Themes and Characters

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Bridge to Terabithia has three groups of characters: the Burkes, the Aarons family, and the significant teachers and students of Lark Creek Elementary School.

Jess Aarons, the most important character in the story and the one who determines the location of action, is the middle child between four girls. Two, Brenda and Ellie, are selfish adolescents used to getting around their mother. The other two, Joyce Ann and May Belle, are younger and look up to him. Jess is the victim of his older sisters and the protector of the younger, particularly May Belle. Mrs. Aarons seems worn out from children, work, and poverty, and she makes the mistake, as her husband does also, of separating chores into men's work and women's work. Jess, outnumbered, performs most of the chores around the farm, especially in the absence of his father. Jess would like a closer relationship to his father, but overwork and worries about money exhaust Mr. Aarons. Only when Jess is in desperate need, after the death of Leslie, do his parents show the care that they have not given him because of their fatigue and carelessness. Mr. Aarons is especially effective in finding the gestures and words that comfort Jess's overwhelming grief over Leslie.

Leslie Burke's parents are very intelligent but not always as responsible as they should be. Moving to the country to absorb by osmosis the rural virtues of simple living, Judy and Bill remain absorbed in their writing. Only when Bill finishes his co-authored book on politics and begins to fix up the old farmhouse does the relationship between him and his daughter flower. Leslie is hungry for the talk and the shared work; she appears to need from her father what Jess needs from his. The books and music, the awareness of a larger world that Jess, who helps in the work on the...

(The entire section is 740 words.)