Bridge to Terabithia : Characters
Brenda Aarons is Jess's fat older sister who is in high school. She gives Jess a hard time and is not a very loving person.
Ellie Aarons is Jess's oldest sister, also in high school. Mrs. Aarons complains that Ellie is the only one who helps her out around the house. The two older girls are self-involved with boyfriends and clothes and regard Jesse as a nuisance.
Jesse Aarons, Sr.
Jess Aarons, Sr. is Jesse's father. He is a farmer who cannot make ends meet with his farm, and so he must take day work in the surrounding area to support his large family. He is a blue-collar worker and so he has no sympathy for Jess's desire to be an artist. Though affectionate to the smaller daughters, he treats Jess as though he is already a man and does not need attention. He is rough with him, scolding him about doing his chores. Once tragedy strikes, however, he is kind and loving to Jess, helping him to deal with Leslie's death.
Jesse Oliver Aarons, Jr.
Jesse Aarons (Jess) is the ten-year-old protagonist of the story. The narration is in third person from his perspective as he tries to make sense of his life. He is the middle child and only son in the Aarons family. He hates his position and feels smothered by the females in the family. He does not have a male ally in his father who is too busy working and who relies on him to do chores on the farm. Jess is passionate about drawing, and makes humorous cartoons, but he hides his drawings from his family and his teachers, not receiving any encouragement, except from the music teacher, Miss Edmunds, and eventually, from Leslie.
Jess hates school and his home life. He has no hope for the future until he meets Leslie. He feels she is his other self. She opens the door to his fantasy by initiating their joint play in Terabithia, the mythical kingdom set in the nearby wood. Leslie gives him confidence in himself, opens his mind to the larger world through books and her family life with parents who are educated intellectuals. Leslie is superior as a person, and she is the example for Jess of having courage to overcome obstacles. Jess fights all through the story with his faults, especially his fear to try something new, and his lack of self-confidence. He worries that he does not have the guts to keep up with Leslie. He proves he is no coward when he risks falling in the creek, his special fear, to save his sister. In Terabithia he is a king, and that is how Leslie makes him feel. His growth through the friendship with Leslie is the main point of the story. The reader watches his transformation from a withdrawn unhappy child to a maturing person, able to care for himself and others. He is able to do for his sister, May Belle, what Leslie did for him.
Joyce Ann Aarons
Joyce Ann is the baby of the Aarons family, a four-year-old girl. Jess has to sleep with the two younger children and sometimes care for them as well as do his chores. When his mother does not cook, he makes sandwiches for the girls.
May Belle Aarons
May Belle Aarons is Jess's skinny six-year-old sister who tags after him. She worships her older brother and tries to get his attention. He and Leslie have to bribe her to keep her from following them. Leslie gives her some paper dolls to pacify her. Jess actually likes May Belle better than his other sisters and sacrifices his Christmas money to get her a Barbie doll. After Leslie dies, he initiates May Belle into the Terabithia play, crowning her queen.
Mrs. Aarons does not have much of a personality or influence on Jess. She is a worn-out farm wife who nags, trying to get the children to listen. She makes Jess help her with canning and child care, while allowing the teenage girls to run around as they please. She comes from Georgia and cooks grits. She is a foil to Leslie's mother who is an educated professional woman, an author with little domestic responsibility.
Janice Avery is a very tall and fat seventh grader who bullies the smaller children. She exhorts money from them to enter the bathroom, for instance, and steals May Belle's Twinkies from her lunch. Jess and Leslie play a trick on her for revenge, making her think that a boy likes her with a forged love note. Leslie finds Janice crying one day and learns that she is mean because at home her father beats her up every day. In Terabithian play, she is the model for the mean giants.
Miss Bessie is the cow on the Aarons farm. Jess milks her morning and evening. He contrasts his life of worry with her seeming contented life in the pasture.
Bill Burke is Leslie's father, a political writer from Washington, D.C. He moves his family from the prosperous suburb of Arlington, Virginia, to the country to live a more simple life, out of the rat race. Leslie bonds with him as she helps him to redecorate their old farm house. Bill is the one who decides to paint the living room gold. The Burkes have liberal values, and Leslie reflects this in her dress and behavior. Bill welcomes Jess, the local friend of his daughter, benefiting from his handyman skills as they work on the house, and thankful for his kindness to his daughter. Jess has a moment of anger towards Bill when he wonders why he moved his daughter to this place where she would die, instead of keeping her safe where she was.
Judy Burke is Leslie's mother. Leslie calls her parents by their first names. Judy is a published author of fiction. She walks around in something of a daze, always in her fictional world. She barely notices what the children are doing. She plays classical music and reads poetry to her family as they refinish the living room. Leslie's literate background and taste for making up her own world probably comes from her mother.
Leslie Burke is a ten-year-old girl who moves from Arlington, Virginia, to the country, where she meets her friend Jess Aarons in fifth grade. They both feel like outsiders and find common ground in their love of art and stories. Leslie immediately sets herself apart by being smart, writing a winning essay that the teacher reads aloud on her hobby of scuba diving, and by dressing like a boy and beating the boys at running. She has grown up in a cultured family and teaches Jess about the great stories in literature, such as Moby Dick. Her family listens to classical music, and Jess hears this as he helps the family to redecorate their home. Leslie is fearless, both physically in terms of swinging across the creek on a rope in all weather, and psychologically, in terms of not letting herself be intimidated by others. Jess notes that she seems to be a perfect “good girl” in school, always working, but he knows her mischievous side. Secretly, she has silly fantasies about people, such as Mrs. Myers, and tells them to Jess to make him laugh. Leslie champions liberal causes; she wants to save the whales and gets mad when someone litters the countryside. Leslie is not frightened by the rain and swollen creek like Jess is. She goes to Terabithia without him. The rope snaps, she hits her head on a rock, and drowns in the creek. Her parents have her cremated, a shocking practice to the conventionally religious Aarons family. Leslie has not been raised with religion but goes to church on Easter to see what it is like with the Aarons family. She likes the story of Jesus and says she does not believe God sends people to hell, a view which seems close to the author's as a consoling thought about death.
Miss Julia Edmunds
Miss Julia Edmunds is the music teacher at Jess's school. She is young and pretty with long dark hair. She is like Leslie, dressing as a contemporary liberated woman in jeans, rather than wearing a dress. She is criticized for this by the locals who are old-fashioned, but the children love her singing class. She plays guitar and teaches them songs from the 1960s, such as “This Land is Your Land.” Miss Edmunds travels from school to school in rural Virginia, coming to Jess's school on Friday. She is the only one, until Jess meets Leslie, who recognizes Jess's artistic talent. She encourages him and even takes him on a special field trip to the art museums in Washington, D.C. Jess has a deep crush on her.
Gary Fulcher is the leader of the fifth-grade boys. He sits behind Jess and heckles him when he tries to secretly draw at his desk. He organizes the races for the boys at recess. He and Jess vie to be first place in the races that year, but both are thwarted by Leslie who wins over all the boys. Gary is against her running, but Jess defends her.
Mrs. (“Monster Mouth”) Myers
Mrs. Myers is the fifth-grade teacher at Lark Creek Elementary School, the teacher of Jess and Leslie. She is a plump middle-aged widow and makes do with teaching in a poor school without proper facilities. Her class is in the basement, and it is crowded. She has too many students and has to seat Leslie by her desk. Mrs. Myers has a nickname of “Monster Mouth” because she is like a dragon shooting flames with her scolding voice. Though the children make jokes behind her back as they would with any teacher, she seems to be competent and fair. She has a fondness for Leslie because she is smart and imaginative. After Leslie's death, Mrs. Myers tries to comfort Jess, telling about her own experience of her husband's death. This immediately makes her human to Jess.
Prince Terrien (P. T.)
Prince Terrien (P. T.) is the little puppy that Jess gives to Leslie for Christmas. She names it Prince Terrien and makes him the guardian of Terebithia. When Leslie dies, the puppy consoles Jess for awhile, but eventually Bill Burke takes it to remind him of his daughter.