Bridge to Terabithia
by Katherine Paterson
Bridge to Terabithia Courage Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
For Jess the fear of the crossing rose with the height of the creek. Leslie never seemed to hesitate, so Jess could not hang back. But even though he could force his body to follow after, his mind hung back, wanting to cling to the crab apple tree the way Joyce Ann might cling to Momma's skirt. (9.50)
Although Jess compares his desire to "cling to the crab apple tree" to his baby sister "cling[ing] to Momma's skirt," which could be seen as a kind of put-down or negative – not very "manly" – it's actually pretty rational. Jess is right and Leslie is wrong, as later events unfortunately show. The creek is really dangerous. While courage and bravery seem positive and fear seems negative, too much courage can be worse than not having enough. Courage needs to be tempered with reason and rationality.
It wasn't so much that he minded telling Leslie that he was afraid to go; it was that he minded being afraid. It was as though he had been made with a great piece missing… Lord, it would be better to be born without an arm than to go through life with no guts. (9.67)
Jess worries that there's something wrong with him because of the amount of fear he feels – like he was born without the genetic code for bravery or something. Jess's feelings here are reminiscent of his complex concerns about getting Leslie the right Christmas present. He's not worried about how he'll appear to the world – he's being pushed by a powerful inner compulsion, which, in this case, is shame and upset-ness that he's afraid at all.
You know something weird?
What? Leslie asked.
I was scared to come to Terabithia this morning. (11.20-22)
Here Jess is trying for a do-over, having an imaginary/dream conversation with Leslie in which he tries to alter the future and confess his fear to her, perhaps in order to alter the course of future events. Even though he worried so much about confessing his fear about going to Terabithia during the storm, he never got a chance to do it. We can see how he would blame himself for her death because of that. In this conversation, he tries to make that right by admitting his fear and what also seems like a little guilt.