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Bridge to Terabithia

by Katherine Paterson

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Student Question

In Bridge to Terabithia, how did Jess's father react to his son's aspiration to become an artist?

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Jess's father reacted angrily when his son told him that he wanted to be an artist.  Jess had only been in the first grade and "he had told his dad that he wanted to be an artist when he grew up".  Jess had thought his dad would have been happy for him, but instead, he had said,

"What are they teaching in that damn school?  Bunch of old ladies turning my only son into some kind of a ---".

Jess's father hadn't said the word, but Jess had known what he meant.  Jess's dad wants his son to grow up like him, with stong masculine characteristics.  To him, drawing is a girl's interest, and he had not been pleased when his son expressed and interest to be an artist when he grew up.  Jess's dad does not want a "bunch of old ladies" turning his son into a sissy. 

Drawing is something that Jess dearly loves to do; he draws "the way some people drink whisky".  When Jess draws, he feels a sense of peace, which "would start at the top of his muddled brain and seep down through his tired and tensed-up body".  Jess likes to draw animals, crazy, imaginative ones, and he would love to share his drawings with his dad, but he doesn't dare, and his teachers don't approve of his drawing either, because, in their eyes, it keeps him from focusing on the more important area of their assigned classwork.  Jess's naturally artistic nature is something that he must keep hidden from most of the other people in his life.

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