Bridge to Terabithia

by Katherine Paterson

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Chapter 8 Summary

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It is a very rainy March, and for the first time in many years, the creek bed over which Leslie and Jesse swing to get to Terabithia is filled with swiftly rushing water. Easter is coming, and Ellie and Brenda are already arguing about what they will wear to church. The Aaronses only go to church once a year, and Momma always tries to put aside enough money so that the family will be able to get new clothes for the occasion. This year, however, Mr. Aarons gets laid off from his job, so there is no money for new outfits for anyone.

Ellie and Brenda complain bitterly about having nothing to wear. Ellie suggests that they charge some items, and Brenda says that some people routinely buy clothes that way, wear it once, and return it afterward. Mr. Aarons is furious that his daughters would even think of doing such a thing and hollers at them to be quiet. Jesse is happy to take refuge from the bedlam in the house by going out to the cow shed, where Leslie meets him.

Leslie commiserates with Jesse when he tells her what is going on with his family. She mentions that she has never been to church before and expresses a desire to go. Jesse says that church is boring and that she would hate it, but Leslie says she would like to see for herself. Jesse, who is milking the cow, squirts a warm stream of milk across the shed directly into Leslie’s mouth; as the two are overcome with giggles, Jesse’s father comes in and disapprovingly tells him to finish the milking and come back into the house.

Ellie and Brenda manage to talk their parents into letting them get just one new item each to wear to church. There is definitely no money for Jesse to receive something like his sisters, so he takes advantage of his improved bargaining power and asks if he can bring Leslie to church. Momma tries to find an excuse to say no and points out that Leslie, who always wears shorts or jeans, does not “dress right.” Jesse assures her that Leslie has lots of dresses. On Easter morning, Leslie comes to the house wearing “a navy-blue jumper over a blouse with tiny old-fashioned-looking flowers.” Her appearance and manner are more than decent, in contrast to Ellie and Brenda, who are dressed “like a pair of peacocks” and are as disagreeable as ever.

Ellie and Brenda insist on sitting in the front of the family’s pickup truck with their parents, so Leslie, Jess, and the little girls ride happily in the back. On the way, the two older children sing songs to entertain May Belle and Joyce Ann. The Aaronses arrive at church a little late, and Brenda and Ellie flounce down the aisle, making sure everyone notices them. Jesse is disgusted and reflects on the irony that his mother had been worried that Leslie, who has been completely polite and decorous, would be the one who would embarrass them. Although Jesse is predictably bored during the service, Leslie listens intently to the preacher and sings the hymns.

On the ride home, Leslie muses that the “whole Jesus thing is really interesting” and compares him to “Lincoln, or Socrates—or Aslan.” Leslie thinks the story of Jesus is beautiful, but May Belle thinks it is scary, and Jesse points out, “It’s because we’re all vile sinners God made Jesus die.” Leslie expresses doubt that this is true, and Jesse and May Belle are shocked, asserting, “It’s in the Bible.” May Belle tells Leslie that if she doesn’t believe in the Bible, she will go to hell when she dies. Leslie questions whether Jesse has even read the Bible, and Jesse says that he has read most of it, sheepishly admitting that “S’bout the only book we got around our place.” May Belle persists in asking worriedly, “But Leslie...what’s going to happen to you if you die?” Leslie cannot believe that “God goes around damning people to hell.”

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