In Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, what is the problem and solution found in chapter 8?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Chapter eight of Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson is entitled "Easter," and at first it seems as if the biggest problem the Aarons family has to face is whether or not they will be getting new clothes for the holiday. This is the one time each year the family traditionally buys one new outfit; however, father has been laid off and there is no money for anything new, including new Easter clothes.

Eventually they come to a bit of a compromise on the new clothes (at least the girls do), and of course the Aarons family will be going to church. Leslie Burke comes to visit Jess and end up rather inviting herself to attend church with his family. Jess finds it difficult to believe she really wants to go to church (something he finds quite boring), and his mother is worried that Leslie will be an embarrassment to his family by how she dresses. In truth, Leslie is much more classy and beautiful than either of Jess's older sisters who are described asĀ 

a pair of peacocks with fake tail feathers.

After church, Leslie says she really enjoyed the service and finds the "whole Jesus thing" quite interesting. The discussion which ensues would probably be considered the primary problem in this chapter of the novel.

Leslie was moved by the story of a man, Jesus, who had never harmed anyone, yet everyone wanted to kill him. She says:

"It's really kind of a beautiful story-like Abraham Lincoln or Socrates--or Aslan."

Jess and his sisters do not agree with Leslie's assessment. They assert that Jesus's death is "scary" rather than beautiful, as he had nails pounded through his hands. Even more, the girls continue, saying:

"It's because we're all vile sinners God made Jesus die."

This is the crux of the problem. While the Aarons children have been taught what might seem like a hard truth as it is clearly stated in the Bible, Leslie does not think this could be true. May Belle insists that

"if you don't believe the Bible" - May Belle's eyes were huge - "God'll damn you to hell when you die."

Leslie listens politely but is not deterred from her position that God would never do such a drastic and dire thing. She does not believe God would really

"go around damning people to hell."

Jess and Leslie share a quiet moment which suggests that Jess might believe--or at least might want to believe--as Leslie does. May Belle is distraught, however, because she is afraid of what might happen to Leslie if she were to die. In fact, she is worried enough to ask the question twice, demonstrating her genuine concern for Leslie's eternal soul.

That is the problem; the solution is not so clear. The problem is one of belief, and the Aarons's beliefs about God do not coincide with Leslie's beliefs about Him. The only real solution is for one of them to change their beliefs, but of course that does not happen in this chapter. Instead, we have to be content with Jess and Leslie's tacit agreement to simply disagree--though May Belle does not appear to accept that option.

For more valuable insights and analysis about this popular novel, check out the excellent eNotes websites linked below.

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