Bridge to Terabithia

by Katherine Paterson

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What are the similarities between the Burke and the Aarons families in Bridge to Terabithia?

In Bridge to Terabithia, similarities between the Burke and the Aarons families include that they live in the same community and are nuclear families with preadolescent children who attend the same school. Both families live in two-parent households with the adults being married heterosexual couples. The parents are hardworking, responsible providers for their children, but both families have issues with emotional connection.

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The Burkes and the Aaronses are two families that live near each other in a rural community. Both are nuclear families headed by married, heterosexual couples. Although race is not discussed, both are apparently white and of European American heritage. Each family has a preadolescent child in the fifth grade at the same public elementary school. These are Jesse Aarons and Leslie Burke. Both families include daughters: Leslie Burke is an only child, while the Aarons family has four daughters.

In both families, the parents work hard to provide for their children and to keep up their house and property. The parents’ concern for the children is shown in different ways, but in both families, there are unresolved emotional issues that influence Jesse’s and Leslie’s respective feelings of alienation—not only from their families, but also from society overall.

In both families, the parents make additional efforts to connect with their children as they realize that the emotional gap has serious dimensions and consequences. Another similarity is that in both cases, it is the father who takes more significant steps in this regard. Leslie’s father involves her in the building renovations. Jesse’s father reaches out and becomes more emotionally available to his son when he realizes how strongly Leslie’s death affected him.

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