Bridge to Terabithia

by Katherine Paterson

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What happened when Jess tried to go to Terabithia alone in Bridge to Terabithia?

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When Jess goes to Terabithia alone for the first time after Leslie's death, he finds that the creek has fallen well below the level at which it had been the last time he saw it. The rope he and Leslie used to swing across it into their magic land is gone, of course, but there is a large branch which has washed up into the bank, and Jess hauls this to the narrowest place on the creek to use as a bridge. Stepping carefully across foot by foot, he lands a little upstream from Terabithia. P.T. paddles across the water to join him, and the two, boy and dog, enter the castle stronghold together.

At first, Jess is angry, because he does not know what to do to make the magic come alive like it did when he was with Leslie, but after thinking about her awhile, he is inspired to make "a funeral wreath for the queen." Entwining spring beauties into a pine bough, he fashions a fitting wreath, and lays it in the sacred grove in Leslie's memory. Jess experiences a sense of closure with this action, and "a tiny peace wing(s) its way through the chaos inside his body."

Suddenly Jess hears May Belle crying out, "Help! Jesse! Help me!" She had followed Jess and was stuck on the branch laid across the creek, too afraid to move backward or forward. Jess goes over and helps her get back to the other side, showing a gentleness and sensitivity to his little sister that he had not had the maturity to show before. Jess' experiences with Leslie, and the tragic reality of her death, have been an important catalyst in his growing up and coming of age (Chapter 13).

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