Speech on Identity

Do you remember when you were a 5th grader? You might have loved drawing & running, loathed having to do your chores & felt hassled by your siblings like Jesse (Jess) Aarons but unlike Jess you may not have been dealing with several family, school, and gender issues. The novel ‘Bridge to Terabitha’, 1977, by Katherine Patterson, deals Jess’ search for an identity in his transition from youth to maturity.
Before Jess met his best friend Leslie Burke, at home he received little attention from his parents and in school bullying left him lonely, insecure and frustrated that no one understood him.

Jess & Leslie’s strong bond is bound by the imaginary world of Terabithia that they create & govern together. It is a place where Jess is able to be the person he is struggling to grow into. Leslie’s friendship transforms Jess, giving him purpose, enjoyment of life, and allowing him to overcome his fears and be free from the pressures of conformity.

Contrast is used throughout the novel. Mr. Aaron is neglectful & un-accepting of Jess while Mr. Burke makes time for Leslie and gives her the freedom to be who she wants. This demonstrates the pressure on Jess to conform and become fully accepted by his father.
The contrast between Terabithia and the real world highlight the similarities between both, the monsters Jess and Leslie have to fight in Terabithia are like the bullies at school, which they learn to confront.

The two characters don’t fit their gender stereotypes, Leslie a girl that is brave, athletic and has short hair and Jess a boy who is sensitive, shy, afraid and artistic.   Jess’ sensitivity and fears are demonstrated by the use of figurative language, Jess feels like his life is as fragile as a dandelion. “One little puff from any direction, and it is blown to bits.”

Towards the end of the novel this becomes as reality as Jess learns of the death of Leslie who fell and drowned in crossing the river to Terabithia. Jess is...