Bridge to Terabithia

by Katherine Paterson

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How does Jess interact with his family members in Bridge to Terabithia?

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Jessie is the middle child and the only boy in his family, "smashed between four sisters...the older two had despised (him) ever since (he) stopped letting them dress (him) up and wheel (him) around in their rusty old doll carriage, and the littlest one cried if you looked at her cross-eyed".  He is tormented by Brenda and Ellie, who are spoiled adolescents, and ends up picking up the slack for the work they won't do, and Joyce Ann, the baby, just annoys him.  He is closest to May Belle, who, "going on seven...worshipped him" (Chapter 1).

Jessie's parents, exhausted and preoccupied with financial worries, don't have much time for him.  His mother heaps the bulk of responsibility for chores onto his shoulders, and his father is distant.  Jessie longs for a better relationship with him, wishing he were little like Joyce Ann and May Belle so his father would show affection to him - "it seemed...that he had been thought too big for that since the day he was born" (Chapter 2) .  When Jessie is in desperate need after Leslie's death, however, his parents, especially his father, are there for him.

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Jesse is outnumbered 3:1 with sister in his family.  His mother is overly tired from a number of things, but to name a few--her kids, her work, her poverty, and life in general.  She neglects the children, and especially Jesse.

The father isn't much different.  He worries about money and neglects the children as well--after all, this is woman's work.

The chores are divided by male and female roles, which means Jesse does the majority of the chores while his sisters have more of a childhood.

This is why Jesse latches onto Leslie and her vivid imagination, and also why he neglects to invite Leslie to the museum with their teacher which leads to Leslie's death.

Only after Leslie's death does Jesse get the care and concern his parents have neglected to give him because of all the weight of their own worries.

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Jess is a bit of an outcast in his family.  He is not the typical boy of the time, being more interested in art than he is in farming.  He is withdrawn and misunderstood by his parents, particularly his father.  He is the only boy and is relied upon to care for his two younger sisters and for the farm chores.  His two older sisters, adolescents concerned with social status, ridicule and/or ignore him.  His friendship with Leslie in part springs from a need to feel that he has an ally in the world.

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