Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt Online Book Summary |
The theme of change or metamorphosis is an especially prevalent theme. It begins with the Toad, Winnieís first friend. A toad begins as a tadpole and gradually grows into a body with four legs. So it is a good symbol for the idea of change. It is always present as well wherever Winnie goes as a reminder to the reader that Winnie herself is experiencing a powerful metamorphosis in the first week of August in her tenth year. She begins as a somewhat spoiled and yet lonely girl who wants more than anything to break away from the stifling atmosphere of her home. She makes the decision to go into the wood and from that point, her life changes profoundly. She learns about compassion and love; she learns about greed and evil; and she learns what it means to stand up for what it is right even if the consequences are bad. From her experiences with the Tucks, she also comes to understand the real meaning of life and how death is need not be feared since it is a natural part of the life cycle. In the end, she is a completely changed person and the wings she had sought so eagerly are hers for the taking.
The theme of greed is a theme that is represented in the character of the Man in the Yellow Suit. He is the typical villain who uses the good characters to further his own plans for financial gain. He understands the consequences of immortality, but doesnít care. His greed makes him want to sell the water and overrides his better judgment. Of course, the author gives him satanic characteristics and no name to make us see that greed is a universal trait that humans frequently succumb to and that perhaps if the spring was a part of the original plan of creation, so Satan was destined to be a part of the new plan where human beings were easily swayed by their weaknesses.
The ability to understand the right thing to do and to act upon it, even if it is not the popular choice is another theme of importance. Many of the characters must make choices in the face of possible condemnation, because it is the right thing to do. Jesse must prevent Winnie from drinking from the spring, the entire Tuck family must keep the secret of the spring, Mae must choose to kill the Man in the Yellow Suit to protect the secret, and Winnie must break the rule of law to free Mae and save the world.
Tied up very closely with the previous theme is that of moral judgment and values. All of us, at one time or another in our lives must make moral judgments, decisions based upon what we perceive to be Godís law as opposed to manís law. For example, if we protest abortion even though itís legal, we acting upon our own moral judgment about the practice. This happens several times in this story. The Tucks choose to keep the secret of the spring from other people, because to them, it would be morally wrong to subject the world to the consequences of immortality. Mae chooses to kill the Man in the yellow Suit, because to her, it would be morally wrong to allow him to control and sell the water. And Winnie breaks the law by freeing Mae, because to her, it would be morally wrong for this woman to hang from the gallows, because she cannot die. This would then reveal the secret they have so diligently kept for 87 years. IN each of these cases, human beings acted from within their own consciences to do what is morally and ethically right even if it breaks manís law.
The last theme is that of love. Behind the actions of all the characters except the Man in the Yellow Suit is a deep-seated love for their families, their friends, and most importantly, humanity. The Tucks could easily have revealed the secret of the spring and profited from it, but chose instead to accept their fate and protect the world from the destruction the secret would have caused. They also, in spite of the fact that they come to hate their inability to die, accept that they must find some way to be of importance in the world in which they will live forever. Like the Tucks, Winnie has love and compassion for her family for the Tucks, her friends, and even for the little Toad to which she gives eternal life. In her metamorphosis, she comes to see how important it is to be unselfish and help those who need it most. In the end, thatís why she chooses life and death rather than immortality. She loves Jesse, but she obviously loved the idea of being a wife and a mother more.
The authorís style is to present this story as a fantasy and yet to tell it in such a realistic way, that it seems
possible. Winnieís grandmother talks about elves and there are references to witchcraft. The Toad seems to
have almost human qualities and the idea of immortality is in and of itself in the realm of fantasy or science
fiction. And yet, Winnie is a very normal little girl coming face-to-face with the realities of life, and what she
learns is meaningful to anyone who reads the book. This is how the authorís natural style makes the lessons she
wants to evoke come through loud and clear.
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Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on Tuck Everlasting".
. 23 May 2014