Bridge to Terabithia

by Katherine Paterson

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What are the differences between the fathers of Jess and Leslie in Bridge to Terabithia?

Quick answer:

The differences between Jess's and Leslie's fathers include the fact that Leslie's father is named while Jess's father is referred to simply as Mr. Aarons. Jess's father is more old-fashioned than Leslie's father and less adept at showing love. Mr. Aarons is more traditional than Bill Burke, adhering to rituals such as an annual trip to church.

Expert Answers

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The first thing to point out is that Leslie’s dad is far more developed as a character than Jess’s dad is. While we never even learn the first name of Jess’s father, who is referred to simply as Mr. Aarons, we know that Leslie’s father is called Bill.

Mr. Aarons has old-fashioned ideas about gender roles, and Jess is given far more work to do around the farm than his sisters purely because he is a boy. We are given the impression that Mr. Aarons may love his daughters more than he loves Jess. Bill Burke, on the other hand, seems to be a particularly progressive parent. Leslie addresses him and his wife by their first names, and they seem to allow her to make her own decisions about how she expresses herself.

Another poignant difference comes to light when Jess starts working on the old Perkins place with the Burkes. When he is able to do things that Leslie’s father cannot, he receives genuine praise and is made to feel like he is making a difference. It is apparent that Jess has not felt these sentiments at home from his own father. Bill Burke thus appears to be far more approachable than Mr. Aarons.

While Mr. Aarons and his wife adhere to certain traditions, like an annual trip to church for Easter, Bill Burke and his wife have never taken their daughter to church.

Ultimately, when tragedy strikes, it is apparent that the two fathers have one thing in common: they care deeply for their children, even though they have different ways of expressing themselves.

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