What does Mr. Aarons tell Jess is the cause of Leslie's death in Bridge to Terabithia?

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The answer to this question can be found at the very beginning of chapter 11. Chapter 10 finishes with Jess being told that his best friend is dead, and chapter 11 begins with Mr. Aarons trying to gently explain to Jess what happened. It's​ actually quite important that Mr. Aarons...

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The answer to this question can be found at the very beginning of chapter 11. Chapter 10 finishes with Jess being told that his best friend is dead, and chapter 11 begins with Mr. Aarons trying to gently explain to Jess what happened. It's​ actually quite important that Mr. Aarons is the person doing this, because it shows that he really does understand and support Jess and his friendship with Leslie. Jess's dad explains that Leslie's body was found down in the creek. Jess flatly denies any possibility of drowning, because she was a strong swimmer. Mr. Aarons then explains that "they" think she must have hit her head on something on the way down after the rope broke. Readers are meant to assume that Leslie drowned in the river because she was unconscious; however, I do want to stress that we aren't given a confirmed cause of death. It isn't necessary for the purpose of the story. Leslie is dead, and that devastating fact remains the same no matter how she died.

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Mr. Aarons tells Jess that Leslie's body has been found "down in the creek". Jess argues that Leslie could not have drowned, because "she could swim real good", but Mr. Aarons explains that "that old rope you kids been swinging on broke", and that Leslie "musta hit her head on something when she fell". Leslie then would have been dazed or unconscious when she fell into the swollen river, and thus would have drowned (Chapter 11).

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Mr. Aarons has some incredibly sad news to tell his son: Jess's best friend Leslie is dead, her lifeless body found in a creek. It appears that she has drowned. As well as being utterly distraught at the news, Jess is in denial; he simply can't believe what's happened. For one thing, he knows that Leslie was a strong swimmer, so how on earth could she possibly have drowned? But Mr. Aarons figures that Leslie must have been swinging across the creek on a rope and that the rope snapped, causing her to fall. She then must have hit her head on a rock, knocking her out immediately. That's how she came to be drowned. It would appear that Leslie's fearlessness and lack of conformity, the very qualities that drew Jess to her in the first place, have ultimately proved her undoing.

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