Bridge to Terabithia : Chapter 12
Summary of Chapter Twelve: Stranded
There are several cars parked outside Leslie's house. The Aarons family goes into the Gold Room that Jess had helped to paint. Leslie's grandparents are taking care of the guests. The grandmother starts crying. He is happy that he is the only one not crying. Jess begins to have strange thoughts, such as Leslie's death will make him important at school. He decides he wants to see her body and what she is wearing. Bill the father comes and puts his arms around Jess. He begins to cry and tells Jess that Leslie loved him and that he made her life bearable. He thanks Jess for making his daughter happy.
Jess hears Bill say that they have had Leslie cremated and will take the ashes to the family home in Pennsylvania. Suddenly Jess realizes he will never see her again because she is ashes. He is angry because he feels Leslie has left him stranded in the world. He hits May Belle in the face when she asks if he saw the body.
Jess takes the paints Leslie gave him and dumps them in the stream so the colors run. His father has followed him and puts Jess on his lap to hold him while Jess cries. Jess keeps saying he hates Leslie. His father calms him down. Later Bill shows up and leaves Leslie's dog with Jess for a while. Jess falls asleep with the dog in his bed.
Commentary on Chapter Twelve: Stranded
At first Jess holds in his grief and marvels he is the only one not crying. Once he hears about the cremation, however, he loses it and becomes angry, for he feels alone in the world with Leslie gone. He knows he does not really hate her, but he says he does in the throes of grief.
The Burkes continue to be controversial city folks in their manner of treating death. They are not religious and believe cremation is the best way to take care of a dead body. In this historical time frame of the late 1970's, cremation was still not a usual choice, especially for a child. The Burkes do not dress the body up, have visitation, and allow a lot of people to make a fuss. This sends a message to Jess who worries if Leslie will go to hell, as they had previously discussed. She was not a Christian, and her parents cremated her.
Mr. Aarons becomes a good father to Jess at this point, holding him, comforting him, and helping him to accept the death. He tells Jess that God is not going to send any little girls to hell, echoing Leslie's ideas on the subject. The mother, who normally nags Jess, allows him to sleep with Leslie's dog. Even Brenda, the testy sister, is nice to him in this tragic situation. Leslie's death has pulled the family together to some extent. In both life and death, she is an extraordinary person.
Paterson, Katherine, Bridge to Terabithia, Illustrated by Donna Diamond, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1977.