Bridge to Terabithia

by

Katherine Paterson

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Leslie Burke Character Analysis

At the start of the novel, the spunky and tomboyish Leslie Burke is new to the town of Lark Creek, Virginia. She and her parents Bill and Judy (whom she calls by their first names) are successful writers who have decided to leave behind their comfortable, upper-middle-class lifestyle in Washington D.C. to spend some time in the country “reassessing their value structure.” Leslie is smart, precocious, athletic, and, most strikingly of all, doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. At first, Jess sees Leslie as a threat—she beats him in a race he’s been training for all summer—but soon, he warms to her outgoing, carefree personality, and the two become fast friends. As an easy intimacy develops between them, they seek to build a place where they can be alone and hidden away from the rest of the world. After using a rope swing to cross a low creek on the edge of the woods near their homes, Leslie dubs the land on the other side the land of Terabithia and appoints herself and Jess its queen and king. Using the fantasy tropes she’s learned about from The Chronicles of Narnia and other books, she imagines great battles against invaders and adversaries and instructs Jess in the building of a castle; she appoints a pine grove just beyond their hideaway the land’s sacred grounds. Leslie’s fire, imagination, and warmth draw Jess in, and soon, he is spending all of his time either playing with Leslie in Terabithia or spending time getting to know Leslie’s artistic, intellectual parents. Tragedy strikes when Leslie visits Terabithia on her own one day in the middle of a storm—when the rope swing breaks, Leslie falls, hits her head, and drowns in the creek below. The unimaginable horror of such a loss rips its way through the small Lark Creek community, disorienting and traumatizing Jess. In the wake of losing Leslie, Jess learns to exhibit the same grace, compassion, and curiosity Leslie embodied in life. He builds a bridge to Terabithia in her honor, hoping that the atmosphere of love, adventure, and nonjudgment they created together will not disappear with Leslie.

Leslie Burke Quotes in Bridge to Terabithia

The Bridge to Terabithia quotes below are all either spoken by Leslie Burke or refer to Leslie Burke . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Friendship, Grief, and Loss Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the HarperCollins edition of Bridge to Terabithia published in 2017.
Chapter 2 Quotes

The person had jaggedy brown hair cut close to its face and wore one of those blue undershirtlike tops with faded jeans cut off above the knees. [Jess] couldn’t honestly tell whether it was a girl or a boy.

Related Characters: Jess Aarons, Leslie Burke
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

He felt it before he saw it. Someone was moving up. He automatically pumped harder. Then the shape was there in his sideways vision. Then suddenly pulling ahead. He forced himself now. His breath was choking him, and the sweat was in his eyes. But he saw the figure anyhow. The faded cutoffs crossed the line a full three feet ahead of him.

Leslie turned to face him with a wide smile on her tanned face.

Related Characters: Jess Aarons, Leslie Burke , Gary Fulcher
Related Symbols: Running
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

On the bus that afternoon [Jess] sat down beside May Belle. It was the only way he could make sure that he wouldn’t have Leslie plunking herself down beside him. Lord, the girl had no notion of what you did and didn’t do.

Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

“Do you know what we need?” Leslie called to [Jess.] […] “We need a place,” she said, “just for us. It would be so secret that we would never tell anyone in the whole world about it. […] It might be a whole secret country,” she continued, “and you and I would be the rulers of it.”

Related Characters: Leslie Burke (speaker), Jess Aarons
Page Number: 49-50
Explanation and Analysis:

There in the shadowy light of the stronghold everything seemed possible. Between the two of them they owned the world and no enemy, Gary Fulcher, Wanda Kay Moore, Janice Avery, Jess’s own fears and insufficiencies, nor any of the foes whom Leslie imagined attacking Terabithia, could ever really defeat them.

Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

[Jess] wasn’t comfortable having Leslie at his house either. […] Brenda and Ellie always made some remark about “girl friend.” His mother acted stiff and funny [and] later she would refer to Leslie’s “tacky” clothes. […] Her hair was “shorter than a boy’s.” Her parents were “hardly more than hippies.” […] His father had seen Leslie only a few times and had nodded to show that he had noticed her, but his mother said that she was sure he was fretting that his only son did nothing but play with girls, and they both were worried about what would become of it.

Page Number: 58-59
Explanation and Analysis:

Leslie was more than his friend. She was his other, more exciting self—his way to Terabithia and all the worlds beyond.

Related Characters: Jess Aarons, Leslie Burke
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

“What are you giving your girl friend, Jess?” Brenda screwed her face up in that ugly way she had. [Jess] tried to ignore her. […]

“Don’t you know, Brenda?” Ellie joined in. “Jess ain’t got no girl friend.”

“Well, you’re right for once. Nobody with any sense would call that stick a girl.” […] Something huge and hot swelled right up inside of him. […] Lord, it hurt his guts to realize that it was Brenda who was his blood sister, and that […] he and Leslie were not related at all. Maybe, he thought, I was a foundling, like in the stories.

Related Characters: Brenda Aarons (speaker), Ellie Aarons (speaker), Jess Aarons, Leslie Burke
Page Number: 72-73
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

Jess tried going to Terabithia alone, but it was no good. It needed Leslie to make the magic. He was afraid he would destroy everything by trying to force the magic on his own, when it was plain that the magic was reluctant to come for him.

Related Characters: Jess Aarons, Leslie Burke
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:

“Janice Avery is a very unfortunate person. Do you realize that?”

“What was she crying about, for heaven’s sake?”

“It’s a very complicated situation. I can understand now why Janice has so many problems related to people. […] Did you know her father beats her?”

Related Characters: Jess Aarons (speaker), Leslie Burke (speaker), Janice Avery
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

All March it poured. For the first time in many years the creek bed held water, not just a trickle either, enough so that when they swung across, it was a little scary looking down at the rushing water below. Jess took Prince Terrien across inside his jacket, but the puppy was growing so fast he might pop the zipper any time and fall into the water and drown.

Related Characters: Jess Aarons, Leslie Burke
Related Symbols: Prince Terrien
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

For Jess the fear of the crossing rose with the height of the creek. Leslie never seemed to hesitate, so Jess could not hang back. But even though he could force his body to follow after, his mind hung back, wanting to cling to the crab apple tree the way Joyce Ann might cling to Momma’s skirt.

Page Number: 115
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

He ran until he was stumbling but he kept on, afraid to stop. Knowing somehow that running was the only thing that could keep Leslie from being dead. It was up to him. He had to keep going.

Related Characters: Jess Aarons, Leslie Burke
Related Symbols: Running
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:

“Well, Momma, he’s just sitting there eating pancakes like nothing happened. I’d be crying my eyes out.”

Ellie was looking first at Mrs. Aarons and then at Brenda. “Boys ain’t supposed to cry at times like this. Are they, Momma?”

Related Characters: Brenda Aarons (speaker), Ellie Aarons (speaker), Jess Aarons, Leslie Burke , Mrs. Aarons
Page Number: 138
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

It occurred to him that perhaps Terabithia was like a castle where you came to be knighted. After you stayed for a while and grew strong you had to move on. For hadn’t Leslie, even in Terabithia, tried to push back the walls of his mind and make him see beyond to the shining world—huge and terrible and beautiful and very fragile? […] It was up to him to pay back to the world in beauty and caring what Leslie had loaned him in vision and strength.

Related Characters: Jess Aarons, Leslie Burke
Page Number: 160-161
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Bridge to Terabithia LitChart as a printable PDF.
Bridge to Terabithia PDF

Leslie Burke Character Timeline in Bridge to Terabithia

The timeline below shows where the character Leslie Burke appears in Bridge to Terabithia. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
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...house across the street, Jess realizes they are a girl. The girl introduces herself as Leslie Burke, and Jess introduces himself in return, then heads for the house. Leslie asks where... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Tuesday is the first day of school. Leslie, it turns out, is in Jess’s fifth-grade class—she shows up wearing an undershirt and cutoffs.... (full context)
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...heats. Jess watches the first few heats with anticipation, cheering when Gary wins one. Soon, Leslie comes over to the area where the boys are running and sits with Jess to... (full context)
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...finish line when he senses someone gaining on him—he turns to see that it is Leslie. Smiling at him, she overtakes him, then crosses the finish line nearly three feet ahead... (full context)
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...next to May Belle—something he rarely does. He doesn’t want to be seen sitting with Leslie, who has “no notion” of what’s socially acceptable. Leslie tries to speak to Jess on... (full context)
Chapter 4
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The rest of Jess’s first week back to school is terrible. Leslie races the boys each day, rejoicing in her ability to beat them easily. By the... (full context)
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...and Miss Edmunds begins strumming her guitar, entreating the class to sing along, Jess meets Leslie’s eyes across the room. They smile at each other, and Jess privately forgives Leslie. He... (full context)
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That afternoon on the bus, Leslie sits with Jess and May Belle and tells them all about her old school in... (full context)
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As the days go by, Leslie continues struggling to fit in at school. For a writing assignment in which students are... (full context)
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That afternoon, on the bus, Leslie goes to the back of the bus and sits in the seventh graders’ seats. Jess... (full context)
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That afternoon, when Jess, Leslie, and May Belle get off at their stop, Leslie asks if Jess wants to play.... (full context)
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Leslie declares that they need a secret place that’s just for the two of them. She... (full context)
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The two of them spend the next several days and weeks building and preparing Terabithia. Leslie loans Jess her box set of The Chronicles of Narnia so that he can learn... (full context)
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...bus. The bus driver makes Jess get out and walk. By the time he meets Leslie in Terabithia, she has been there reading for a long while. Leslie is angry at... (full context)
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By October, the other students at school have noticed how much time Leslie and Jess are spending together. Gary Fulcher teases Jess about his new “girl friend,” but... (full context)
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By December, the weather has turned cold. Leslie brings two sleeping bags to Terabithia to help keep her and Jess warm—but Jess makes... (full context)
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Jess doesn’t feel comfortable bringing Leslie to his house, either. Mrs. Aarons acts strange around Leslie (and privately talks judgmentally about... (full context)
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Jess loves visiting Terabithia each day with Leslie. The two of them begin spending a lot of time in the pine forest just... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Leslie often makes up stories about a band of giants who threaten Terabithia—but in reality, the... (full context)
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...to her friends about them on the bus. At recess, May Belle approaches Jess and Leslie in tears—Janice has stolen her Twinkies. She begs Leslie and Jess to beat Janice up... (full context)
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That afternoon, in Terabithia, Leslie and Jess hold a war council. They strategize about how they can get Janice back... (full context)
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The next morning, Jess and Leslie sneak into school early. Leslie creates a distraction at the seventh-grade classroom door while Jess... (full context)
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...full of hatred. May Belle marvels at the horrific expression on Janice’s face and asks Leslie and Jess if they are the ones who made her that mad. Leslie tells her... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...he’s getting for his girlfriend—before declaring that no one in their right mind would call Leslie a real girl. Jess becomes hurt and angry, and he wishes that Leslie were his... (full context)
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Jess is, in fact, upset that he has nothing to give Leslie for Christmas. He considers giving her some drawings, but the gift seems too intimate and... (full context)
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On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, Jess and Leslie meet in Terabithia. Jess has put a ribbon around the puppy’s neck, and keeps it... (full context)
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That night, the “glow” of the magical afternoon with Leslie and Prince Terrien remains with Jess even as his family bickers and squabbles. The next... (full context)
Chapter 7
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After Christmas, Leslie’s father Bill, who has been busy commuting back and forth to Washington for the last... (full context)
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Though Jess is often lonely and bored, Leslie is happy—she loves helping her father fix up the house, and she tells Jess that... (full context)
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After several weeks, the living room is at last finished. Jess, Leslie, and Bill have painted it gold and refinished the original floorboards—Leslie feels the room is... (full context)
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The next afternoon, after more than a month away from Terabithia, Jess and Leslie grab Prince Terrien and cross the creek bed. Leslie wonders how the kingdom has fared... (full context)
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A few days later, Leslie comes out to recess and tells Jess that she has heard Janice Avery crying in... (full context)
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...through class that afternoon and during the entire bus ride home, Jess tries to get Leslie’s attention, hoping to find out what transpired in the bathroom. She doesn’t give him the... (full context)
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Leslie reveals that she advised Janice to pretend like she’d never heard the rumor before in... (full context)
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...their bedroom, May Belle whispers to Jess and tells him that she followed him and Leslie this afternoon—now she knows where they go to hide from everyone else. Jess threatens May... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Throughout March, it rains for the entire month. Jess and Leslie continue to visit Terabithia even in the bad weather, but Jess becomes increasingly nervous about... (full context)
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Leslie comes into the barn while Jess is milking the cow and sits with him. He... (full context)
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...not getting anything new, he should be allowed to bring a friend to church—he suggests Leslie. Mrs. Aarons is nervous about whether Leslie will dress well and behave herself, but Jess... (full context)
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At the end of the service, Leslie tells Jess that she’s glad she came—she liked it “better than a movie” and found... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...rain starts up again with the same fury it possessed all of March. Jess and Leslie are bored and decide to go to Terabithia in spite of the pouring rain. Leslie... (full context)
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When Jess and Leslie get to the creek, they stop and look down in awe. The creek bed, usually... (full context)
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Jess and Leslie continue to visit Terabithia throughout the week, even as the creek continues to rise and... (full context)
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...the morning to the realization that it is still raining. He understands that tomorrow, if Leslie wants to go to Terabithia, he’ll have to tell her he doesn’t want to go.... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...about what will happen if the creek is still full come summer—he’ll have to let Leslie teach him how to swim, a skill he’s terrified of learning. He hates himself for... (full context)
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Jess doesn’t think about inviting Leslie along until Miss Edmunds has already driven them beyond the bounds of town. Jess secretly... (full context)
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...back to Lark Creek, and Jess can hardly contain how excited he is to tell Leslie all about his day. (full context)
Chapter 11
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...feels dry, and he can’t understand what’s happening. Mr. Aarons speaks up and says that Leslie was found in the creek, dead. Jess insists that Leslie was a good swimmer and... (full context)
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...night—his sisters are asleep in the bed next to his own. He remembers hearing that Leslie was dead—but assumes the news must have been part of his dream. He knows that... (full context)
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...he’s talking about. Mr. Aarons puts his hand on Jess’s hand and reminds him that Leslie is dead. Without a word, Jess gets up from the table and puts his jacket... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...man Jess doesn’t know lets them inside, and they proceed into the beautiful golden room. Leslie’s grandmother comes over and introduces herself to the Aarons—she tells Jess that she’s heard a... (full context)
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...He wonders if his sisters will even treat him differently. He wishes he could see Leslie’s corpse laid out, and hopes that her parents will bury her in her blue jeans. (full context)
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...but knows that seeing Bill cry would be worse than enduring the hug. He wishes Leslie would come help him get out of this terrible situation. Bill finally pulls away from... (full context)
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As the adults begin talking, Jess overhears Bill tell his parents that Leslie has been cremated. Jess feels something inside his head click as he realizes that Leslie... (full context)
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...and runs home crying angry tears. May Belle excitedly asks if Jess got to see Leslie’s corpse, and Jess hits her in the face. He rushes to his bedroom, retrieves the... (full context)
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...pulls Jess into his lap and comforts him as Jess sobs, shouting that he hates Leslie. His father replies only that grieving is “hell.” Jess asks if hell is real, reminding... (full context)
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...watch Prince Terrien for a couple days while the Burkes go to Pennsylvania to scatter Leslie’s ashes. Jess agrees, wishing he could apologize to Bill for running away earlier but unsure... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...he isn’t far from Terabithia, but he isn’t sure if it’s even Terabithia anymore without Leslie. Prince Terrien swims across the creek and joins Jess on the other side, and together,... (full context)
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Jess decides to make a funeral wreath for Leslie, the queen of Terabithia, from a pine bough. As he finishes it, a bird lands... (full context)
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On Monday, when Jess walks into class, he sees that Leslie’s desk has already been removed from the classroom. He wonders why everyone is in “such... (full context)
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...she knew she never could. She tells Jess that she wasn’t the one to take Leslie’s desk out—it was gone when she arrived this morning. Jess wishes he could take back... (full context)
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Jess cannot stop the flood of thoughts he has about Leslie throughout the day. She took him from his cow pasture and “turned him into a... (full context)
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...Judy return from Pennsylvania with a U-Haul, ready to pack up the Perkins place. With Leslie gone, they tell Jess, there’s no reason for them to stay—they moved here for her... (full context)
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...away from him, he’s realized he can’t give the dog up. Jess tells Bill that Leslie would want her parents to have the sweet pup. (full context)