Jesse Oliver Aarons Jr. is the main protagonist of Bridge to Terabithia. He is eleven years old and in fifth grade at Lark Creek Elementary School. At the beginning of the novel, Jesse is introverted, shy and lonely. Jesse longs for attention from his father, who never directly talks to him until the death of his friend Leslie Burke. At this point of the story their relationship changes.
Jesse’s aim at the beginning of the novel is to become the fastest runner of his year level. This is before his life is turned around by his friendship with Leslie Burke. Jesse goes through a huge transformation due to his bond with Leslie. This transformation comes through Leslie’s strong character and personality as well as the freedom to be oneself in Terabithia. Leslie’s encouragement to embrace his creativity gives him hope especially because for him, nothing feels unachievable with Leslie and her boldness. Eventually with Leslie by his side, Jesse starts to stand up against the unfairness that happens in their daily school life. As the story continues, Jesse pays less and less attention to his reputation at school.
Only at the end of the book, after Leslie dies, does Jesse realize how much he has grown. He is now brave and strong enough, like Leslie said earlier in the novel, to live out his creativity and art. Jesse is also able to invite his little sister May Belle to Terabithia and to continue the magic Leslie had started (Caratello 7).
Leslie Burke is, alongside Jesse Aarons, the main character in the book Bridge to Terabithia. She is talkative, bold, loyal, intelligent and has a vast imagination. She moves into the Old Perkins Place with her family across from where the Aarons family lives. When Jesse first sees her from a distance, he is unsure if Leslie is a girl or a boy, as she has short brown hair and she is wearing shorts and a plain sleeveless top. Leslie isn’t shy and asks Jesse right away if they want to become friends (Paterson 22). Unlike the other girls at Lark Creek Elementary School she likes running with the boys at recess. Everyone in her new class, especially Jesse, notices that Leslie is a great writer. One day Leslie mentions naively in school that her family doesn’t own a TV, not knowing that she will be bullied for it by the others. After this experience of being bullied, she realizes that she and Jesse need a place for themselves, a place where they will not only be free from school peers, but also fromm family. Leslie is the one to create Terabithia with her own mystical and poetic words and imagination (Paterson 50f). She is a loyal friend to Jesse and she inspires him to embrace his creativity: for example she gives him an art set for Christmas and asks him to draw a picture for their castle in Terabithia.
When Leslie passes away, she leaves an immense gap in the lives of her family and, of course, in Jesse’s. But she has also left something important behind: She has given him the strength to grow in his personality by being so open- minded, creative and bold.
May Belle Aarons is almost seven years old and the only one in the family that idolizes her older brother, Jesse (Paterson 2). May Belle can be described as bubbly, honest and loyal. When Jesse becomes friends with Leslie she instantly wants to be a part, but they resent her. Even though the little sister sometimes gets treated poorly or put down by her brother, she is always able to keep a stiff upper lip, while still looking up to him. It is worth noting that she is the only one in the family that communicates directly and frequently with Jesse. She knows about his running goals, his school life and his friendship with Leslie. And it is she who becomes heir to Terabithia.
Mrs. Edmunds (Julia Edmunds) is the music teacher at Lark Creek Elementary School. She is portrayed in the novel as a lively, charismatic, caring and encouraging person. Jesse is secretly in love with Mrs. Edmunds. She encourages Jesse with his art work, calls him remarkably gifted and opens up new horizons for Jesse when she takes him to the National Art Gallery in Washington. Mrs. Edmunds has great passion for teaching her students new things.