Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bridge to Terabithia

Paterson, K. (1977). Bridge to Terabithia. New York, NY: Harper Trophy. 

LS5360 Newbery Medal, Challenged.  This novel was a score from my daughter’s library, and one which she was very excited for me to read – and I see why. Very good read, though I was surprised, given it had been challenged, that our district allowed it to be part of the curriculum.  (just for the language, though I thought it was used naturally and was not a distraction from the story.)

Exposition:  The setting is a small town, Lark Creek, Virginia, in the 1970s.  The narration is from third person limited omniscient point of view (Jesse’s). We see that Jesse Owens (Jess), the main character, isn’t understood by his family, doesn't have any real friends, and doesn't even like school very much. As the story begins, Jess has a goal that he believes will give him a name and glory, and it’s all he has to focus on. The other main character is Leslie Burke, and secondary most important characters are Miss Edmunds and May Belle.

Conflict: Leslie moves-in next door, and Jess doesn’t initially think she’s “friend-worthy,” but he keeps standing-up for her and eventually becomes his best friend.

Rising Action:  Jess and Leslie's friendship grows stronger, particularly when dealing with the school bully, first, as they take revenge for her bullying May Belle, but secondly as they reach out to the bully and realize she’s got her own battles to deal with.

Climax: Jesse takes a field trip with Miss Edmunds, and only thinks in hindsight that he should have invited Leslie along. He gets home to find out Leslie has died.

Falling Action:  Jess grieves the loss of Leslie and finds comfort and reassurance in his father, Mrs. Myers, and Leslie’s family and he learns to appreciate how much Leslie meant to him and what he learned from her.

Resolution:  Jess builds a bridge to Terabithia, using wood given to him by Leslie’s parents, and decides it’s important to keep going there because Leslie would have wanted it that way.

Literary Elements:  Foreshadowing and figurative language are two elements used to enhance the writing. For example,  Leslie’s death is foreshadowed several times: in Chapter 8, Jess worries about the dog falling in the water and dying, and after church, Jess’s sister questions about what would happen to Leslie’s soul if she died. Again, in Chapter 9, as the creek rises, so does Jess’s anxiety and fear and he has a general malaise about the creek.   As far as figurative language two examples are: “There in their secret place, 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” (7.112);  “And May Belle would pop her buttons. Her brother was the fastest, the best. That ought to give the rest of the first grade something to chew their cuds on. Even his dad would be proud” (1.20-21).

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