Essay About Tuck Everlasting Study

Get ready for some heavy lifting, Shmoopers. Tuck Everlastinghits on two of the most talked about topics in literature: life and death. Just to give you a little taste, we're going to let you in on some of the tough questions that this 1975 smash-hit asks us to think about:

We told you it wouldn't be easy. But it's totally worth it.

You don't have to take our word for it either. When asked which of her books she would most want someone to read, Natalie Babbitt went with Tuck Everlasting (source). Why? For the same reasons as Shmoop. Go figure.

If Shmoop were immortal, here's what we'd do:

(Don't try these at home. Or anywhere else for that matter.) 

We spend a lot of time thinking about what life would be like if we were immortal, but would eternal life really be all it's cracked up to be? According to Tuck, not so much. In fact, he thinks that "'You can't have living without dying'" (12.10). He'd probably say that, if you could live forever, none of those awesome activities we want to do would be once-in-a-lifetime. And isn't that part of the fun? Seriously, we're asking.

About the Book

Mae Tuck sets out to meet her sons, Jesse and Miles, for their ten-year reunion near Treegap. Meanwhile, Winnie Foster, bored and cross, tells a toad that she will soon run away. That evening, a stranger in a yellow suit comes by the foster home and stops to ask some questions. As they talk, they hear music coming from the nearby wood. The next day Winnie goes walking in the wood, which is owned by her family. She comes across Jesse Tuck sitting under a large tree and drinking from a spring. When Winnie tries to drink, Jesse stops her. Then Mae and Miles appear. Alarmed at Winnie's discovery of the spring, they kidnap her. Winnie learns that the music she heard comes from Mae's music box. She also learns the Tucks' secret: the water in the spring is magic and has made them ageless. They are all exactly the same age as the day they first drank it many years ago. Despite her worry at being kidnapped, Winnie finds the Tucks kind and rather sweet. At their home, she meets Angus, the father.

Questions for Chapters 1–9

Comprehension and Recall

  1. Why is Winnie discontent at the beginning of the story?

    She's an only child who is watched all the time and has to obey lots of rules. She would like to get out and explore.

  2. Why is Winnie afraid to run away?

    She's been told it would be dangerous; she believes it would be.

  3. Why does Winnie talk to the toad?

    She's lonely; has no one else to talk to.

  4. Why doesn't Jesse want Winnie to drink from the spring?

    He says it will be bad for her; there's something he doesn't want her to know.

Higher Level Thinking Skills

  1. What does Mae mean when she says, “The worst is happening at last?”

    Their secret is out.

  2. How could someone look exactly the same for 87 years?

    Possible answer: magic

  3. Why does the stranger remind Winnie of funeral ribbons?

    Possible answer: something about him seems sinister or unpleasant

  4. Why doesn't Winnie ask the man in the yellow suit for help when she is being kidnapped?

    Possible answers: She doesn't trust him; isn't really afraid of the Tucks; is having an adventure at last; isn't thinking clearly.

  5. Why does Winnie feel reassured when she hears the music box?

    She's heard the music before; it connects her to home. The box is pretty and she doesn't think someone who owned it could be too terrible.

  6. Why does Winnie begin to feel happy about being kidnapped?

    She starts to think of the Tucks as her special friends; is no longer afraid and alone; thinks living forever is exciting.

  7. Why do you think the stranger is following Winnie and the Tucks?

    Possible answers: He plans to harm Winnie or the Tucks; he is interested in the spring.

Literary Elements

  1. Characterization: How does the author show that the Fosters aren't very neighborly?

    They live in a cottage with a “touch-me-not-appearance.” They don't let Winnie out to play, and aren't friendly to strangers. People aren't supposed to go in their wood.

  2. Genre: What part of the story is fantasy?

    The Tucks will live forever because of the spring water.

Personal Response

  1. Winnie learns an incredible story from the Tucks. How would you have felt about it? What would you have done?

  2. Mae has a music box as her special possession. What special possession do you have?

Questions for Chapters 10–19

Comprehension and Recall

  1. How do the Tucks show kindness to Winnie?

    They come to see her at night and tell her how much they like having her with them.

  2. How does the man in the yellow suit blackmail the Fosters?

    He says he'll bring back Winnie if they sell him the wood.

  3. Why is the constable surprised that the Fosters agree to sell the wood?

    He says they're proud — “family-proud and land-proud.”

  4. What is the motive of the man in the yellow suit?

    He wants to use the spring to make a fortune and have power.

Higher Level Thinking Skills

  1. Why has living forever not always been fun for the Tucks?

    Miles lost his wife and children; people think they are strange and shun them; they can never stay in one place.

  2. Why does Winnie say she wants to go home?

    She's suddenly homesick; has never been away before. She sees how different life at the Tucks' house is from her own home.

  3. How is the pond water like life itself?

    It's always moving on, changing.

  4. Why does Tuck say he and his family are “like rocks beside the road”?

    They're not living, growing, or changing; they are just there.

  5. Why is it so important for Winnie to understand and keep the Tucks' secret?

    If others find the spring and drink from it, their lives will be frozen in time also.

  6. Why doesn't Winnie want to fish?

    She's upset at the thought of death.

  7. Why does Winnie think that Tuck is the “dearest of them all”?

    He is kind and so truly wretched at their fate and the dangers to others.

Literary Elements

  1. Foreshadowing: Why does the author say, “Across the pond a bullfrog spoke a deep note of warning” when Winnie and Tuck go out in the rowboat?

    The bullfrog foreshadows trouble ahead.

  2. Significant detail: Why does the author put the stranger in a yellow suit?

    It makes the reader notice him and understand that he is different.

Personal Response

  1. What is your reaction to the Tucks' home? Is it a place you would like to be?

  2. Have you ever been homesick? How did you feel?

  3. What do you think about Jesse's offer to Winnie? Would you agree to drink the water? Should Winnie?

  4. How do you feel about Mae's reaction to the stranger?

Questions for Chapters 20–Epilogue

Comprehension and Recall

  1. Why does Winnie tell the constable that she wasn't kidnapped?

    She now thinks of the Tucks as her friends and doesn't want them to get in trouble.

  2. How does Winnie help Mae escape?

    She takes Mae's place in the jail so the constable won't know Mae has gone right away.

  3. How does Winnie's image in the village change after she helps Mae?

    Children come by to see her and are impressed. They used to think she was too prissy.

Higher Level Thinking Skills

  1. Why does Tuck stare “entranced” at the man in the yellow suit after Mae hits him?

    He's jealous. The man is near death.

  2. Why is Tuck distressed about Mae being hung on the gallows?

    When she doesn't die, everyone will know the secret.

  3. How do you think the Fosters feel about the stranger's death?

    Probably relieved — they won't have to sell their wood.

  4. Why is Winnie conflicted about helping Mae escape?

    She knows it's important, but she doesn't want to deceive her family again.

  5. Why does Winnie save the toad from the dog?

    She thinks of it as hers because she's seen it often before. She doesn't want it to die.

  6. Why does Tuck say “Good girl” when he sees that Winnie is dead?

    He knows she didn't drink the spring water. He believes she made the right choice.

  7. What important decision does Winnie make when she pours the spring water on the toad?

    She won't drink it herself, nor live forever, nor marry Jesse.

Literary Elements

  1. Foreshadowing: How does the author foreshadow the use of Tuck's gun?

    It's mentioned in the description of their home.

  2. Symbolism: How does the author connect Winnie and the Tucks at the end of the story?

    The Tucks find Winnie's grave and see the toad that, like them, will never die.

Personal Response

  1. Is Jesse being selfish when he gives Winnie the bottle of spring water?

  2. How does the ending make you feel?


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