Bridge to Terabithia

by Katherine Paterson

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In Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia, what is Jess's relationship with his father?

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Point: Jesse and his father do not have much of a relationship, but the relationship that they do have is not terrible. I don't want to make it seem like the relationship is dangerous, inappropriate, or abusive. It's not.

Evidence: The reason that there isn't much of a relationship is because Mr. Aarons is not home much. He leaves early for work and returns home late. He doesn't make a lot of money and must work long hours far from home to support his five children. That means he doesn't have a lot of time or energy to spend with Jesse. Consequently, Jesse longs for any time he can spend with his father. He wants more than anything to make his dad feel proud of him, which he thinks in the following passage of the novel:  

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.

There is a small problem with the relationship that goes beyond not spending enough time together. The "problem" is that Jesse loves to draw and do art. He is not interested in football or driving trucks like other boys his age. Mr. Aarons isn't supportive of Jesse's talent. He doesn't see how it is a useful skill; therefore, Jesse is scared to show his father his real talents and interests.  

When he was in first grade, he had told his dad that he wanted to be an artist when he grew up. He'd thought his dad would be pleased. He wasn't. "What are they teaching in that damn school?" he had asked. "Bunch of old ladies turning my only son into some kind of a..." He had stopped on the word, but Jess had gotten the message. It was one you didn't forget, even after four years.

Explanation: The two already don't spend enough time together, but the relationship is made tougher by Jesse having to hide parts of his true self. 

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