Bridge to Terabithia

by Katherine Paterson

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How are the Burkes different from the Aarons in Bridge to Terabithia?

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In Bridge to Terabithia, the Burkes and the Aarons experience different economic class statuses and family dynamics. The Aarons's parents are burdened with economic insecurity. They struggle to make ends meet, and this burdened is felt by their children. The stress in the household also leads to much infighting between Jess and his sisters. Leslie's parents, however, are much more economically stable and middle-class. They are able to enjoy more leisure time and pursue artistic and creative pursuits. Leslie's parents are also more generally involved in her life and have a less constricting worldview. Jess's parents, conversely, are only focused on their economic situation and spend less time bonding with Jess. Jess is saddled with many chores, and the chores are divided by gender, as Jess's parents have much more conservative worldview than Leslie's parents. As a result, Jess is less confident and outgoing than Leslie, who is encouraged to express herself. Jess must hide his artistic expression due to the conservative values of his family.

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The Burkes, Leslie's parents in the novel, are the more involved of these two sets of rather self-absorbed parents in the novel Bridge to Terabithia. The Burkes are city people who have moved to the country to learn how to live a simpler, rural life. They are writers who are often involved in writing projects. Their parenting style could best be described as informal compared to the Aarons'. The Burkes share conversations with Leslie about music, literature and politics.

By comparison, the Aarons, Jess's parents, are more traditional, rural parents. Their work on the land and home consumes their time and energy. Their relationship with the children revolves around chores and what needs to be accomplished around the home. Conversation is kept at a minimum, even though Jess longs for affection and interaction from his parents. Their traditional style of parenting extends to the chores assigned around the house. Jess, the only boy, is given far more chores to do than the four sisters because all chores are assigned based on gender. Jess, as the only boy, must do all the "male" chores. 

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