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Bridge to Terabithia | Study Guide

Katherine Paterson

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Course Hero. "Bridge to Terabithia Study Guide." May 11, 2017. Accessed June 7, 2023.


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Bridge to Terabithia | Quotes


He could be the fastest runner in the fifth grade ... The very best.

Narrator, Chapter 1

Jess has never had much to be proud of and often doubts his own worth. He is ambitious to prove himself and gain admiration, both from his classmates and his family. He sets a goal for himself and works hard to achieve it.


Jess drew the way some people drink whiskey ... Lord, he loved to draw.

Narrator, Chapter 2

For Jess, drawing is more than a pleasurable means of escape from his life of hard work and poverty. It gives him peace and helps him relax, for it is as natural to him as breathing. Like drinking whiskey, it spreads calm as soon as he begins.

Many people consider Jess's hobby a waste of time at best, a bad habit, at worst. Most of Jess's family, classmates, and teachers do not support his love of art and dismiss it as useless when he could and should be engaged in doing work or more "masculine" pursuits.


Durn lucky kid. She could run after him and grab him and kiss him.

Narrator, Chapter 2

Jess envies the easy affection between his father and May Belle, while he himself has never received this kind of physical affection from either parent. Jess is treated differently because he is male. Even though Jess is still just a boy, his father expects him to "be a man" and is uncomfortable with signs of "softness" in his son.


You ain't scared to let a girl race are you, Fulcher?

Jess, Chapter 3

Jess directly challenges the authority of his bossy classmate, Gary Fulcher. Jess himself is not afraid to race Leslie because he feels confident he can beat anyone. He has no clue Leslie is a real threat to his ambition of being the fastest runner in fifth grade and draws her into the race mostly as a means of annoying Gary. Gender roles are also at play here, as the boys and girls of the class have always played separately during recess; bringing Leslie into the footraces challenges this status quo.


There in the shadowy light of the stronghold everything seemed possible.

Narrator, Chapter 4

Jess and Leslie, now friends, have created a special place all their own, Terabithia. In this place of make-believe, no enemy can touch them, and the magical or fantastic seems real. Leslie's vast imagination and confidence in both herself and him lights a fire within Jess. He starts to believe in himself more through their imaginative play, and Leslie encourages him every step of the way.


Jess tried going to Terabithia alone, but it was no good. It needed Leslie.

Narrator, Chapter 7

When Leslie becomes absorbed in helping her father at home, she doesn't have the time to go to Terabithia. For Jess the magic of Terabithia doesn't exist outside of its connection with Leslie; he is dependent on her imagination and leadership in their shared venture. He has not yet learned to create the magic himself because he lacks the self-confidence to do so.


Terabithia was still just for the two of them.

Narrator, Chapter 7

For Jess, having a magical land to escape to has been a much-needed safe zone where he can play and be imaginative without judgment. It is important to him that Terabithia remain a secret between him and Leslie because he does not want anyone to ruin the magic they have created. Jess is relieved Leslie has not told her parents about their secret, even though she generally tells them everything. She has proven to be a loyal friend, worthy of Jess's trust.


Janice ... had given him nothing but trouble, and now he was feeling responsible for her.

Narrator, Chapter 7

Jess feels compassion for Janice Avery, a bully who has tormented not only his classmates but also his sister May Belle. He seems to regret the role he has played in creating unhappiness for Janice, and he feels empathy for her even though she has been his "enemy." Jess proves his kindness and humanity when he encourages Leslie to help the girl during her suffering.


Whoever heard of a king who was scared of ... a little bit of water?

Narrator, Chapter 9

Jess feels ashamed he is afraid of crossing the rushing stream to Terabithia and would rather be safe at home watching TV. Throughout the story he puts himself down for his lack of courage and has to talk himself into doing the things he fears. Moreover, he doesn't give himself credit when he does take actions that defy his fears. Instead he usually feels disgusted with himself for being afraid.


He picked Jess up in his arms as though he were a baby.

Narrator, Chapter 11

Jess takes off running when he learns of Leslie's death, and his father comes to the rescue. Finally Mr. Aarons shows some of the compassion and physical affection Jess has been longing for his entire life. While their relationship has been uncomfortable and unemotional for the most part, this moment is a breakthrough that offers hope for a better future for them both.


It had been so dumb of him not to ask if Leslie could go, too.

Narrator, Chapter 11

On the day of Leslie's death Jess goes to Washington with Miss Edmunds and has the time of his life. When he returns and hears the shocking news, he feels deeply guilty and falls into a state of denial. He believes he might have prevented Leslie's death if he had invited her to Washington, but he suppresses the thought. Instead he pretends she is still alive and he will apologize for not inviting her on the outing.


Thank you for being such a wonderful friend to her.

Bill, Chapter 12

Jess has never felt much worth in himself, nor has he been recognized much by others for his good qualities. Bill reaches out to him through his own deep grief to let Jess know he has been greatly valued by their family. Up to this point Jess has felt he has benefited most from Leslie's friendship, but Bill makes it clear Leslie benefited from Jess, too. Bill also shows respect and appreciation for Jess in making this statement—recognizing that Jess's grief is as real as his own and that Jess needs comfort, too.


She had made him leave his old self behind and come into her world.

Narrator, Chapter 12

No longer in denial over Leslie's death, Jess now experiences anger. He blames Leslie for shaking up his world and then leaving him before he knows how to put the pieces back together. He doesn't feel ready to exist in Leslie's world of magic and possibility without her support, but he can't return to the life he led before. His world has changed, and there is no going back.


I just wanted to find you, so you wouldn't be so lonesome.

May Belle, Chapter 13

May Belle shows courage and love when she breaks her promise and risks Jess's anger by following him to Terabithia. Even though she is afraid to cross the bridge, she tries to do so anyway to reach her brother and offer comfort. She is worried about him and wants to help him through this difficult time.


Everybody gets scared sometimes, May Belle. You don't have to be ashamed.

Jess, Chapter 13

Jess shows he has grown as a person when he rescues May Belle, paralyzed by fear on the bridge. He has learned fear does not make anyone less of a person, and being afraid is a normal part of life for everyone. Jess sees there is honor in acting bravely despite fear, and he passes on this wisdom to reassure his sister.

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