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
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.
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.