All children can relate in someway to Katherine Patterson’s Newberry Medal-winning children’s novel, Bridge to Terabithia. The characters are realistic people who could be one’s next door neighbors. From the shy and demure Jess to the vivacious and carefree Leslie, every kid can relate to one of the characters in this novel. The themes in this novel vary as much as the characters. Bridge to Terabithia is a good coming-of-age book that captures our imaginations and our hearts.
Bridge to Terabithia is a story about a lonely boy, Jess Aarons, who grows up in a house where he is the only boy surrounded by four sisters and his mother. His father is there but always gone either working or looking for work. His greatest hope is to become the fastest runner in the fifth grade. All summer long he practices running but on the first day of school, he gets beat by the new girl, Leslie Burke. At first, she repels him. However, they soon become inseparable. Leslie and Jess are complete opposites. Jess is scared of a lot but Leslie is fearless. Leslie has imagination and inspiration and Jess envies that. Leslie’s family has money and gets along. Jess’ family is always scraping by and nearly dysfunctional. But nonetheless, they become best friends. In the woods, they create Terabithia, their own secret kingdom where they rule together. Leslie and Terabithia change Jess. He becomes a stronger person, less afraid of the world. But one cruel morning, tragedy strikes and Leslie dies. Jess must come to grips with her death and the world. Except now he has to do it alone.
Symbolism is a literary element that stands out most in this novel. Patterson uses symbolism so well in this story. The title itself symbolizes Leslie. In chapter seven, Jess’ thoughts bring this symbol to light.
“Jess tried going to Terabithia alone, but it was no good. It needed Leslie to make the magic. He was afraid he would destroy everything by trying to force the magic on his own, when it was plain that the magic was reluctant to come for him.”(65)
We see this a second time in chapter eleven. The only way to enter Terabithia was to swing from the hanging rope, which was their bridge. Leslie died because the rope broke, causing her to fall and hit her head before landing in the stream, causing her to drown. The bro...
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...r and the schoolyard bullies, and he realizes that he doesn’t need Leslie to protect him anymore and he does not need to take refuge in Terabithia because he can face his obstacles.
“He thought about it all day, how before Leslie came, he had been a nothing-a stupid…It was Leslie who had taken him from the cow pasture into Terabithia and turned him into a king. Now it occurred to him that perhaps Terabithia was like a castle where you came to be knighted. After you stayed awhile and grew strong you had to move on.” (126)
In the end, Jess builds a bridge to Terabithia and takes May Belle there and he becomes to May Belle who Leslie was for him. Jess does not need Leslie to enter Terabithia because although Leslie is gone, Terabithia will remain and live on with May Belle. There are a lot of children out there like Jess who are alone and scared and they just need to find their own Terabithia to give them courage to face the antagonists of their world. That is why Bridge to Terabithia is an excellent book for young readers. It gives them hope that they can face their world too.
Patterson, Katherine. Bridge to Terabithia. New York. Harper Trophy. 1977.
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