| Quote #1
He would like to show his drawings to his dad, but he didn't dare. When he was in first grade, he had told his dad that he wanted to be an artist when he grew up. He'd thought his dad would be pleased. He wasn't. (2.13)
Poor Jess. At May Belle's age he had larger ambitions than just being a runner, and his dad squashed them. This did more damage to Jess than his dad probably knew. Even though Jess still loved to draw, it became more of a secret thing, and even the encouragement of Miss Edmunds wasn't enough to get Jess to defy his father and be more open about it. It's his friendship with Leslie that helps him recapture that desire to make art.
| Quote #2
Jess's face went hot. "Sure," he said recklessly. "Why not?" He turned deliberately toward Leslie. "Wanna run?" he asked.
Jess turns the tables on his frenemy Gary and accuses him of cowardice so that Leslie can compete in the race too. This shows us how the merest accusation of being fearful can be a powerful motivator. Nobody wants to look like a coward, and sometimes that makes people act foolishly instead of bravely. Here, though, it's definitely brave and right to let Leslie run in the race. We're all about equality, and hope you are too.
| Quote #3
Lord, he was such a coward. How could he be all in a tremble just listening to Mrs. Myers read about it? He was worse a baby than Joyce Ann. His dad expected him to be a man. And here he was letting some girl who wasn't even ten yet scare the liver out of him by just telling what it was like to sight-see under water. Dumb, dumb, dumb. (4.43)
Here we have this really interesting connection of manliness to bravery. There's a stereotype here that "be[ing] a man" means not being a "coward." Jess compares himself unfavorably with Leslie, who he calls "some girl," because she's describing something he sees as brave because he'd be scared to do it himself. What Jess doesn't realize yet is that men get scared, too – and that's totally OK. Everyone does from time to time. He shouldn't be embarrassed about it – sometimes there are good reasons to listen to your fear and hesitate.