Bridge to Terabithia Questions and Answers
by Katherine Paterson

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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 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...

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