| Quote #1
But this year Wayne Pettis would be in the sixth grade. He'd play football until Christmas and baseball until June with the rest of the big guys. Anybody had a chance to be the fastest runner, and by Miss Bessie, this year it was going to be Jesse Oliver Aarons, Jr. (1.19)
Here, we see Jess attempting to transform himself through force of will. He spies an opportunity and wants to take advantage of it. Through hard work, he can make himself into what he wants to be, which in this case is the "the fastest runner."
| Quote #2
Jess drew the way some people drink whiskey. The peace would start at the top of his muddled brain and seep down through his tired and tensed-up body. Lord, he loved to draw. (2.11)
The practice of drawing changes Jess from the inside out. It's like a drug, or an addiction. He gets a high from doing it that calms him down and brings him "peace." Even though his father disapproves of Jess drawing, Jess can't help it. He craves the activity and needs the "peace" it brings.
| Quote #3
We don't belong at Lark Creek, Julia and me. "You're the proverbial diamond in the rough," she'd said to him once, touching his nose lightly with the tip of her electrifying finger. But it was she who was the diamond, sparkling out of that muddy, grassless, dirty-brick setting. (2.23)
Both Jess and Miss Edmunds ("Julia") recognize the other as someone who doesn't belong. Miss Edmunds is unlike the other teachers in that she recognizes Jess's potential for transformation, seeing talent that needs to be uncovered and polished. While she calls Jess a "diamond in the rough," he sees her as that "diamond." It probably doesn't hurt that her first name, Julia, sounds like "jewel."