Bridge to Terabithia


Katherine Paterson

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Themes and Colors
Friendship, Grief, and Loss Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Conformity Theme Icon
Fantasy and Escapism Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Appearances vs. Reality Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Bridge to Terabithia, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Friendship, Grief, and Loss

The friendship at the heart of Bridge to Terabithia abruptly becomes a source of grief and loss near the end of the novel. As the story unfolds, however, Katherine Paterson charts the ways in which the power of friendship can become a kind of roadmap to navigating grief. Ultimately, Paterson argues that the lessons of intimacy and respect learned within the bounds of friendship—and the gift of seeing oneself through another’s eyes, which any good…

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Individuality vs. Conformity

When Leslie Burke moves to the small town of Lark Creek, Virginia, the self-assured tomboy from the city is decidedly out of place. Jess Aarons is drawn to Leslie but finds himself continually embarrassed by Leslie’s shirking of social norms and devil-may-care attitude when it comes to interacting with their peers—Jess himself has spent his whole life hiding the truth of who he is and what he values from those around him, both at home…

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Fantasy and Escapism

The fantastical realm of Terabithia, which Jess and Leslie create and build together and then “rule” over as self-appointed king and queen, provides a necessary escape for both children. Terabithia is a place where Jess and Leslie are free to use their active imaginations away from the prying eyes of their classmates, where they can test the limits of their bravery, and where they can be the purest versions of themselves rather than feel pressured…

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Gender Roles

The easy, intimate friendship between Jess Aarons and Leslie Burke puzzles those around them, both at school and at home. The tomboyish Leslie’s disregard for social norms and traditional expressions of femininity, as well as the sensitive Jess’s artistic talent and disregard for cultivating friendships with the other boys in his grade, make both children into objects of curiosity and even scorn in their communities. As the novel progresses, Paterson explores how Jess and Leslie’s…

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Appearances vs. Reality

As the novel progresses, Katherine Paterson demonstrates the frequent disconnect between constructed appearances and private human struggle, as many of her characters quietly deal with problems, feelings, and fears they feel unable to express. By having Jess and Leslie encounter several secondary characters who are much deeper and more complicated than they first seem to be, Paterson suggests that one should always be kind to others, since it is impossible to know the realities of…

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