Bridge to Terabithia – Literature – Themes

Friendship can change lives

One of main themes in Bridge to Terabithia is friendship. This is portrayed through the main characters Jesse Aarons and Leslie Burke’s friendship. Their relationship starts when Leslie’s family moves next door to the Aarons family. Leslie approaches Jesse at the old Perkins place, where she lives and says: “I thought we might as well be friends. (…) There is no one else close by” (Paterson 22), referring to the rural area they both live in. But first, Jesse isn’t interested in becoming friends with Leslie. All he had wanted was to become is the fastest runner of the fifth grade. How Jesse reacts to Leslie winning the running race on the first day, shows respect and openness unlike the other students who thought her winning didn’t count because she is a girl. The early actions of Jesse being open to Leslie as a person at school are fundamental to the start of their friendship.

In Mrs. Edmunds music class, Leslie and Jesse meet eyes and smile at each other and both of them know that it is the start of a new chapter in their lives. (Paterson 40). One day, on the bus after school Jesse actually manages to stand up and protect Leslie against Janice Avery.

As creating their own secret imaginary country Terabithia together, Leslie uses poetic language to set the fantasy while Jesse uses his practical skills to build them their own castle in the middle of the woods. Their friendship grows as they support each other with their strengths. Jesse admires Leslie for her creativity and endless imagination while Leslie encourages Jesse to embrace his own art.

Jesse had been drawing for a long time, but had always been too shy to show anyone his work or was embarrassed about showing his hobby in front of his classmates. By seeing Leslie’s confidence with other students, being full of ideas and inspirational at school, Jesse finally begins to grow within and start to show his inner strengths.

Before Leslie came to Jesse’s school, he had always tried to fit in, rather than sticking out. This also changed with their friendship. When Janice Avery continuously picks on Jesse’s little sister May Belle and many other students, Leslie and Jesse decide to take revenge. Although Leslie and Jesse plan to trick Janice Avery to pay her back for all the trouble she has caused, they feel responsible on the day they find her crying in the girls’ toilets. Jesse is astonished by Leslie’s courage and Leslie feels happy about being able to help someone in a difficult situation by being a friend.

While finding it very hard to cope with his friend’s death, Jesse returns to Terabithia to organise a funeral for the former queen of the imaginary kingdom. He understands that now it is his turn to continue Leslie’s braveness and her special imagination. He will keep her memory as he continues to carry on the strength she has given him.

The friendship in the novel isn’t a selfish one, it is built on the act of giving and helping each other grow (Drucker). The protagonists Leslie and Jesse in the novel have a very positive and healthy way to influence one another.