Bridge to Terabithia


Katherine Paterson

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The Bridge to Terabithia Symbol Analysis

The Bridge to Terabithia Symbol Icon

The titular bridge to Terabithia initially symbolizes the connection between real life and the imaginary, and eventually comes to represent a how grief can be utilized and redirected in a positive way. When Jess and Leslie find and create the realm of Terabithia—a place where they can be alone and free from the judgment of their parents, their school bullies, and their overbearing teachers—they select a remote spot in the woods just beyond a shallow but wide creek. The creek is empty, but Jess and Leslie always use a rope swing hanging from a nearby tree to cross the bed. Their swing over to Terabithia becomes a kind of ritual—a symbol of passing between the “real” world and the one they’ve created together. However, Leslie, upon visiting Terabithia alone, falls to her death from the rope during a storm. After this tragedy, Jess must come up with a new way of getting across the creek and so constructs a “bridge” out of a large fallen branch. His sister May Belle becomes stranded on the bridge when she tries to follow him across, but Jess skillfully helps her conquer her fears and clear the bridge. Soon after, Jess begins building a real, stable bridge to Terabithia using lumber form the Burke family’s porch. The bridge Jesse builds himself, board by board, represents the process of grieving. Grief often threatens to create an insulating force which cuts one off from the friends, family, places, and things that matter most—but Jess’s construction of a symbolic bridge between the private world of Terabithia and the “real” world shows that he wants Leslie’s death to bring him closer to those around him rather than isolate him from them further.

The Bridge to Terabithia Quotes in Bridge to Terabithia

The Bridge to Terabithia quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Bridge to Terabithia. 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 13 Quotes

When [Jess] finished, he put flowers in [May Belle’s] hair and led her across the bridge—the great bridge into Terabithia—which might look to someone with no magic in him like a few planks across a nearly dry gully.

“Shhh,” he said. “Look.”


“Can’t you see ‘um?” he whispered. “All the Terabithians standing on tiptoe to see you. […] There’s a rumor going around that the beautiful girl arriving today might be the queen they’ve been waiting for.”

Related Characters: Jess Aarons (speaker), May Belle Aarons (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Bridge to Terabithia
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Bridge to Terabithia Symbol Timeline in Bridge to Terabithia

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Bridge to Terabithia appears in Bridge to Terabithia. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 13
Friendship, Grief, and Loss Theme Icon
Fantasy and Escapism Theme Icon
...long pieces across the creek near where the rope swing used to be, forming a bridge, then starts nailing the crosspieces on. May Belle, who has followed Jess down to the... (full context)
Friendship, Grief, and Loss Theme Icon
Fantasy and Escapism Theme Icon
When Jess finally finishes building the bridge to Terabithia, he puts flowers in May Belle’s hair and leads her across the structure—he... (full context)