Why did Gary Fulcher tell Leslie to go back to play hopscotch in "Bridge to Terabithia"?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gary Fulcher tells Leslie to go back and to play hopscotch because she is a girl, and in his mind, girls do not play real sports; like the little kids, they only play games like hopscotch.

Gary Fulcher thinks he's pretty important.  Now that Wayne Pettis is in the sixth grade and would be playing football and baseball with "the rest of the big guys", Gary wants to take his coveted place as the fastest runner in the third, fourth and fifth grades (Chapter 1).  The thought that someone else might beat him has not crossed his mind, and the idea that it might be a girl is unthinkable.  Gary does not disguise his narrow view of the schoolyard hierarchy, taking charge of the races and unceremoniously prohibiting the younger kids who want to run from taking part because they "will just be in the way".  Bossing everyone around as he does, he sounds for all the world "like this year's Wayne Pettis".

Gary thinks the races should only be for the best male athletes, with himself, of course, on top.  He is scornful when Leslie expresses her desire to participate, but is shamed into letting her try by Jess.  When it is clear that Leslie can run faster than any of the boys, he has an added incentive to make sure she does not run again - she might beat him, and that would be the ultimate humiliation.  Trying "to appear very much in charge" after her first race, he patronizes her, saying dismissively, "OK, you had your fun...you can run on up to the hopscotch now" (Chapter 3).