Have a big test on Tuck Everlasting? This study guide will help you refresh your memory of the novel and keep you on track to what was important about the characters
Whether you’re preparing for a big test or getting ready to write an essay, reviewing important material and characters from Tuck Everlasting will help you organize your thoughts about Natalie Babbit’s novel. This review, however, will not take the place of reading the actual novel.
Starting with Winnie Foster
When the story opens, Winnie is a bored and lonely girl of ten. She’s uncertain whether she should venture out to the world beyond the gate because she is afraid: “…she knew there was another sort of reason for staying at home: she was afraid to go away alone” (22). However, Winnie is also tired of being looked after at home. She’s tired of being checked on by her mother and grandmother, she’s tired of their reminders to stay clean and be good and behave like a lady.
Once in the wood, Winnie stumbles upon Jesse Tuck. Curious and fascinated by his good looks, she is swept away by his suggestion to leave with Mae and Miles. But when she is confronted by the fact she was being kidnapped, Winnie became a helpless ten year-old once more until she is caught in the moment once more, as when the Tuck’s continue on their journey back to the cabin. Winnie joins Jesse’s singing and runs about reveling in her newfound freedom.
Winnie is also skeptic who doesn’t believe in fairy tales, but Angus Tuck’s explanation of why the secret of the spring must remain protected jars Winnie into reality. She is suddenly protective of life around her, like the fish she captured with Miles and the Tuck family when they are threatened by the constable and the man in the yellow suit. She could understand how the order in life must be protected because it was the same sort of order she had at home. Winnie learns that while it might be fun to break the rules, these actions come with consequences. By the end of the novel, Winnie is willing to accept consequences and sacrifice herself for the Tuck family she has grown to love.
Even though she is immortal and no longer a part of the circle of life, Mae Tuck struggles to maintain order. She meets up with her sons every ten years, she understands Winnie’s place is with her own family, and she respects the order in life: “Life’s got to be lived, no matter how long or short…” (54). So when Winnie stumbles upon her son in the wood, Mae understands the only way to protect the order in life is to protect the spring and make sure no one speaks of it. Even though it was her idea to kidnap Winnie, Mae always intended to return the child. She did what she could to provide for Winnie’s comfort in her own home, and when the stranger in the yellow suit threatened to steal Winnie away against her will, Mae does what is necessary to protect Winnie.
Unlike the other Tuck Everlasting characters, Angus suffers the pain of his immortality every day. When he meets Winnie, his melancholy lifts. She poses youth and life, qualities that he envies: “If I knowed how to climb back on the wheel, I’d do it in a minute. You can’t have living without dying.” (64) Cut off from the rest of the world most of the time, Angus takes Winnie into his heart. His concern finds him at her bedside at night hoping she is comfortable, sharing his desire to make Winnie a part of their home. But like his wife, Angus is aware of the order of things. Winnie must be protected just like the spring must be protected.
Miles, the level-headed and mature eldest son of Angus and Mae, regrets the loss of family his immortality has caused. He shares a special connection with Winnie because she reminds him of his own daughter. When Winnie remarks how she wishes nothing had to die, he reminds her of the impracticality of that type of situation: not enough room for people, too many mosquitoes. Miles is also practical about his immortality: “People got to do something useful if they’re going to take up space in the world.” (87) Miles’ perspective, that life has a purpose, later serves as Winnie’s motivation to help Mae.
Young and handsome Jesse Tuck is a free and easy spirit, forever young and light-hearted. When Jesse meets Winnie, he initially chooses to protect her from the dangers of the spring: “’Believe me, Winnie Foster, it would be terrible for you if you drank any of this water. Just terrible. I can’t let you.’” (29) But when his entire family gets caught up in the excitement of having a living person in their presence, Jesse begins to see the possibilities of keeping Winnie around for good. He loses sight of the danger and the harm he could bring to Winnie’s life and instead focuses on finding an immortal companion. His selfishness is a reminder of his true age: “We might as well enjoy it, long as we can’t change it.” (43)
The Man in the Yellow Suit
From his jittery foot tapping to his jerking twitchy shoulders, the stranger in the yellow suit was a suspicious fellow from the start. He is a walking contradiction, as witnessed in his practically glowing yellow suit and black hat; his gracefulness that makes him move like a marionette; his expressionless face that serves as a mask. Later, he reveals his blinding obsession with finding the immortal family, the Tucks: “It took possession of me. I decided to devote my life to finding out if it could be true, and if so, how and why.” (95) When he learns of Winnie’s kidnapping, he sees an opportunity to take something he wants, so he blackmails the Foster’s into giving him the wood. But upon carrying out his part of the deal, he begins to lose his composure and reveal his real plans inside the Tuck’s home: “But who wouldn’t want to give a fortune to live forever?” (98). His ambition has blinded him to the impropriety of his plans for the stream in the wood. Façade broken, the man in the yellow suit succumbs to his own greedy foolishness.
A fat and sleepy officer of the law, he nevertheless is able to pick up on the suspicious vibes put out by the man in the yellow suit: “Maybe you’re in cahoots with the kidnappers…” (77). His laid back manner reveals a self-centered concern with promoting the new jail and gallows in his town. Only until he is pressed with the matter of dealing with a possible murder does the constable prove he’s capable and assertive, as he hauls Mae away to the jail. Still, in the end the constable’s lack of vigilance allowed Winnie to sneak into the cell at night and take Mae’s place.
The Foster Family
Owners of the prim and proper cottage and the wood across the road, the Fosters acted like village royalty, as the constable described them: “They’re the first family around here, you know. Proud as peacocks, all of ‘em. Family-proud and land-proud, too,” (77). Their home lacked the love and comfort Winnie absorbed so willingly in the Tucks’ shabby home. Rather, the home life they created for Winnie concerned raising her properly, if not in a somewhat sheltered manner: “The Foster women made a fortress out of duty.” (50) Not until Winnie returns do they relent their austere mannerisms.
What did you think of the book?
Babbit, Natalie. Tuck Everlasting. Square Fish: New York, 1975.