Bridge to Terabithia

by

Katherine Paterson

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Running Symbol Icon

Throughout the novel, running is an ongoing symbol of freedom and escape. At the start of the story, as Jesse Aarons (or “Jess,” as his friends and family call him) prepares for the start of the new school year, he is determined to become the fastest runner in the fifth grade. He trains daily, determined to prove himself to his classmates on the first day of school. Running, however, is also a way for Jess to escape from the confines of his claustrophobic household, in which his sisters get preferential treatment while Jess himself constantly draws his parents’ ire for being behind on chores—and for engaging in another hobby which is stereotypically feminine: painting. Running is a way in which Jess can both prove his masculinity while also escaping the power structures which demand it, and he is sure that if he can just be recognized at the fastest runner at school, all of his troubles will evaporate. Running, then, is a symbol of the attempt to escape one’s circumstances, one’s fate, or even oneself—and indeed, later in the novel, when Jess endures a terrible tragedy, he attempts to literally run away from the bad news he’s received, only to realize that one can only outrun one’s demons for so long.

Running Quotes in Bridge to Terabithia

The Bridge to Terabithia quotes below all refer to the symbol of Running. 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 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:
Quotes explanation long mobile
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:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire Bridge to Terabithia LitChart as a printable PDF.
Bridge to terabithia.pdf.medium

Running Symbol Timeline in Bridge to Terabithia

The timeline below shows where the symbol Running appears in Bridge to Terabithia. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Individuality vs. Conformity Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...sister, May Belle, sits up and excitedly asks Jess if he’s going out for a run. Their youngest sibling, Joyce Ann, is still asleep in the bed she and May Belle... (full context)
Individuality vs. Conformity Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...crouches low and takes off across the field. He doesn’t have great form as a runner, but he has a lot of “grit” for a ten-year-old. At Jess’s school, which is... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...envisions himself winning as he races across the field. He knows that becoming the fastest runner in the fifth grade will make him a star at school—and might also make his... (full context)
Chapter 2
Individuality vs. Conformity Theme Icon
Fantasy and Escapism Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
The next morning, Jess gets up early to run even though he’s tired. While he runs through the field, imagining himself racing against Wayne... (full context)
Chapter 3
Individuality vs. Conformity Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...he passes the desk of his friend Gary Fulcher, the boy asks Jess if he’s running the race today. Overcome with excitement, Jess says he is. When Jess sits back down... (full context)
Individuality vs. Conformity Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...the excited boys. Gary Fulcher organizes fourth and fifth graders into groups of four to run in heats. Jess watches the first few heats with anticipation, cheering when Gary wins one.... (full context)
Individuality vs. Conformity Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
When it’s time for Jess’s race, he enjoys the feeling of running alongside his classmates—he can tell that the others notice how much he’s improved over the... (full context)
Individuality vs. Conformity Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...calling his name, he ignores her, but he turns to watch as she flies off running toward the old Perkins place, natural and beautiful as a wild bird. (full context)
Chapter 4
Individuality vs. Conformity Theme Icon
Fantasy and Escapism Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...to beat them easily. By the end of the week, most of them have stopped running altogether, and Jess feels that Leslie has ruined the fun of running for him and... (full context)
Chapter 11
Friendship, Grief, and Loss Theme Icon
Fantasy and Escapism Theme Icon
Jess turns around runs out of the house. He keeps running all the way down the main road. He... (full context)