Bridge To Terabithia: Importance Of The Memories Of Childhood

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The memories of childhood are ones that survive till the end.

Bridge to Terabithia is a novel written by Katherine Paterson in 1977. This novel is about the 2 protagonists, Jess and Leslie who become good friends and create an imaginary land called Terabithia, where they can go to forget about their problems and be themselves. Throughout the novel, Paterson expresses her belief that the values of family and their love, imagination and friendship are an essential part of childhood and growing up. These values are conveyed through narrative conventions such as characterisation and setting as well as language techniques like figurative language.

Throughout the novel, Paterson has emphasised the importance of family. The use of characterisation helps the readers understand how Jess and his family both love one another but don’t express it in the same way. The love received from family is not always shown, but you don’t need to feel down because inside everyone actually loves you.

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‘ Durn lucky kid. She could run after him and grab him and kiss him. It made Jess ache inside to watch his dad grab the little ones to his shoulder, or lean down and hug them. It seemed to him that he had been thought too big for that since the day he was born.’ (pg. 10)

Jess is jealous of his siblings because he feels like their dad is more loving and affectionate with them as opposed to Jess. They get the attention he craves for. Yet he has to act like a ‘man,’ which seems to mean he doesn’t get hugs and can’t spontaneously demonstrate or ask for physical attention. His parents believe that there are certain qualities for a boy, but contrastingly Jess just wants to be treated like a normal kid with no expectations. ‘It made Jess ache inside,’ shows he really loves his family but has never felt like he had got the love he wanted. This also shows that Jess’s parents don’t express their love for him at all to the extent that Jess feels very sick and upset. Jess values his family allot, but his family does not express it to him at all which makes him feel hated and unloved.

‘Suddenly his mother let out a great shuddering sob. ‘O my God. O my God.’ She said it over and over, her head down on her arms.’ (pg. 59)

Throughout the book we have mostly seen Jess’s parents in a negative light, especially in comparison to Leslie’s parents. But this phrase reminds us of their deep love for Jess as we see their fear that he was in danger as well as their relief that he’s ok. Jess’s parents were so worried for Jess and ever so relieved that he was safe that his mother ‘said it over and over’. For the first time in the book, we see Jess’s mum repeating herself in relief. Wheras throughout the book we see Jess’s mother repeating herself about Jess doing the chores and how lazy he is. This shows that she really loves Jess even if she makes him do lots of work for her, inside the love is extreme. Jess’s family loves him but don’t feel the need to express it all the time.

In Jess’s childhood life he doesn’t feel like he is loved by his family the same way he loves them. But love does not need to be expressed to know its value and Jess’s parents beautifully express that through their words and expressions.

The act of imagination plays a central role in this fantacy novel. Paterson has used setting to show how imagination can help Jess and Leslie overcome their problems.

Whenever Jess and Leslie encounter difficulties in their real lives, they escape to the fantasy world of Terabithia. But rather than using this fantasy as merely a way out, they use it to work through their problems.

‘She stole my Twinkies… That afternoon, crouched in the stronghold of Terabithia, they held a council of war.’ (pg. 29)

When Jess and Leslie find out that Janice Avery stole May Belle’s Twinkles, they rush to their imaginative land, Terabithia. Not only do they come to their fantacy world to forget about their problems but to solve problems too. This imaginative land helps them to open up, imagine and think about ways to betray Janice. The words, “stronghold of Terabithia…” emphasise the importance of Terabithia and the fact that they can be themselves and express things better in the land. When they entered Terabithia, they started imagining many things that ‘They held a council of war.’ This suggests their imagination has already started. Through their imagination they held a council of war, making this problem seem very big and feeling very determined to solve this. The two friends fill up with imagination as they take each step into Terabithia, determined to find a way to solve the problem.

‘ A picture of Leslie being sucked into the cold water flashed across his brain… We must make a funeral wreath for the queen.’ (end of pg. 67 and start of pg. 68)

After Leslie’s death, it is the imaginary land of Terabithia that helps Jess heal and accept the loss. When taking a step into Terabithia, Jess’s imagination has begun once again, expanding his feelings and thoughts about Leslie. Through the busy imagination in Terabithia, Jess can visuallise Leslie being sucked into the cold water. Through his creative mind he knows that Leslie is gone, and he can’t sault about it day after day. So, he becomes brave and decides to make a funeral wreath for her. This thought has come from the imagination sprinkled across the fantacy world. Thanks to Leslie for creating Terabithia, Jess can express his feelings and feel different emotions in different ways through the wide imagination spread throughout the land. Jess’s imagination when entering Terabithia helps him overcome the devastating loss of Leslie.

When Jess and Leslie come past Janice stealing May Belle’s twinkles and when Jess passes the unexpected loss of Leslie, the little bit of imagination from Terabithia keeps them strong and go ahead in life.

In ‘Bridge to Terabithia’ Paterson has used characterisation and figurative language to show the readers friendship can be shown through anyone in any form. Leslie treats Jess like no one ever has… Bringing smiles and laughter into his what used to be, boring life.

‘…His feelings bubbled inside him like a stew on the back of the stove-some sad for her in her lonesomeness, but chunks of happiness, too. To be able to be Leslie’s one whole friend in the world as she was his – he couldn’t help being satisfied about that. ‘ (pg. 45)

Jess compares the combination of his feelings for Leslie to a ‘bubbling… stew.’ The use of this metaphor gives the readers a visual picture of how his feelings are churning and turning around inside him, mixing between the positive and negatives. Even though Jess feels bad for Leslie because she doesn’t have other friends, he’s happy that she feels strong about their friendship, the same way he does. ‘ To be able to be Leslie’s one whole friend in the world as she was his – he couldn’t help being satisfied about that. ‘ This phrase suggests that Jess really values friendship and has never actually got the perfect taste of it. When he knows that he is Leslie’s only friend, he feels special and proud. He feels like he has finally achieved something good. He really keeps Leslie’s words close to his heart because no one in his life has ever said anything that nice to him. After making a bad impression on his dad when he was young, he can finally feel like he is valued. This creates a positive mood and symbolises the start of a very special, long-lasting friendship.

‘For the first time in his life he got up every morning with something to look forward to. Leslie was more than his friend. She was his other, more exciting self – his way to Terabithia and all the worlds beyond.’ (pg. 27)

Jess discovers that his friendship with Leslie is constantly bringing him brighter paths and more discoveries. Giving a huge smile on his face and an anticipated mind full of imagination. She brings joy and excitement to his routine and helps him get excited about experiencing life ‘for the first time.’ Jess’s previous life would have stayed the same boring way it had if it wasn’t for Leslie. There isn’t much of a higher praise to give someone than when Jess says Leslie is not only a part of him but a ‘more exciting self’ that through knowing her and being her friend, he can get into ‘all the worlds beyond’ what he used to know. Jess’s strong bold words symbolise he really values his friendship with Leslie more than anything in the world.

The power of friendship cannot be explained, it has to felt to really know its meaning. When growing up, the love received from friends is very special and makes you feel happy and strong. Jess and Leslie value each other’s friendship more than anything in the world.

In Bridge to Terabithia, Paterson has created a beautiful storyline to show the values of family and their love, imagination and friendship. She believes children must be brought up with these values throughout their childhood life. Throughout Jess’s childhood, he feels the lack of love he receives from his family but when his parents express the love for him for the first time, he understands that love doesn’t need to be expressed to know its value. The creation of Terabithia helps Jess and Leslie overcome their problems and find a solution through the positive imagination spread across the land. The friendship of Leslie and Jess is shown beautifully through their actions and feelings towards each other. The values of family and its love, imagination, as well as friendship is elegantly shown in this book, emphasising the importance of these three values in every child’s life.


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