Bridge to Terabithia

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Main Ideas


Main Ideas Themes

Yet the dichotomy is not absolute. As Jess gets to know Leslie, he hungrily devours her books and eagerly immerses himself in the imaginary world of Terabithia. He doesn't assimilate her education overnight, but the seeds of intelligence and desire to learn are firmly planted in him, and if he'll never be the erudite that either of Leslie's parents is, the gap between them is not as wide as he imagines. The reader is left wishing that Jess had the opportunity to have the education that Leslie's had, but in the end it isn't really necessary: his cleverness and ambition will take him far in their own right.


Terabithia is a symbol of idealized childhood, of a perfect world in which children can rule supreme without the heavy responsibilities of adulthood. No bad thing can touch the rulers of Terabithia—no matter what the obstacle, they will always emerge victorious. The place provides a much-needed refuge for Leslie and Jess. However, Terabithia is not an absolute sanctuary, as is proven upon Leslie's death. She drowns in the creek, the border between the perfect world of Terabithia and the harder world of reality. The novel suggests that Leslie is frozen forever on the boundary between childhood and adulthood, symbolized by the creek itself. By the end of the novel, Jess comes to understand that the enchantment of Terabithia is meant to last for a season only, and—not that he must move on, necessarily—but that he must not depend on Terabithia as an escape anymore, but instead start tackling life's problems head-on. By the end of the novel, Jess is a man, though not exactly in the sense that his father has hoped for all these years. Rather, he has managed to strike a balance between retaining the best parts of childhood and attaining a new maturity.

The rope over the creek and the bridge to Terabithia

When they originated the idea of Terabithia, Leslie decreed that the rope swinging over the creek would be a magic rope, the only entrance to the magical land. Jess accepted this decree wholeheartedly, and always felt that Terabithia was not really Terabithia unless one entered by the prescribed method. When the rope snaps, it seems to be a symbol stating that the magic is at an end. The breaking of the rope seems to cement the fate of Terabithia, which really died with the death of its queen.

However, Jess eventually comes to realize that the magic is in him as much as it was in Leslie, and he has the power to resurrect Terabithia. It will be different, completely different, but its soul will remain the same. Jess himself has broken some ties with Terabithia in his newfound maturity. However, May Belle is still a child, and deserves the enchanted childhood only available to her in Terabithia. In building the bridge to Terabithia, Jess affirms that the beauty, wonder, and magic that were so much a part of Leslie did not disappear when she died. Instead, he perpetuates that magic, and in a form more solid and lasting than the rope. Jess's days of absolute, carefree, childish happiness in Terabithia are over, but he passes Leslie's legacy on by building the bridge to Terabithia.