Bridge to Terabithia

by Katherine Paterson

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Compare the reactions of Jess and Leslie to the Easter church service. How does each reaction expand and bridge your understanding of the character?

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Jess is bored by the service because it always seemed to be the same. He tuned it out like he did his school lessons and let his mind float free. He was embarrased bythe way his sisters were dressed and their attitude that they were there to be seen and admired. Because he paid no attention to the service, he jumped when the preacher raised his voice. Yet, when he and Leslie discuss the service, he defends what the Bible says. Leslie found the service interesting. She was most impressed by Jesus dying for our sins. Leslie had not read the Bible, and MayBell told her she would die and go to Hell because she wasn't a believer in the good book.

Jess does not show true belief in his church. He merely accepts what is said and repeats it as if it is his doctrine. He is not a free thinker like Leslie, but blindly accepts what society tells him. Leslie and her family are free thinkers who do not attend church. Yet, Leslie found the story of Jesus to be beautiful and sad at the same time. She couldn't reconcile these two conflicting feelings. The scene merely reinforces what the reader suspects about the two. Jess is a conformist while Leslie, being a free-thinker ponders what is said about religion. Their association will result in a little of Leslie rubbing off on Jess which is shown at the end of the novel.

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When Leslie accompanies Jess and his family to the Easter church service, the two friends react quite differently. Jess has lived in their small, working-class town his whole life, and has been raised in the church. Leslie, whose family has just recently moved into town, obviously comes from a more secular background. It seems she has rarely, if ever, attended a church service, and finds the whole thing fascinating, like attending a festival.

Jess and his sister May Belle are puzzled by Leslie's reaction. May Belle in particular becomes distressed when she learns that Leslie does not believe the Bible, saying, "'Cause if you don't believe the Bible...God'll damn you to hell when you die." And in a clever bit of foreshadowing, the chapter ends with May Belle's plaintive question to Leslie, "But Leslie..What if you die? What's going to happen to you if you die?"

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