Bridge to Terabithia
by Katherine Paterson
Analysis: Writing Style
Plain and Honest
There's nothing highfalutin' or fancy about the language in this book. And that's fitting, because the people in it are plain speaking and straightforward, too. Leslie and her family, who are more obviously cultured and educated than the other folks in the town, aren't pretentious in their use of knowledge or vision: they're just more open. Even in Terabithia, Leslie and Jess speak more formally and solemnly, but they're always motivated by honesty and faithfulness to their idea of the place they inhabit.
And when bad things happen, Paterson uses the same simple, honest language to make sense of them. In the excerpt below, Jess learns that Leslie has died:
Something whirled around inside Jess's head. He opened his mouth, but it was dry and no words came out. He jerked his head from one face to the next for someone to help him.
Finally his father spoke, his big rough hand stroking his wife's hair and his eyes downcast watching the motion. "They found the Burke girl this morning down in the creek." (11.1-2)
Jess can't even speak to figure out what's happened to his friend: "no words c[o]me out." When his dad confirms the news, he doesn't sugarcoat it, or hide it behind platitudes (which are like clichés). He doesn't use meaningless words to talk about such a meaningful event. He just says what happened. What makes this harder is that, even though Jess is looking at his family's faces hoping that they'll "help him" by denying the news or disproving it, his father doesn't even meet his eyes while quickly and immediately letting him know that kind of help won't be coming.