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As a child, reading Bridge to Terabithia, I was horrified when

Leslie died

As an older reader now, I wonder whether her death was necessary to the development of Jessie. Was her death for a purpose, or was it just the author giving a sence of mortality to her characters?

6

No, because Bridge to Terabithia was written in response to a genuine event. Author Katherine Paterson wrote the book after her son's best friend was struck by lightning and killed.

The book is a reaction to mortality, but it's not symbolic. It's a way to try to process how unfair life can be, and how to cope with the aftermath of such an event.

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