What is the significance of the toad in Tuck Everlasting?
The toad in Tuck Everlasting symbolizes Winnie's unreadiness to grow up, including her hesitance about becoming immortal. Winnie chooses to confide in the toad when she is feeling lonely as there is no one else to talk to. However, she betrays her friendship with the toad when she uses the vial of magic spring water on the toad, rather than herself. The toad also represents Winnie's fear of humans becoming immortal and by giving the spring water to the toad, she demonstrates that humans are not ready for such responsibilities that may come with becoming immortal.
Do you think Winnie chose wisely when she decided not to drink the spring water?
I think that she did choose wisely. Tuck explained the cycle of life to her, and she knew that removing herself from the cycle of birth and death could have major consequences. Additionally, a major part of the reason that she was considering drinking the water was to marry Jesse, but she had only known him for a very short time. If they had married, she would be spending eternity with someone she barely knew. Lastly, if she had chosen to marry Jesse, they would probably have never had children - recall Miles saying that it was unnatural for the children to appear to be older than their parents. As the reader learns when the Tucks find Winnie’s tombstone, she did go on to have children, so foregoing this to spend eternity with Jesse may have been extremely unpleasant for her.
What is the significance of the motif of the wheel in the novel?
In the beginning, the author describes the characters as being like spokes in a wheel. In the middle, Tuck describes the cycle of birth and death on the pond as resembling a wheel. At the end, the immortal toad that Winnie gave the spring water to narrowly avoids being crushed by the wheel of the Tuck's cart.
The wheel symbolizes the cycle of life, which is always moving and never stops. Just like a wheel rolls up, people and animals are born, and just like a wheel rolls down, they eventually die. Yet the turning of a wheel isn't cause for mourning or sadness, because all wheels eventually turn to where they were before. Only the Tucks are removed from this cycle because of their immortality.
What kinds of foreshadowing techniques does the author use?
Especially in the early chapters of the book, the author makes references to secrets and future events that will cause regrets. For example, on page 4 of the Prologue, the author writes "All wheels must have a hub. A Ferris wheel has one, as the sun is the hub of the wheeling calendar. Fixed points they are, and best led undisturbed, for without them, nothing holds together. But sometimes people find this out too late." This description suggests that the characters previously introduced - the young girl, the woman riding to meet her sons, and the man in the yellow suit - will soon encounter the unexpected. This creates tension and interest for the reader.
Babbitt also introduces seemingly normal people and places - such as the Tucks or the spring by the big tree - and then gives us some special information about them, such as the fact that the spring conceals a secret that if it was discovered would make the earth "tremble on its axis like a beetle on a pin" (p. 8) or that the Tucks have not aged in over eighty years. These elements raise the immediate question of how such remarkable things came to be, and suggest that the narrative will eventually move to explain them.
How has immortality affected the relationships of the Tuck family?
The Tucks, fortunately, remain a loving and happy family. However, they do carry some sadness about their immortality and the fact that it limits their possibilities for relationships outside of the family unit. For example, Tuck is very clear in saying that he does not enjoy immortality, though he does seem to take happiness in the presence of his wife and sons. Miles misses his wife and children, who left him when it became clear that they did not age. Even Jesse, who sees his immortality mainly as an opportunity for enjoyment, seems to long for a wife.
The Tuck family accepts that the two sons will want to make their own way in the world, but they insist on a family reunion every August near the tree. This allows the family to maintain a close relationship even when they are far apart.
Mae kills the man in yellow, but remains a sympathetic character. Why is this?
When the man in the yellow suit says he's going to force Winnie to drink some of the spring water, Mae grabs her husband's gun and hits him on the head. She doesn't attack the man when he discusses his plot to sell the water, but rather only when he directly threatens Winnie. Moreover, she doesn't use the gun to shoot the man, only to hit him, which suggests that she aimed to disarm him rather than kill him. Lastly, Winnie imagines Mae feeling serious guilt for killing the man; it is not clear to the reader that Mae feels this, but given her character, it is likely that she does feel guilty.
Do you think that the Tucks did the right thing by "kidnapping" Winnie?
Yes, I do. Despite the fact that kidnapping is both illegal and morally wrong, the Tucks needed to get Winnie away from the spring quickly, before she drank any of the water or anyone followed her there. They did not have time to fully explain the situation to Winnie at that moment. Moreover, after they "kidnapped" her, they reassured her, fed her, and gently explained why she had to keep the spring a secret. They were happy to return her to her family.
In the beginning of the book, we find that the woods near Treegap have been left strangely undisturbed, and later we find out why. Are there any natural spots near your house or school that seem strangely undisturbed?
There is a small woods in the neighborhood where I grew up. It's a small residential neighborhood in a suburb, and the trees provided a screen between the different streets. The other children in the neighborhood told stories about a witch that lived in the woods, but I never saw anything. Unfortunately, some of my neighbors did use this area as a trash dumping ground.
Would you drink the water from the spring? Why or why not?
I would not drink the water from the spring. If I became immortal, I know I would be lonely because all those people I love would eventually grow old and die. Also, I would worry too much about keeping the spring a secret throughout all the years, which would also involve hiding my own immortality. I would not be able to work or study or make friends, so my very long life would actually be very boring. Having a mortal lifespan allows me to appreciate my life and make the most of it.
What does the book suggest is essential for growing up?
The book suggests that an awareness of death is necessary for truly growing up. After she meets the Tucks and learns the nature of death and immortality, Winnie is more responsible, brave, and thoughtful, all characteristics that come with maturity. She surprises her family by bluntly stating that the man in the yellow suit might die, which surprises them because none of them want to state the issue directly.
Moreover, the ability and willingness to help others is part of growing up. Even as the man in the yellow suit takes Winnie and Mae away, Winnie reassures the Tucks that everything is going to be alright. This is surprising because the Tucks are so much older than Winnie. However, Winnie also maintains her word, helping Mae escape from prison.