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Bridge to Terabithia

by Katherine Paterson

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Discussion Topic

Character relationships and feelings in Bridge to Terabithia


Bridge to Terabithia explores complex relationships and feelings among its characters. Jess Aarons and Leslie Burke form a deep, transformative friendship, finding solace and creativity in their imaginary kingdom of Terabithia. Jess's initial jealousy turns to admiration and love, while Leslie's adventurous spirit helps Jess grow emotionally. The story also delves into themes of loss, grief, and healing following Leslie's tragic death.

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How does Jess feel about Leslie's father during the house renovations in Bridge to Terabithia?

When Leslie and her dad first start working on renovations to their house, Jesse feels awkward and uncomfortable around Bill (Leslie's dad, otherwise known as Mr. Burke) and even feels a kind of vague dislike toward him.

The main source of all these negative feelings toward Mr. Burke is that he's taking up Leslie's time, making Jesse feel jealous. Jesse would much rather be playing with Leslie, having fun in Terabithia together, but instead she's busy with her dad. For that reason, Jesse resents Mr. Burke. We can understand his feelings: we'd also be annoyed if someone took away our best friend, resulting in our own boredom and loneliness.

Another reason for Jesse's awkward, slightly angry feelings toward Bill is that he can't understand why Leslie is so interested in spending quality time with and getting to know her dad. It's sad to realize this, but Jesse barely has a relationship with his own dad, so he doesn't understand it's normal to hang out with your parents and learn more about them. Deep down, then, Jesse may be feeling jealous of the mutual affection between Leslie and her dad. Jesse would love to have more approval and attention from his own dad; since he doesn't, it makes him vaguely unhappy to see Leslie bonding so well with her dad.

Happily, the tension between Jesse and Leslie's dad resolves itself when the two men get to know each other as Jesse joins the Burkes to work on the home renovation projects with them. It's the perfect solution: Jesse gets to hang out with his best friend Leslie again, and Jesse also gets to know Leslie's dad well enough that he no longer feels angry or awkward around him.

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What are Jess's family's feelings towards Leslie in Bridge to Terabithia?

In general, Jess's family does not have a big problem with Jess being friends with Leslie. That does not mean they are all completely supportive of Jess, though. Jess's dad is probably the least supportive of the friendship. He has some fairly archaic ideas about how boys and girls should associate. He also doesn't like how Leslie tends to pull his only son away from doing "manly" things. Brenda and Ellie don't seem to have a problem with Jess and Leslie being friends, either. They tease Jess a lot about it, but I don't believe that means they are against the friendship. I would say that they like that Jess and Leslie hang out together because it gives Brenda and Ellie the opportunity to tease Jess more. May Belle is the most positive about the friendship between Jess and Leslie. That's why she is always trying to tag along and find out what they do together in the woods.

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In Bridge to Terabithia, what feelings do Jess and Leslie share regarding other people?

Clearly there are a number of things that unite Jess and Leslie in this excellent short story. One of the key elements is the way that they are both "outsiders" in the school community. Jess is an outsider because of the poverty of his family - it is clear that he is not accepted in his school, whereas Jess is an outsider because she has just moved into this community and she is very obviously different. As Jess and Leslie embark on their journey of the imagination into the kingdom of Terabithia, this serves to isolate them from the rest of their peers as they share this game together. It is interesting that the only person they both have respect for is the beautiful Miss Edmunds. Of course, it is highly significant that at the end of the story Jess is able to share Terabithia with his younger sister - perhaps reflecting a greater maturity and willingness to share this childhood game with others.

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