Tuck Everlasting Analysis

Instructor: Ginna Wilkerson

Ginna earned M.Ed. degrees in Curriculum and Development and Mental Health Counseling, followed by a Ph.D. in English. She has over 30 years of teaching experience.

''Tuck Everlasting'' is a children's literature classic written by Natalie Babbitt and published in 1975. This lesson will analyze major themes illustrated through the plot of the novel.

An Important Question

If you had a chance to live forever, would you take it? In other words, would you want to be immortal? This is the question asked of the main character, Winnie, in Natalie Babbitt's Tuck Everlasting.

the woods

Plot Summary

Winnie Foster is an only child living in rural Treegap, New Hampshire in the 19th century. At ten years old she is an imaginative girl, longing for more excitement than she finds at home. When Winnie decides to go into the woods owned by her family, she discovers a boy, Jesse Tuck, drinking from a spring. Winnie does not know that the spring is magical, or that Jesse and his family first drank from the spring 87 years ago. Before she can ask questions, Winnie is whisked away by Jesse and his family, where they share the power of the spring and ask her to keep it a secret.

the magic spring

The Tucks bring Winnie back to their home where they share their secret of immortality. They also share that they have worked tirelessly to keep the spring a secret from others. It may at first seem like a wonderful thing to live forever, but there are drawbacks to immortality that the Tucks explain to Winnie.

Row Boat Conversation

The following day, the Tucks discover that their horse is gone, and the thief turns out to be a stranger vaguely known to the Fosters, always described as the man in the yellow suit. He wants to sell the spring water for profit and happened to be in the woods when Winnie first met the Tucks. He overheard their conversation and is using Winnie to get the spring. He tells her family that in order to get their daughter back, the Fosters must agree to sell the the spring for Winnie's return. They agree for their daughter's safety. The man in the yellow suit arrives at the Tuck's and shares this news with them. Mae Tuck is so angered by this outrageous plan that she pistol whips the man, fracturing his skull and ending his life.

jail window

The constable soon arrives and Mae is arrested, while Winnie is returned to her family. She tries to explain to them how she loves the Tucks and feels obligated to help Mae escape so that the secret of the spring remains a secret. The plan is successful, leaving a frightened Winnie to take Mae's place in the cell while they run away. Before he leaves, Jesse Tuck asks Winnie to drink from the spring when she is 17, and then marry him. Winnie decides against it and gives the water to a toad instead.


The Cycle of Life

A key theme of the novel is the rightness of our natural life cycle; all creatures are intended to live a certain amount of time on earth, and then make way for new life as they depart. The Tuck family have respected this cycle and taught Winnie to do so as well. Before the family departs in the night, Jesse gives Winnie a bottle of the magic spring water to save until she is 17. She ultimately pours the water on her toad friend, and goes on to live a full and naturally ending life.Though Jesse wanted her to be with him, the young girl was wise enough to turn down this proposal.

the toad

Moral Judgement

Moral judgement is another theme running through the novel. The man in the yellow suit is the symbol of bad judgement and greed that cloud wisdom. When the Tucks and Winnie break Mae out of jail, we see that sometimes even the law does not see the right decision. Finally, Winnie herself has to think carefully and sensibly to avoid the temptation to be with Jesse and live forever.

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