Bridge To Terabithia Comparative Essay

Analysis of Bridge to Terabithia Essay

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Friendship can be shown through the words of anyone in any form, whether it is short or long, in a simple poem to a complicated novel, even in a simple common book such as, Bridge to Terabithia. The author, Paterson, uses many of reasonable literary elements in her book, such elements encompass: character, plot, setting, theme, style, point of view, and tone. These seven elements show us that friendship between the main characters, Jesse and Leslie, in Bridge to Terabithia, although interrupted by many everyday occurrences, can develop quickly, without one's realization. And that friendship, that was suddenly started, can be suddenly gone with the least suspected. In this instance, friendship is suddenly ended, there would be the…show more content…

There is stereotyping in Jesse and Leslie when they become friends and make their make-believe land. Jesse's sisters are stereotyped in that the two older sisters are "babies" (7), May Belle "worshiped" (2) him, and Joyce Ann was "pure pain." (6) This is stereotypical because Paterson states that all four year olds are pure pain on page six. And the way in which the two older girls and the middle girl act towards Jesse is just a stereotype given to girls in that standpoint. The flat characters in the story are the characters in which Paterson only mentions once in a while in order to give the story some outside experience, for example, Jesse's family, Leslie's family, and school acquaintances. The characters with such traits, basically includes everyone in the story except Jesse and Leslie, who we learn have the round character trait. Jesse and Leslie have the advantage in the story; in this case, by having the protagonist character trait and we learn not only what they are in appearance and in thought but in feeling, as well. Jesse reportedly in love with Mrs. Edmonds (12) but somehow felt that Leslie had a beautiful quality (28) and Leslie had an immediate liking towards Jesse, as any schoolchild would, seeing that they are "down on the next farm" (8). Although most all the characters tend to stay the same in Bridge to Terabithia, the character that

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Bridge to Terabithia

Katherine Paterson

Originally published in 1977, winner of the 1978 Newbery Medal

Harper Teen, 2004

$6.99, Paperback


April 30th, 2012

Bridge to Terabithia (film)

Based on the book by Katherine Paterson, Directed by Gabor Csupo

Walt Disney/Walden Media, 2007

Rated PG

April 30th, 2012

Genre: Realistic

Age: 10+

Description: Jesse Aarons, the only boy in a family of five children, lives in rural southwest Virginia. His mother favors his sisters, while his father is busy with work and doesn’t get to spend much time with the family. May Belle, the second youngest sister, adores and admires Jess. Leslie Burke is an only child who moves to the area. Jess and Leslie soon become close friends. He shares his secret love of drawing with her, and she shares with Jess her love of fantasy stories. The two children create an imaginary kingdom, Terabithia, in the woods near their homes, accessible only by a rope swing over a creek. For Christmas, Leslie gives Jess some paints and Jess gets her a puppy. Jess has a crush on his young music teacher, Miss Edmunds. One day he is asked to accompany Miss Edmunds to the National Gallery of Art. While he’s gone, Leslie goes to Terabithia alone. The rope breaks as she is swinging over the rain-swollen creek and Leslie drowns. Jess is grief stricken and eventually moves on by remembering the strength and courage Leslie gave him. To remember her, he builds a bridge across the creek and takes May Belle there to make her the new Princess of Terabithia.

Opinion: When Katherine Paterson published her Newbery award-wining novel Bridge to Terabithia in 1977, critics said children wouldn’t be able to handle a story about death. When the movie version hit theatres nationwide in 2007, viewers were generally pleased to see an adaptation that remained faithful to Paterson’s story, despite pressures to make huge changes to the plot. Of course, we all know that every time a film company decides to turn a novel into a movie there are chances that some changes, either slight or drastic, will occur. Bridge to Terabithia is no different. Remaining faithful to Paterson’s original story, there are some major similarities and differences for readers and viewers to observe. These include some similarities of plot and some updating to the original story’s setting and characterization and the technical aspects of computer generated imagery to bring Terabithia to life.

The main plot of the movie version stays faithful to the book mainly due in part to the screenplay being written by David Paterson, Katherine Paterson’s son, and since the story was based on something that happened to him as a child it was personally important to him so he did not want to see the book turned into a movie version that didn’t even resemble the original story. In 1974, Lisa Hill, a close friend of David’s, was killed when she was struck by lightning. In an interview David Paterson said, “If you can believe this I did meet with some companies that asked if I could just ‘hurt’ Leslie a little bit—put her in a light coma and then bring her out” (Oleck, 2007, para. 2). The film’s director, Gabor Csupo, fell in love with the story and wanted to take the emotion he saw in the book and successfully translate it to the movie version. Thus, the main similarity between the book and the movie is the representation of Jess and Leslie’s friendship and how Leslie’s death changes Jess’s life.

One of the first differences in the film is the setting of the story. In Paterson’s novel, the original story takes place in the time she wrote it—the 1970s. The movie version has been set forward to more modern times. For example, in the book the narrator describes Lark Creek Elementary as being “short on everything”. In the movie version, the school still looks rural, but the playground is a huge, lovely grass field. In the schoolroom there are many references made to things that didn’t exist in a 1970s room, such as modern computers. Mrs. Myers even tells her students that no electronic devices are allowed in class and that nobody better “download” their papers from the Internet.

A second difference between the book and the film versions involves some minor changes in characterization. One thing most readers will notice automatically is that the physical appearance of Jess and Leslie has been switched. In the book, Jess has “straw-colored hair” while Leslie has “jaggedy brown hair cut close” to her face. In the movie, the children’s hair colors are switched. Also related to the appearance of the characters, Jess, in the book, has a hard time even identifying Leslie’s gender, calling her an “it” at first. In Csupo’s movie, Leslie is clearly a girl from first glance with her bright blonde hair and colorful wardrobe. The children’s clothing also gets an update from a plain 1970s style to a more modern 1990s look. On the first day of school, Paterson describes Leslie as appearing “dressed in the faded cutoffs and the blue undershirt,” which shocks the rest of the class sitting there “dressed in their spring Sunday best”. In the movie, Jess wears modern clothes for school, and Leslie is decked out in bright colors, multiple layers, elbow pads, and a multitude of bracelets and other jewelry.

Unfortunately, a third major difference between the book and the movie versions, which came from a conflict between Paterson and Csupo’s visions and the studio’s vision for the film, lies behind adding CGI to bring to life the imaginary world Jess and Leslie create in Terabithia. Weta Digital conceived the special effects, creating CG creatures and inserting them into the film. Despite the limited amount of CGI actually produced for the film, the effect these added shots had on the press releases prior to the movie’s opening was enormous. While Katherine Paterson left most of the details of Terabithia to the reader's imagination, the film’s media efforts presented its version of Terabithia as the flashy main attraction to the movie. Both Paterson and Csupo believe that the movie’s trailer didn’t represent to potential viewers the real depth of the movie’s plot. The filmmakers even distanced themselves from the advertising campaign saying that the advertising was deliberately misleading and made the film seem to be about or occur solely in a fantasy world. Overall, the added CGI effects to the movie was a necessary step to make the world of Terabithia come alive in front of a movie audiences’ eyes. It was an acceptable change to the movie because something visual needed to be put on the screen unlike the Terabithia of the book which could be whatever a reader’s imagination envisioned it to be.

Despite some CGI effects causing the marketing of the film to appear to be a full-on fantasy story and some slight updates in setting and changes in characterization, the book and film version do have a number of elements that stay faithful to one another. In both versions, Jess is apprehensive at first to Leslie’s attempts at friendship. He is angry at her for winning the relay race, but then he warms up to her when he feels bad that the class teases her for not owning a television. They are both teased by Janice Avery, an eighth grader who is beaten by her father, and later turns out to be a possible friend. Other plot similarities between book and movie include such little things as Jess giving Leslie her dog Prince Terrien, the painting of the “Golden Room”, Leslie going to church with the Aarons family, Miss Edmund taking Jess to the museum, and Leslie’s subsequent death. All of these little similarities move the movie’s plot to its resolution—Jess’s reaction to and acceptance of Leslie’s death—which almost mirrors the book’s plot perfectly.

In both the book and the movie, Jess’s first reaction to Leslie’s death is flat out denial—Leslie can’t drown. Jess runs away to the woods, and in both versions is brought home by his father. The next morning he acts as if nothing happened because he is still in denial. The family goes to Leslie’s wake where a tender moment is shared between Mr. Burke and Jess. One of the last scenes that translated well from book to movie was Jess’s decision to honor Leslie’s memory by building a bridge to Terabithia. It’s moments like these that are touching for both fans of the book to see acted out and for viewers enjoying the film that have no prior knowledge of the story.

Luckily, for most fans of the original Bridge to Terabithia novel, the film version will be a future favorite as well. Fans of the book will be forever grateful that Paterson’s son, David, co-wrote the screenplay while remaining faithful to his mother’s original novel. Despite some modern touches to the setting and characterization and a few minor CGI effects to bring the imagination of Terabithia to life, the movie is an accurate portrayal of the book’s plot due to the fact that the screenwriter and the director believed in the power of Paterson’s original story and didn’t want to change a bit of its powerful message in the transition of the plot from printed page to silver screen. 


Oleck, J. (2007). “Bridge to Terabithia” hits the big screen. School Library Journal, 53(2), 20. Retrieved from Wilson Web.

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