by Natalie Babbitt
A Pretty Boy
When it comes to the question of immortality, Jesse is pretty much the opposite of his dad, Tuck. He actually kind of digs the whole eternal life thing. Maybe that's because he's the youngest, and he hasn't had enough to time realize the downside of forever. Sure, he's 104, but he has the body of a fit and fine seventeen-year-old:
He was thin and sunburned, this wonderful boy, with a thick mop of curly brown hair, and he wore his battered trousers and loose, grubby shirt with as much self-assurance as if they were silk and satin. A pair of green suspenders, more decorative than useful, gave the finishing touch, for he was shoeless and there was a twig tucked between the toes of one foot. (5.14)
Who wouldn't want to look like that forever?
When Shmoop think of immortals, this is exactly how we imagine them (no offense, Mae). Jesse's youthfulness allows him to have fun with the eternal life situation. Jesse not only wants to make the best of what's happened to them; he wants to make it even better. Unlike Tuck, he doesn't buy into the whole can't-have-life-without-death thing.
The Good, the Bad, and the Pretty
Okay, so it would be great to be eternally gorgeous. Imagine if every girl's reaction to you was something like this: "[h]e seemed so glorious to Winnie that she lost her heart at once" (5.13). Not too bad, right? But this means that Jesse will never be able to grow up. He'll always be just "a boy, almost a man" (5.13).
When the Tucks finally realized what had gone down at the spring, most of them had some major life experiences. Angus and Mae raised a family, and Miles had also gotten married and had kids. Jesse, on the other hand, stayed stuck in seventeen-year-old land.
Sure, this means he didn't suffer as much loss as Miles, who had to stand by as his wife took their children away. But that means that Jesse never experienced the good things that made that loss so difficult. So, is it better to have loved and lost or never to have loved at all?
Jesse has never loved, huh? Well, maybe that's why he's so intent on making Winnie his life partner. She's only ten years old, so he clearly isn't crushing on her—it seems like he just wants what he never had the chance to have: love. In fact, Jesse is the only one of the Tucks to ask Winnie to drink water and join them.
"Winnie, listen—I won't see you again, not for ages. Look now—here's a bottle of water from the spring. You keep it. And then, no matter where you are, when you're seventeen, Winnie, you can drink it, and then come find us. […] Winnie, please say you will!" (22.20)
That's pretty close to a proposal, wouldn't you say?
What do you think, is he being generous, giving Winnie the opportunity to live forever? Or is he being selfish, asking so much of a ten-year-old girl he just met, just so that he can experience the love he never had? We think a little more about this in "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory," so head on over there if you're itching for some deep thoughts.