Brandi Beneke

Dr. Burke
ENGL 414A
8 April 2014

Low-Stakes Writing: Bridge to Terabithia

1. In what ways do characterization, setting, and plot work together to contribute to the
story’s theme(s)?

Plot is a pattern of carefully selected, casually related events that contain conflict and
is much more than what happens in a story. Plot is how events relate to one another,
how single events relate to the work as a whole, how the events are arranged in time,
what conflicts occur in the story, and how conflicts help to reveal character. Plot is
the framework on which a story is set. It can provide foreshadowing of events later to
take place and typically moves forward with rising action, a climax, falling action,
and a resolution. Characterization is the author’s presentation and development of
characters. Characters can be either static, implying they do not grow, or dynamic,
meaning they do grow. Aspects of characterization include how the characters in the
story solve conflicts and relate to one another, what they understand and learn about
themselves, and if and how they change and why. Characterization drives a story
forward by giving motives and reasons for what the characters do and say. There is
frequently establishment of background information about characters, which tells
readers more about them so that they can identify with them and/or further understand
what the characters do. Setting is the time, place, general environment, occupation,
and manner of daily living of the characters in a story. Analyzing when and where the
action takes place, the relationship between the setting and the plot, how the time in
which the story is set affects the situations with which the characters are faced, how
the setting creates the mood of the story, and how the setting affects the characters
reveals what overall effect the setting may or may not have on a story. Setting
provides the reader with exact descriptions and details of what is around the action
that happens in a story and can give reasons that certain events take place.

In Bridge to Terabithia, the characters (and characterization), setting, and plot work
together to contribute to the themes of friendship, courage, gender roles, society and
class distinctions, death and transformation. Friendship is the most important kind of
relationship in this novel as friends are the family that you get to choose for yourself.
Jess and Leslie understand and support each other as well as help each other grow and
continue to evolve. The bond they share strengthens as they become open to a greater
world than the ones they knew before. Courage takes many forms in this novel,
whether it’s standing up for girls' rights to run with the boys, crossing a rushing creek
in the pouring rain, getting revenge on a bully, or comforting that bully. It's also about
admitting when something scares you, knowing when to wait instead of fight, and
learning that acknowledging or facing your fears is just as brave as not feeling fear in
the first place. Gender role is a motif that plays off the idea of conformity. Jess is
expected to fit into a distinctly masculine mold and Leslie herself struggles with
gender stereotypes in that she doesn’t fit easily into a feminine category. The novel
presents the social class distinctions and the distinctions between the fifth graders
(and even younger kids) and the seventh graders. The older students get all the
resources and get to abuse the younger students. The younger students have to take
care of, and amuse, themselves. In this novel, the power of transformation comes
from Jess and Leslie’s friendship and they are both changed for the better as they
each teach each other about becoming a better person.

2. In what ways does the use of symbolism throughout the novel enrich the story and
enhance the reader’s understanding?

Symbolism is the use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities by giving them
meanings that are different from their literal sense. Symbolism can take different
forms, but it is generally an object that represents an abstract value or entity to give it
an entirely different meaning that is much deeper and more significant. Symbols can
be extremely potent, taking on a life of their own, and can enhance the characters,
plot, and even theme of a story.
In Bridge to Terabithia, many symbols are used. Terabithia itself is a symbol of
idealized childhood, of a perfect world in which children can rule supreme without
the responsibilities of adulthood. The place provides a much-needed refuge for Leslie
and Jess. The novel also suggests that Leslie is frozen forever on the boundary
between childhood and adulthood, symbolized by the creek in which she drowns.
Jess, however, comes to understand after this tragedy that he must not depend on
Terabithia as an escape anymore, but instead start tackling life’s problems head-on.
The rope over the creek is also symbolic. When Jess and Leslie originated the idea of
Terabithia, Leslie decreed that the rope swinging over the creek would be a magic
rope and the only entrance into the magical land. When the rope snaps, it seems to be
a symbol stating that the magic is at an end. Jess eventually comes to realize, though,
that the magic is in him as much as it was in Leslie and he has the power to resurrect
Terabithia. The bridge he creates is both literal and metaphorical. It is not only an
object that connects imaginative Terabithia to Lark Creek, but something that
connects Jess and Leslie, that solidifies their friendship, and that links them to that
magical place. It is also another way of affirming that the beauty, wonder, and magic
that were so much a part of Leslie did not disappear when she died and brings the
magic that Leslie saw in Terabithia to the outside world where he can share it with
others, as he does with May Belle so that she can enjoy the enchanted childhood
available to her in Terabithia.