1. Jess finds peace in drawing, even though his family and teachers do not support it. When Miss Edmunds tells him he is “unusually talented,” how does her praise affect Jess? How do his actions change as a result of her encouragement? (And how has a teacher affected your life in this way? Why does this seem to be a theme, the single teacher who believes in and inspires students? Dead poets society, Mona Lisa smile…)
Jess is motivated by Miss Edmunds praise and he continues to draw to please her, despite his father's negative opinion of his interest. If he wasn't encouraged by Miss Edmunds, he probably wouldn't have continued to draw. He knows that his teacher is the only one who believes in his talent, so he hides his passion from everyone else. His drawing stimulates his imagination which helps him accept Leslie's creativity.
I had an English teacher in Middle School who was like this for me. She loved my writing and was always careful to praise even when she was correcting my mistakes. I loved her class and I loved writing for her because I knew that she appreciated what I loved. I think this is something that everyone can relate to - a teacher who inspired them.
I can remember thinking that my elementary school teachers knew everything. I respected all of them and loved the ones that were nice. Different from any other adult, including parents, a good teacher is a friend, a role model, and, to my young eyes, a fount of never ending wisdom. I think that Jess loved Miss Edmunds because they had the friendship that he didn't share with his peers, and the respect and support that he didn't recieve from his parents. It is important to have someone like this in our lives, they inspire us and encourage us, and for their sakes, we try to be better.
2. Jess thinks that defending Miss Edmunds “against unjust and hypocritical attack” from the other kids will do no good. Does this seem true? Why? What does that say about his feelings toward the other kids?
It does seem true that the other kids would attack Miss Edmunds despite anything Jess could say. This makes the other kids seem ignorant and close-minded, possibly like their parents. In this passage, it specifically says that the parents thought Miss Edmunds was a hippie, so naturally their kids would adopt that opinion. Jess knows that nothing he says will change the other kids' parents, so he can't change what the kids say about Miss Edmunds.
I think this shows that Jess feels like the other kids can't think for themselves. Until Leslie.
I think in addition to this that Jess's attitude toward the other kids is reflective of how he views his own influence. Jess had little or no say in his family, he was either an observer or ordered around. Coming from this background, it is no surprise that Jess would view himself as voiceless and powerless among his peers. Jess feels that he will have no effect on the children's opinions, so why should he even try to change them?
3. Jess thinks one of his character flaws is that he was born with no guts. In what ways is this true? Do you think he’s brave?
Jess does seem to be afraid of a lot of things, but I think the fact that he admits it shows how brave he really is. He is afraid, but he moves forward anyway, usually because he worries what others will think of him. Leslie helps him to be brave because she shows Jess how to stop being afraid.
Jess's flaw is being afraid of being gutless. But of course, this is a flaw that we all suffer from.
4. After Leslie’s death, Jess’s opinions of others change. What does he realize about Mrs. Myers? May Belle? What event has opened your eyes to someone?
Jess finally sees the human and good side of the people around him after Leslie's death. In his own grief, he sees how others are grieving as well and finds that he has to be strong for them as well. Mrs. Myers empathy is what forges a bond between them and Jess comes to understand more of who Mrs. Myers really is. In his crowning act of bravery, Jess then finds the strength to rebuild the Bridge and in doing so accepts May Belle.
I think an effect of death is that it causes a person to value life, particularly people, more. We tend to become more sympathetic and understanding. This is what happens to Jess. He reacts differently to others and likewise they react differently to him.
5. What does the bridge to Terabithia signify to you? Why do you think it is so important in the book?
The Bridge signifies the strength and power of imagination and creativity to me. When Jess and Leslie cross the bridge, they escape their lives, parents, and fears. I think it is so important in the book because Jess finds the will to rebuild it, to come back to Terabithia even after so much tragedy has tainted it for him. Building our imagination is like building a bridge to a place where we find peace and happiness.
I like the fact that the Jess makes the Bridge in order to bring May Belle into Terabithia. Whereas the imaginary world was formerly an exclusive place, Jess is opening up his imagination for others to share in. This idea is significant to me because I personally have a hard time letting other people into my imagination. In writing there is an element of risk when you create a story and let others read it. To me writing a story is like making Terabithia, and placing it in the hands of a reader is like building the bridge.