In Bridge to Terabithia, why does Jesse feel that he has to be “the fastest kid in the fifth grade”? How does he prepare for this goal?

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Jess wants to be the fastest runner for several reasons, and readers should look to chapter one for textual evidence. I think one reason is a simple old-fashioned competitive drive. The desire to be the biggest, strongest, fastest, etc. is something that competitive kids and athletes share. Jess has this...

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Jess wants to be the fastest runner for several reasons, and readers should look to chapter one for textual evidence. I think one reason is a simple old-fashioned competitive drive. The desire to be the biggest, strongest, fastest, etc. is something that competitive kids and athletes share. Jess has this drive. Being one step down on the podium is not something he strives for.

He had to be the fastest—not one of the fastest or next to the fastest, but the fastest. The very best.

Second, Jess is good at running, and he knows it. Running gives him a chance to show that he is athletically talented at something. Plus, Jess likes the feeling of winning. Nobody likes losing, but some people aren't too bothered by it. Some people are like that about winning too. Winning is nice, but it doesn't make or break their day. Jess isn't like that. Winning really makes him feel good.

One time last year Jesse had won. Not just the first heat but the whole shebang. Only once. But it had put into his mouth a taste for winning.

Finally, and most importantly, Jess wants to win to impress his father. Jess feels that his dad is disappointed in Jess's desire to draw and do art related stuff. By being the fastest runner, Jess can prove to his dad that he has athletic talent.

Even his dad would be proud. Jess rounded the corner. He couldn't keep going quite so fast, but he continued running for a while—it would build him up. May Belle would tell Daddy, so it wouldn't look as though he, Jess, was a bragger.

Maybe Dad would be so proud he'd forget all about how tired he was from the long drive back and forth to Washington and the digging and hauling all day. He would get right down on the floor and wrestle, the way they used to. Old Dad would be surprised at how strong he'd gotten in the last couple of years.

Jess prepares himself to meet his goal like any other athlete. He practices, and he practices hard even if it means waking up earlier than normal.

His body was begging him to quit, but Jess pushed it on. He had to let that puny chest of his know who was boss.

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If we look in Chapter 1, we see several reasons for Jess's intense desire to be the fastest runner in the fifth grade:

1. Since there's not a lot of playground equipment and the older kids in sixth grade and above tend to grab it first, running is THE thing among the younger kids. It's major, and Jess wants to be a part of it.

2. When he won one race the previous year, it gave him a taste for winning. People talked about him all day, and for once he was known as someone who had bested the others--someone who was a winner, not just a shy kid who draws a lot.

3. He's excited to think that the younger kids at school, and his sisters, and his father will all be proud of him. Jess fantasizes about how those younger students will look up to him once he's known as the fastest kid in the fifth grade.

He thinks he can make this goal happen because of two things: his long legs, and his grit.

We see evidence of that grit as Chapter 1 continues: to work toward this goal of being the fastest in his grade, Jess gets up early every single morning throughout the summer before fifth grade and practices running. He sneaks out of the house while everyone else is sleeping, crouches down, and takes off with a bang, running as fast and hard as he possibly can, until he's soaked in sweat...even though he knows he'll also have to do his chores in the hot sun later on. And even when his body seems to be telling him to quit, he keeps going. That's grit!

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