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Bridge to Terabithia

Summary Chapter 7: The Golden Room
Summary Chapter 7: The Golden Room

At the end of the chapter, May Belle comes to Jess as he is falling asleep and announces that she followed him and Leslie to Terabithia. Jess is horrified at this, and makes her promise not to tell anyone where they go. May Belle promises, but Jess is profoundly uneasy, wondering how long he can "trust everything that matters to him to a sassy six-year-old."

Analysis

Jess's discomfort with Leslie's relationship with her father demonstrates how unaware he is of how a good parent-child relationship ought to be. He does not know any families where the parents are friends with the children like that, where they can be so comfortable around one another, and certainly his own home life is nothing like that. As well, he feels threatened by it, revealing his own insecurity about their relationship. He has stated before that he cannot imagine why someone like Leslie would want to be friends with someone like him. His reaction to Leslie's growing friendship with her father is proof that he feels his relationship with her can easily be supplanted or destroyed.

The scene with Janice Avery is one of the most memorable in the book. Before, it was noted that Janice's status as a female bully seems to give her character greater depth than most of the other characters at lark Creek. Now her character is fully fleshed out, and we are allowed to see below the surface of a girl whom Jess and Leslie perceived to be almost totally one-dimensional. Janice's dysfunctional home life shows how she became so angry, giving her character a new sympathy, and her tears in the bathroom likewise lends her character new depth and emotion. Jess's desire to help her is a testament to the essential goodness of his nature. Although Leslie goes along with him, it is all his initiative, and it demonstrates a degree of kindness and sympathy that even Leslie apparently lacks.

Jess's unthinking goad at Leslie when he asks her if she is scared is likewise revelatory of an essential theme in the book. Jess has convinced himself that a truly admirable, grown-up person is never afraid. He hates himself for his own fears, such as his original unease in the pine grove or his sense of trepidation when Leslie describes her underwater exploits. He simply assumes that Leslie is never afraid of anything, because he admires her so much. Yet Leslie clearly is afraid when she first goes in to see Janice Avery. She masters her fear, but then, Jess does the same when he is confronted with one of his fears head-on. Jess begins to realize here that "courage is not absence of fear, but mastery of fear."