Nothing ever seems interesting when it belongs to you—only when it doesn’t.
Winnie looks out at the forest, which her family owns, from the gated yard. However, she has never been particularly interested in this area until recently. The quotation above suggests that this is because she has always known that she has the option of visiting it, and so it has never seemed like a priority to do so.
This quote also suggests the reason why Babbitt wrote this book: to convince her daughter that living forever actually wouldn’t be that great after all. The Tucks long for mortality, which Babbitt’s daughter and all other human beings already possess. Like Babbitt's daughter, Winnie will eventually come to see the significance of her own mortality, and will make the best of her life.
The people would have noticed the giant ash tree at the center of the wood, and then, in time, they’d have noticed the little spring bubbling up among its roots in spite of the pebbles piled there to conceal it. And that would have been a disaster so immense that this weary old earth, owned or not to its fiery core, would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin.
Early in the novel, the narrator makes a reference to the hidden spring that has granted the Tucks immortality, identifying this as the reason why the road seems to travel around the forest in Treegap.
With its use of words such as "disaster" and "trembling," this quote suggests that this spring contains a very terrible secret, so severe that it could cause life as we know it to change forever. The suggestions of something hidden also evoke curiosity in the mind of the reader. Lastly, this quotation is an example of the poetic writing that characterizes Natalie Babbitt's novel - phrases like "the weary old earth" and "tremb[ling] like a beetle on a pin" are colorful and evoke an emotional response in the reader.
For Mae Tuck, and her husband, and Miles and Jesse, too, had all looked exactly the same for eighty-seven years.
This quotation comes at the end of the chapter where the reader is introduced to Mae and Angus Tuck, very ordinary-seeming couple who wake up and discuss the day ahead. There are a few features of their conversation that seem strange (such as Tuck voicing concern about Mae traveling to Treegap, and Mae replying that she has not been there in ten years), but it is only with the sentence above that it becomes clear that this is no ordinary couple.
This quotation connects with the theme of the magical in the everyday that occurs throughout the book. Though Mae and Tuck seem to all appearances like an ordinary couple, in fact they are far more ancient than they seem and conceal a great secret.
The characters in the stories she read always seemed to go off without a thought or care, but in real life—well, the world was a dangerous place. People were always telling her so. And she would not be able to manage without protection. They were always telling her that, too. No one ever said precisely what it was that she would not be able to manage. But she did not need to ask. Her own imagination supplied the horrors.
When Winnie plans to run away, she is a little frightened. She has heard from so many adults that the world is a dangerous place, and that she won't be able to manage by herself. Still, she chooses to run away anyway to get away from her strict mother and grandmother, and this adventure eventually leads to her meeting the Tuck family.
This moment marks a huge coming-of-age moment for Winnie. Despite her fear, she chooses to follow her own path, and as the next quotation reveals, she takes her first steps in the road to adulthood.
People get to wondering.
Mae says this when explaining how the miraculous youth of the Tucks began to draw suspicion from their small rural community. Mae here underscores an important trait in humans - curiosity. People always wonder what's happening in the lives of other people, and often start judging without knowing the real story. This is exactly what the Tucks are trying to avoid - they don't want other people to notice the fact that they do not age, and they don't want these other people to start seeking the source of their immortality.
The phrasing of this quote also emphasizes the homey, down-to-earth quality of the Tuck family. "People get to wondering" is slightly grammatically incorrect, which suggests that they are simple, ordinary people, without any special education or status.
"Life’s got to be lived, no matter how long or short,” she said calmly. “You got to take what comes. We just go along, like everybody else, one day at a time."
Mae Tuck says this when she is discussing the peculiarity of the Tuck's immortality. She emphasizes that even though she and her family are immortal, they still try to accept their lot with calm and equanimity. This resolution to take things as they come may account for the calm of the Tuck family.
Mae also offers an important life lesson to young Winnie - no moment of life should be wasted, and you should enjoy every moment of life. This is as important a lesson for mortal people as it is for the immortal Tucks.
Still—there’s no use trying to figure why things fall the way they do. Things just are, and fussing don’t bring changes.
Mae Tuck says this to Winnie shortly after the family explains the story of their immortality to the young girl. She emphasizes the importance of accepting one's situation.
This is a vitally important lesson for the Tucks, who have been granted an immortality that they did not seek or ask for. However, they do not waste time thinking about why this incident happened and why it happened to them. Such a line of thought would not be beneficial in any way, but rather would only produce more sadness and time wasting.
Your time’s not now. But dying’s part of the wheel, right there next to being born. You can’t pick out the pieces you like and leave the rest. Being part of the whole thing, that’s the blessing. But it’s passing us by, us Tucks. Living’s heavy work, but off to one side, the way we are, it’s useless, too. It don’t make sense. If I knowed how to climb back on the wheel, I’d do it in a minute. You can’t have living without dying. So you can’t call it living, what we got. We just are, we just be, like rocks beside the road.
After she learns their secret, Tuck takes Winnie out on the pond near their home in the evening and explains to her why she must keep their secret. In perhaps the most important passage in the book, Tuck explains his philosophy about life and why immortality is not something he enjoys.
For Tuck, both birth and death are part of the cycle of life and neither should be feared. It's the fact that life ends that gives it meaning. Without mortality, Tuck feels useless and separated from the rest of the world, like a rock.
Interestingly, there is no mention of an afterlife in Tuck Everlasting, but death is still described as the natural conclusion to life, and something that encourages people to make the most of their days on this earth.
And then Winnie said something she had never said before, but the words were words she had sometimes heard, and often longed to hear. They sounded strange on her own lips and made her sit up straighter. “Mr. Tuck,” she said, “don’t worry. Everything’s going to be all right.”
Winnie says this after Mae is caught by the sheriff after she strikes the man in the yellow suit. The Tuck family is panicking at the thought of Mae being taken to jail and hung on the gallows, because she will not be able to die and this would expose their secret. However, Winnie is determined to make sure that this will not happen.
This is a sign of remarkable maturity from Winnie. Despite the fact that she is the youngest person present, she is determined to take care of the people around her. She fulfills her promise when she helps Mae escape from prison. Winnie's reassurances and her follow-through mark her coming of age as a true adult.
Stone walls do not a prison make.
As Winnie, Tuck, Angus, and Jesse break Mae out of prison, Winnie thinks of this line, which comes from a poem, “To Althea: From Prison." The poem was written in 1642, during Lovelace's time in prison for supporting an unpopular political position, and was likely addressed to his lover. The poem suggests that true imprisonment comes from ignoring one's true values and by giving up love. Moreover, the poem suggests that innocent people who are imprisoned unjustly can expect to find true freedom.
Because Mae was acting from love for Winnie when she attacked the man in the yellow suit, according to the moral structure of the poem, she is innocent. Moreover, though Winnie is committing a criminal act in helping Mae break out of prison, she is also innocent because she is acting from love.
Tuck Everlasting Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Tuck Everlasting is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.