by Natalie Babbitt
Where It All Goes Down
Treegap, the Town
We know right off the bat that this story (which goes down in 1880) is going to take place in a quaint little area. Why? The town is called Treegap, for crying out loud. How much more quaint can you get?
Also right away, we know what we're supposed to focus on:
So the road went humbly by and made its way, past cottages more and more frequent but less and less forbidding, into the village. But the village doesn't matter, except for the jailhouse and the gallows. The first house only is important; the first house, the road, and the wood. (1.2)
Okay, so were going to pay attention to "the first house, the road, and the wood." Got it. Let's dig a little deeper.
At first, the woods seem pretty normal. They sure looked normal to the Tucks when they arrived there for the first time, nearly ninety years before meeting Winnie:
When they came to the part that was now the wood, and turned from the trail to find a camping place, they happened on the spring. "It was real nice," said Jesse with a sigh. "It looked just the way it does now. A clearing, lots of sunshine, that big tree with all those knobby roots" (7.3).
No matter how natural it looks, the spring is anything but. Heck, it grants eternal life to all that drink from it. That's a pretty stark contrast from all the natural imagery in the book:
"Know what that is, all around us, Winnie? […] Life. Moving, growing, changing, never the same two minutes together. This water, you look out at it every morning, and it looks the same, but it ain't. All night long it's been moving, coming in through the stream back there to the west, slipping out through the stream down east here, always quiet, always new, moving on." (12.4)
Among all this life that keeps on keepin' on, the spring is pretty deceiving, don't you think?
Is a House a Home?
We get to see two very different homes in Tuck Everlasting: the Fosters' and the Tucks'. One is obsessively neat and tidy, the other is messy and full of life:
Winnie had grown up with order. […] [T]he cottage where she lived was always squeaking clean, mopped and swept and scoured into limp submission. […]
So she was unprepared for the homely little house beside the pond, unprepared for the gentle eddies of dust, the silver cobwebs, the mouse who lived—and welcome to him!—in a table drawer. (10.1-2)
These differences can represent the differences between the two families. For instance, the welcoming mouse at the Tucks' shows us how welcoming they are as a family. And Winnie notes that "[t]he Foster women had made a fortress out of duty" (10.1). In the end, though, it's not about the house, but about the people inside. (Isn't it always?)