significant, as its central story revolves around Jesus dying. Leslie finds the Easter narrative "a beautiful story—like Abraham Lincoln or Socrates," evaluating it as she would a literary work or historical event she would encounter in her reading. May Belle is again shocked at Leslie's reaction, for in her six-year-old mind the crucifixion is frightening and the story not at all "beautiful" from a literary standpoint. The choice of this holiday foreshadows later events of the story—death and renewal—as do May Belle's disturbing questions about what will happen if Leslie dies.

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