Bridge to Terabithia Important Characters

Jesse Aarons, Jr.

Jesse's young life is changed irrevocably by Leslie Burke, who shows him friendship and much more. She takes him into an imaginary country they rule together, Terabithia, which is their secret place to be themselves. There Jesse can draw, learn new stories, and explore different ideas without the fear of being ridiculed by his father, sisters, or classmates.

Jesse is a talented artist, but his father doesn't feel drawing pictures is a proper activity for boys. So Jesse draws in secret, but in Terabithia he can talk to Leslie about his desire to be an artist. He wants to be the fastest runner in the fifth grade, but Leslie beats him in the recess races. She is the fastest runner, which at first irritates him, but he soon comes to terms with it.

He realizes she is the best friend he will ever have, which is enough for him. He looks forward to spending time with her and hearing about the experiences she has had or listening to her tell him a story. He longs to draw pictures to accompany the stories she tells him.

Jesse is also in love with his music teacher, Miss Edmunds, who encourages his drawing also. He needs to feel special, because at home he is anything but special to his parents. His mother and father see him as a person to do chores, saving their love and attention for his four sisters.

Leslie's death hits Jesse hard, because he never thought anyone his age could die and because Leslie was so full of life. She gave him a whole new way to look at the world, which changes who he is forever.

Jesse in the end tries to give to his sister, May Belle, what Leslie gave to him, which proves he is a loving and kind person.

Leslie Burke

Leslie and her parents move from Pennsylvania to Lark Creek in order to simplify their lives. Leslie has been exposed to books, ideas, and experiences a typical ten-year-old would not be, because her parents are professional writers.

She doesn't dress like the other girls at Lark Creek Elementary, nor does she talk like the other girls and this causes her problems. She is picked on for everything she has and does, from the way she talks to the food in her lunch box. She is desperate for a friend and decides Jesse Aarons is the person to be her friend, she just has to convince him he wants to be her friend. She does this through perseverance and being her kind open self.

After she and Jesse become friends, she decides they need a secret place to call their own, which they find and she names Terabithia. She makes herself queen and Jesse king of the country. There they share secrets and she tells Jesse stories she has read and about the experiences she has had. They are wonderful friends, but it ends the day she drowns in the creek they must cross to enter Terabithia.

Jesse has to find a way to cope with his loss. It takes him some time, but he eventually brings his sister to Terabithia to continue the path Leslie and he started.

Leslie is an unconventional girl, who is comfortable in her own skin. She gives Jesse friendship freely and allows him to see she is a girl who needs friendship. Her death leaves a hole in her parents' world and in Jesse's world.

May Belle Aarons

May Belle Aarons is Jesse's seven-year-old sister. She worships her brother, which is a good thing for Jesse because very few people even like him. May Belle wants him to protect her when she is victimized by the school bully and she wants him to play Barbie with her at home. She is a typical seven-year-old and she is Jesse's favorite sibling.

May Belle follows Jesse to Terabithia, so she is not left out of the secret. It is because of her relationship with Jesse, that May Belle is made the next queen of Terabithia, after Leslie dies.

May Belle is sweet, innocent, and loving especially towards her big brother.


Jesse's mother is overwhelmed with children. She has five children, not enough money to raise them and not enough patience to give them the guidance they need. She wants to be pampered by her children and is disappointed time and again as they fail to coddle her. She feels she deserves a better life and doesn't know how to achieve it. She is also sensitive to how she and her family are perceived by others in the community. She doesn't like Leslie because she thinks she looks down on the Aarons family. This is not true, but it takes a lot of work on Leslie's part to convince her she doesn't think they are below her in society.

Momma does show compassion towards Jesse after Leslie dies, but she is unable to give him the comfort he needs. Momma is a self-centered woman, whose circumstances do not allow her this luxury.

Jesse Aarons, Sr.

Jesse's dad is a man of few words for Jesse. He works hard and doesn't believe in giving his only son any signs of love, for fear it would seem unmanly. He doesn't approve of Jesse's drawings and of Jesse and Leslie's friendship, because they seem unsuitable for a boy.

He does however show compassion towards Jesse after Leslie dies, which brings the two of them closer together.

Miss Edmunds

She is Jesse's music teacher, who encourages him to keep on drawing. She praises his talent and even takes him to Washington D. C. to tour the National Gallery. She is unconventional, because she wears jeans to school, but she is also warm and fun to be around. Jesse has fallen in love with her and looks forward to the Friday music class every week.

Judy and Bill Burke

They are Leslie's parents who are writers. Bill especially bonds with Jesse, during the renovation of the living room in the Burke house. Bill comes to appreciate Jesse's carpentry skills and Jesse likes to listen to Bill talk. Bill and Judy are both professional writers who are very successful, which means they expose Jesse to a different way of life than he has at home.

After Leslie dies, Bill thanks Jesse for being such a wonderful friend to his daughter and tells him Leslie loved him. Leslie's parents love her very much and do everything possible to make her life full and special.

Janice Avery

Janice is the school bully, who steals lunch food and money from the little kids, she even picks on May Belle and tries to bully Leslie. Jesse both times is instrumental in exacting revenge against her, to teach her a lesson.

Then Leslie learns why Janice is so mean, it is because her father beats her at home. After Leslie shows Janice some kindness, Janice is kinder towards Leslie.

Janice proves the theory, that the reason someone is a bully is to make them feel better about themselves. She bullied the other students, because her father is beating her and making her feel worthless at home.

Related Links:

Bridge to Terabithia Quotes
Bridge to Terabithia Chapters 1 - 3 Summary
Bridge to Terabithia Chapters 4 - 5 Summary
Bridge to Terabithia Summary
Bridge to Terabithia Quiz
Bridge to Terabithia Chapters 1 - 3 Quiz
Bridge to Terabithia Chapters 4 - 5 Quiz
Bridge to Terabithia Chapters 6 - 9 Quiz
Bridge to Terabithia Chapters 10 - 13 Quiz
Bridge to Terabithia Chapters 6 - 9 Summary
Bridge to Terabithia Chapters 10 - 13 Summary
Literature Summaries

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