Study Guide

Bridge to Terabithia Chapter 1

By Katherine Paterson

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Chapter 1

Jesse Oliver Aarons, Jr.

  • We hear the sound of a pickup, which means it's an OK time for Jess to get out of bed. He puts on his overalls but no shoes.
  • His sister May Belle asks where he's going, and he tells her to be quiet; he's going to go run.
  • He has to practice hard so he can be the very "fastest" runner in fifth grade – that's his big goal.
  • Jess has to be super quiet so he doesn't wake his mom or three other sisters. May Belle, the second youngest, really looks up to Jess, which can be a drag sometimes. He eases out of the house and passes their cow Miss Bessie.
  • He imitates the racers he sees on TV, calls "bang," and runs around the cow field. He doesn't have great technique, but he puts everything he's got into it.
  • The school he attends is short on resources, so at recess the big kids hog all the supplies, and the younger kids have to amuse themselves by doing stuff like racing.
  • Last year, he won a race, and became obsessed by running, even though he previously liked drawing. The whole day after he won, people called him the "fastest kid." He's determined to have that title next year – he'll have glory and his family, including May Belle and their dad, will be super impressed.
  • Jess is tired but keeps pushing himself until May Belle calls him in for breakfast.
  • When he comes in, his other sisters Ellie and Brenda make fun of him for sweating and stinking, and his mom tells him to wash off, totally interrupting his coffee drinking.
  • His mom tells him to put on a shirt, so he tells May Belle to go get it, and she does, even though he just bopped her on the head.
  • Their mom tells them there are lots of chores to do, and the two big sisters squirm out of it by fooling her into thinking she said they could go shopping in Millsburg. They even cajole her into giving them five bucks by saying their dad said they could have it.
  • When Brenda pushes for six bucks their mom gets angry and Ellie makes her sister wash the dishes.
  • This means Jesse has to do all the chores, even though he's now wiped out from running. His mom calls him lazy, which he thinks is rich.
  • When he's picking beans, May Belle lets him know that they're getting new neighbors at what used to be the Perkins' house.
  • In a moment of foreshadowing, the narrator tells us that later Jess will think it's ironic that this event didn't mean anything at the time even though it would mean so much in the long run.

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