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Jess Aarons is the protagonist of Bridge to Terabithia.

Role in the film

Jess appears as one of the two protagonists. He lives with his father, mother, and sisters. Times are tough for them because they're living in poverty and Jess has been bullied and mistreated his whole life (even by his older sisters and somewhat abrasive father) and as a result, he is very insecure and is pessimistic. However, his little sister, May Belle, worships him. 

All summer, Jess had been practicing to win a race being held at school. A new girl, Leslie Burke, races against him and the other boys, but no matter how fast he runs, she won. Despite losing the race, she is a good sport and offers him friendship. He refuses and takes May Belle away. 

When getting off the bus, Jess and May Belle realize that Leslie is their new next door neighbor. She and May Belle instantly bond, but Jess is still reluctant. She, however, takes much interest in him as possible and tries to befriend him. 

The next day at school, Leslie recites a poem and Jess is intrigued by her creative and imaginative mind. Soon enough, they start hanging out more and more often and become fast friends. On his birthday, she buys him a brand new art kit, which he loves. 

One day after school, they race into the woods and discover a rope hanging on a tree by the creek. Jess tries to warn Leslie that it might be dangerous to swing on it, but she does so anyway and makes it across the creek. He then follows her and enjoys swinging on the rope as well. 

Leslie suggests that she and Jess create a new world especially for themselves, so they can escape the burdens of reality. She dubs it "Terabithia". Soon enough, she starts to make up many things for their brand new world to the points of saying that all her fantasies are real. Jess starts to learn more and more about her, while at the same time, have brand new adventures in Terabithia. 

Back in the real world, Jess and Leslie start hanging out more. He is still having problems, however, as his father has yelled at him many times, he keeps getting in trouble for things he did not do and everyone else is still mistreating him. Since he is fed up with his miserable life and burdens, he refuses to go back to Terabithia. Despite this, Leslie still stays a friend to him and as a way to make her know he still cares about Terabithia, he buys her a dog, who they name Prince Terrien. Soon enough, he starts getting a better attitude and a more positive look on life when he embraces the world of Terabithia and bonds with Leslie's parents. 

When Jess and Leslie become fed up with Janice Avery's bullying, they decide to get back at her. They play a prank on her by writing a love note that they pass off from a guy she really likes. The next day, they hear her crying in the bathroom and realize that their joke went too far. Leslie, pitying her, finds out that the reason she is mean is because she is abused by her sadistic father and befriends her. 

Jess then takes Leslie to church with him on Easter and she learns all about God. On the way back, May Belle tells her that if you don't believe in the Bible, God damns you to Hell. She says that she doubts that God does that, because he is too busy making the world a better place. Later that day as they leave Terabithia, Jess starts to fall in love with Leslie.

The next day, Jess's music teacher, Miss Edmunds, takes him to a museum out of state. Since he has a crush on her, he does not turn her down, nor does he invite Leslie to come along. 

When he comes back, he finds out that Leslie drowned to her death while trying to get to Terabithia and realizes that he really did love Leslie. At first, Jess thinks his family is playing a cruel joke on him because they don't like Leslie and are always mean to him, but they assure him it is all true. Soon enough, he starts to go through denial with her being gone, takes long, silent walks by himself, becomes bitter towards everyone, reverts back to his original cynical and bitter self, and refuses to speak to anyone. 

At school, Jess is still being bullied and demeaned, even more so than before. When Scott Hauger makes a snide remark to Jess about Leslie's passing, Jess hits him in the face and sends him flying across the classroom. When the teacher tells him to go into the hall, she gives him advice on how to cope with his loss.

Jess tries to get to Terabithia himself, but May Belle wants to come with him. May Belle wants to comfort Jess, but he lashes out at her and pushes her off a tree trunk, causing her to run off and cry. His father follows him into the forest and forces him to confront reality, causing him to finally break down and cry his eyes out. He blames himself for Leslie's death, feeling that if he turned Miss Edmunds away or if he had invited Leslie, this wouldn't have happened (which is kind of true), but his father apologizes for not being a better parent before and hugs him. Jess then thinks Leslie will be crucified and God will send her to Hell because she's not baptized. Jack assured Jess that God won't do that to sweet Leslie, but now Jess thinks he'll be sent to Hell as punishment for causing Leslie's death.

Leslie's parents decide to move back to their previous town, but before they leave, Jess gives them Prince Terrien and he finds out that Leslie loved him and that he meant the world to her. 

Realizing that he can't hide from reality, Jess goes to May Belle and apologizes to her. Then, he builds a bridge to Terabithia and decides to carry on Leslie's legacy there with May Belle as the new Queen of Terabithia.