Mae Tuck didn't need a mirror, though she had one propped up on the washstand. She knew very well what she would see in it; her reflection had long since ceased to interest her. For Mae Tuck, and her husband, and Miles and Jesse, too, had all looked exactly the same for eighty-seven years. (2.21)
The narrator of Tuck Everlasting doesn't pull any punches right off the bat, we know that something is up with this quaint little family. It definitely pulls us into the story, but it also gets us thinking about the big issues from the very beginning.
"All right. I'm one hundred and four years old," he told her solemnly.
"No, I mean really," she persisted.
"Well then," he said, "if you must know, I'm seventeen." (5.28-30)
Does age really matter if you're never going to die? (Think Edward and Bella. Edward is over 100 years old when he meets his teenaged leading lady, but no one says boo.) If you knew you'd live forever, would you stop counting as the years passed?
"He landed plum on his head," said Mae with a shudder. "We thought for sure he'd broke his neck. But come to find out, it didn't hurt him a bit!" (7.10)
Imagine that. What should have killed this young boy didn't even hurt him—pretty cool party trick. On top of not being able to die, it seems like the Tucks can't even feel pain. Is that a bonus or another drawback?
"Tuck said—that's my husband, Angus Tuck—he said he had to be sure, once and for all. He took his shotgun and he pointed it at hisself the best way he could, and before we could stop him, he pulled the trigger." There was a long pause. Mae's fingers, laced together in her lap, twisted with the tension of remembering. At last she said, "The shot knocked him down. Went into his heart. It had to, the way he aimed. And right on through him. It scarcely even left a mark. Just like—you know—like you shot a bullet through water. And he was just the same as if he'd never done it." (7.21)
Would you consider this a suicide attempt? Do you think Tuck was secretly hoping that the bullet would kill him, or was it just a (really poorly planned) scientific experiment?
Winnie blinked, and all at once her mind was drowned with understanding of what he was saying. For she—yes, even she—would go out of the world willy-nilly someday. Just go out, like the flame of a candle, and no use protesting. It was a certainty. She would try very hard not to think of it, but sometimes, as now, it would be forced upon her. She raged against it, helpless and insulted, and blurted at last, "I don't want to die." (12.9)
This might be the first time Winnie has ever thought about death. And her reaction is totally natural. Don't forget, though, that Tuck has the exact same reaction to the exact opposite phenomenon: eternal life.
"I want to grow again," he said fiercely, "and change. And if that means I got to move on at the end of it, then I want that, too. Listen, Winnie, it's something you don't find out how you feel until afterwards." (12.11)
This definitely isn't a don't-knock-it-till-you-try-it kind of a situation. Once you find out how you feel, it's way too late.
"I wanted to [give my children the water], heaven knows. But, Winnie, how'd it have been if I had? My wife was nearly forty by then. And the children—well, what was the use? They'd have been near growed theirselves. They'd have had a pa close to the same age they was. No, it'd all have been so mixed up and peculiar, it just wouldn't have worked." (17.14)
Immortality sure raises a lot of moral issues, doesn't it? Miles had to sacrifice his wife and children in order to protect them from immortality and allow them to lead a normal life—and death.
Winnie thought about this peril to the frogs, and sighed. "It'd be nice," she said, "if nothing ever had to die."
"Well, now, I don't know," said Miles. "If you think on it, you come to see there'd be so many creatures, including people, we'd all be squeezed in right up next to each other before long."
Winnie squinted at her fishing line and tried to picture a teeming world. "Mmm," she said, "yes, I guess you're right." (17.18-20)
Living forever isn't quite as glamorous when you think about how crowded it would be. This is just one small example, but it makes Winnie (and us) realize that immortality would have its downsides.
The one glance she gave him fixed his appearance forever in Winnie's mind. She turned her eyes away quickly, looking to Tuck for relief. But Tuck was not looking back at her. Instead, he was gazing at the body on the ground, leaning forward slightly, his brows drawn down, his mouth a little open. It was as if he were entranced and—yes, envious—like a starving man looking through a window at a banquet. Winnie could not bear to see him like that. (20.12)
Yikes. It's at this moment that Winnie realizes just how tragic Tuck's situation is—he feels so trapped that he envies a man who has just been beaten to a pulp.
For the only thing she could think of was the clear and terrible necessity: Mae Tuck must never go to the gallows. Whatever happened to the man in the yellow suit, Mae Tuck must not be hanged. Because if all they had said was true, then Mae, even if she were the cruelest of murderers and deserved to be put to death—Mae Tuck would not be able to die. (20.25)
When Mae is threatened by execution, the worry isn't that she' s going to die. It's that she can't. And you know what that would mean: the jig is up.
The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. (Prologue.1)
Why August? What's going on with this metaphor? For one thing, August isn't the only thing that's motionless. For the Tucks, time is motionless, too.
But it was the passage of time that worried them most. They had worked the farm, settled down, made friends. But after ten years, then twenty, they had to face the fact that there was something terribly wrong. None of them was getting any older. (7.15)
The Tucks don't only beat death, they beat time, too. Time is the great game-changer, right? Everything changes over time. Not so for the Tucks.
"When we need things, we go sometimes to one [town], sometimes the next, so people don't come to notice us much. And we sell where we can. But I guess we'll be moving on, one of these days. It's just about time." (10.10)
The Tucks seem to measure time by how long they can stay in one place. Makes that new Swatch we just got seem kind of unnecessary…
"Hush," Tuck interrupted. "Everyone hush. I'll take Winnie rowing on the pond. There's a good deal to be said and I think we better hurry up and say it. I got a feeling there ain't a whole lot of time."
Jesse laughed at this, and ran a hand roughly through his curls. "That's funny, Pa. Seems to me like time's the only thing we got a lot of." (11.7-8)
Ba-dum ching! Ah, good ol' immortality humor.
"No," said Tuck calmly. "Not now. Your time's not now. But dying's part of the wheel, right there next to being born. You can't pick out the pieces you like and leave the rest. Being part of the whole thing, that's the blessing. But it's passing us by, us Tucks." (12.10)
How many times have you heard someone say, "there aren't enough hours in the day"? Well, the Tucks have the opposite problem. While everyone else is scrambling to fit everything in to their short time, the Tucks just wish time would pass them by, too.
"Listen, Ma and Pa and Miles, they don't know how to enjoy it, what we got. Why, heck, Winnie, life's to enjoy yourself, isn't it? What else is it good for? That's what I say. And you and me, we could have a good time that never, never stopped. Wouldn't that be something?" (14.26)
Enough with the downers. Jesse thinks that having all the time in the world means having all the fun in the world. Do you agree?
She looked at Miles, and then she asked him, "What will you do, if you've got so much time?"
"Someday," said Miles, "I'll find a way to do something important."
Winnie nodded. That was what she wanted. (17.26-8)
These two may have a different amount of time left to live, but they both want the same thing: to matter. A human's a human, immortal or not.
[Winnie] wished, for a fleeting moment, that she could stay with them forever in that sunny, untidy little house by the pond. Grow up with them and perhaps, if it were true about the spring—then perhaps, when she was seventeen . . . […] And then her eyes went to Tuck and lingered on his sad, creased face. It occurred to her that he was the dearest of them all, though she couldn't have explained why she felt that way. (18.17)
Winnie definitely thinks about trumping time and joining the Tucks. But forever is a long time, and she quickly realizes that it might not be all it's cracked up to be.
"Anyhow, I come to say goodbye. We won't be able to come back here for a long, long time, Winnie, if we get away. I mean, they'll be looking for Ma. 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. We'll leave directions somehow. Winnie, please say you will!" (22.20)
Even immortal Jesse still thinks of how much time will pass before he sees Winnie again. Hmmm—once he realizes that the "ages" he's thinking of now is actually just a blip on the immortal radar, do you think he'll change his tune about living forever?
The little bottle was empty now. It lay on the grass at Winnie's feet. But if all of it was true, there was more water in the wood. There was plenty more. Just in case. When she was seventeen. If she should decide, there was more water in the wood. Winnie smiled. Then she stooped and put her hand through the fence and set the toad free. "There!" she said. "You're safe. Forever." (25.16)
Forever. Think about it.
It was one thing to talk about being by yourself, doing important things, but quite another when the opportunity arose. The characters in the stories she read always seemed to go off without a thought or a care, but in real life—well, the world was a dangerous place. People were always telling her so. (5.2)
In her head, Winnie craves choices. She wants to be totally in control of her own destiny. Getting from fantasy to reality is tricky, though.
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. We stopped and everyone took a drink, even the horse."
"No," said Mae, "the cat didn't drink. That's important." (7.3-4)
This is where we learn the most tragic news of all: the Tucks never made the choice to be immortal. They just happened upon their condition. Why? Because they were thirsty. They probably would have preferred a say in the matter, don't you think?
Her mother's voice, the feel of home, receded for the moment, and her thoughts turned forward. Why, she, too, might live forever in this remarkable world she was only just discovering! The story of the spring—it might be true! (8.13)
Two exclamation points?(!) This must be big. And it sure is. After all, Winnie is about to be offered a choice that would change her life forever. Literally.
Her joy on the road that morning had completely disappeared; the wide world shrank and her oldest fears rolled freely in her consciousness. It was unbelievable that she should be in this place; it was an outrage. But she was helpless to do anything about it, helpless to control it, and exhausted by the conversation in the rowboat. (14.5)
Sure, Winnie has a lot of choices to make, but it's not that easy—she also gets stuck with quite a bit, too. She's forced to stay with the Tucks and forced to keep their secret. Can you think of anything else Winnie is forced to do in the novel?
"I been thinking it over. Pa's right about you having to keep the secret. It's not hard to see why. But the thing is, you knowing about the water already, and living right next to it so's you could go there any time, well, listen, how'd it be if you was to wait till you're seventeen, same age as me—heck, that's only six years off—and then you could go and drink some, and then you could go away with me!" (14.26)
Looks like Winnie has two major choices to make. Not just if she should drink the water, but when.
"Now, I don't have to spell out things for people like yourselves. Some types one comes across can't seem to cut their way through any problem, and that does make things difficult. But you, I don't have to explain the situation to you. I've got what you want, and you've got what I want." (15.3)
By threatening the Fosters, the man in the yellow suit gives them no choice but to give in to his blackmaily little scheme. Not cool, Yellow Suit Guy.
Winnie looked at his young, strong face, and after a moment she said, "Why didn't you take them to the spring and give them some of the special water?" (17.13)
Sounds like a simple question, right? But Miles had to make the toughest decision of his life when he didn't fill his family in on the whole immortality thing. Do you think he made the right call?
And then, on an impulse, she turned and ran […] In a moment she was back again. The toad still squatted where she had dropped it, the dog still waited at the fence. Winnie pulled out the cork from the mouth of the bottle, and kneeling, she poured the precious water, very slowly and carefully, over the toad. (25.15)
Wow. Winnie doesn't hesitate for one second when she makes this choice. Is it because she's completely sure of her decision? Or is she just freaked out and acting on adrenaline?
A family plot. And then his throat closed. For it was there. He had wanted it to be there, but now that he saw it, he was overcome with sadness. (Epilogue.21)
Tuck knows that Winnie made the right choice. But right isn't always easy, is it?
"She's gone," he answered.
There was a long moment of silence between them, and then Mae said, "Poor Jesse."
"He knowed it, though," said Tuck. "At least, he knowed she wasn't coming. We all knowed that, long time ago." (Epilogue.25-27)
If the Tucks all knew that Winnie wasn't going to drink from the spring, does that mean it wasn't really a choice at all? Or had she just already made up her mind?
Mae sat there frowning, a great potato of a woman with a round, sensible face and calm brown eyes. "It's no use having that dream," she said. "Nothing's going to change."
"You tell me that every day," said Tuck, turning away from her onto his side. "Anyways, I can't help what I dream."
"Maybe not," said Mae. "But, all the same, you should've got used to things by now." (2.5-7)
Tuck and Mae live pretty much the same experiences, but they have two very different takes on it.
"Believe me, Winnie Foster," said Jesse, "it would be terrible for you if you drank any of this water. Just terrible. I can't let you." (5.44)
Is Jesse a little more conscious of his situation at this moment than later in the book? Why is he so insistent that she doesn't drink, when just hour later, he gives her an entire bottle of immortality water?
"After that [when Tuck shot himself and nothing happened] we went sort of crazy," said Jesse, grinning at the memory. "Heck, we was going to live forever. Can you picture what it felt like to find that out?" (7.22)
Of all the Tucks, Jesse seems the least morally changed by the burden (or gift?) of living forever. Heck, he's smiling when he thinks about his dad putting a gun to his heart. Talk about a rosy outlook on life.
"But you see, Winnie Foster, when I told you before I'm a hundred and four years old, I was telling the truth. But I'm really only seventeen. And, so far as I know, I'll stay seventeen till the end of the world." (7.27)
For Jesse, eternal life means being "seventeen till the end of the world." Do you think that's really how things will go down? Or will Jesse eventually mature and feel more his real age—at this point, 104?
Into it all came Winnie, eyes wide, and very much amazed. It was a whole new idea to her that people could live in such disarray, but at the same time she was charmed. It was… comfortable. Climbing behind Mae up the stairs to see the loft, she thought to herself: "Maybe it's because they think they have forever to clean it up." And this was followed by another thought, far more revolutionary: "Maybe they just don't care!" (10.7)
Sure, the whole immortality thing is cool. But not having to clean up? Now that's what we're talking about. Why do you think the Tucks are so messy?
"Life's got to be lived, no matter how long or short. We just go along, like everybody else, one day at a time. Funny—we don't feel no different. Leastways, I don't. Sometimes I forget about what's happened to us, forget it altogether." (10.12)
Mae seems to think that she's not that different from any ol' human. What do you think? Does being immortal make the Tucks inherently different?
"Know what that is, all around us, Winnie?" said Tuck, his voice low. "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)
Tuck's getting pretty deep here, defining life and all. To him, life means moving (like water!)—something he and his family can't very well do.
"It's a wheel, Winnie. Everything's a wheel, turning and turning, never stopping. The frogs is part of it, and the bugs, and the fish, and the wood thrush, too. And people. But never the same ones. Always coming in new, always growing and changing, and always moving on. That's the way it's supposed to be. That's the way it is." (12.6)
Another metaphor! This time, life is a wheel. What do a wheel and water have in common? Yep, they're always moving.
"Living's heavy work, but off to one side, the way we are, it's useless, too. It don't make sense. If I knowed how to climb back on the wheel, I'd do it in a minute. You can't have living without dying. So you can't call it living, what we got. We just are, we just be, like rocks beside the road." (12.10)
"You can't have living without dying." Talk amongst yourselves.
Winnie blocked the picture from her mind, the horror that would prove the secret. Instead, she turned her thoughts to Jesse. When she was seventeen—would she? If it was true, would she? And if she did, would she be sorry afterwards? Tuck had said, "It's something you don't find out how you feel until afterwards." (23.9)
Winnie is definitely keeping her mind open to all sorts of possibilities. But she always comes back to the consequences (smart girl). We don't know about you, but consequences always give us second thoughts.
There was a clearing directly in front of her, at the center of which an enormous tree thrust up, its thick roots rumpling the ground ten feet around in every direction. Sitting relaxed with his back against the trunk was a boy, almost a man. And he seemed so glorious to Winnie that she lost her heart at once. (5.13)
Is this love at first sight? Or is there just something about Jesse (say, the glow of immortality) that takes everyone aback?
"I was more'n forty by then," said Miles sadly. "I was married. I had two children. But, from the look of me, I was still twenty-two. My wife, she finally made up her mind I'd sold my soul to the Devil. She left me. She went away and she took the children with her. (7.16)
What happened to "for better or for worse"? Poor Miles—he couldn't even tell the love of his life what was really going on. He didn't want to drag her into it.
Winnie's shyness returned at once when she saw the big man with his sad face and baggy trousers, but as he gazed at her, the warm, pleasing feeling spread through her again. For Tuck's head tilted to one side, his eyes went soft, and the gentlest smile in the world displaced the melancholy creases of his cheeks. (9.10)
It takes two to tango, and it's pretty clear that Tuck loves Winnie (as a daughter, perhaps) just as much as she grows to love him and his family. What is it about Winnie that makes Tuck so happy? Is it just that she's mortal, or is there something particular about this little girl?
[Winnie] began to feel quite cheerful. She had been kidnapped, but nothing bad had happened, and now it was almost over. Now, remembering the visits of the night before, she smiled—and found that she loved them, this most peculiar family. (17.4)
Well, that was quick. It's been less than a day, and Winnie already feels like she loves the Tucks. If she had a more loving family of her own, do you think this would still be the case?
"Remember I told you I had two children?" he asked. "Well, one of 'em was a girl. I took her fishing, too." His face clouded then, and he shook his head. "Her name was Anna. Lord, how sweet she was, that child! It's queer to think she'd be close to eighty now, if she's even still alive. And my son—he'd be eighty-two." (17.12)
Miles still loves his family even though he hasn't seen them in decades and has no idea what has happened to them. He might have it the worst of everyone in the book, don't you think?
Her fears at last night's supper seemed silly to her now. Perhaps they were crazy, but they weren't criminals. She loved them. They belonged to her. (18.15)
Love trumps everything—even the crazy gene. Hey, we all have it.
"You mean, [ownership of the wood will come back to our family] if he dies," Winnie had said, flatly, and they had sat back, shocked. Soon after, they put her to bed, with many kisses. But they peered at her anxiously over their shoulders as they tiptoed out of her bedroom, as if they sensed that she was different now from what she had been before. As if some part of her had slipped away. (21.4)
We can't quite get a read on Winnie's family. What do you think? Do they love her? Are they good to her? Have they learned their lesson after the whole running away fiasco?
She rocked, gazing out at the twilight, and the soothing feeling came reliably into her bones. That feeling—it tied her to them, to her mother, her father, her grandmother, with strong threads too ancient and precious to be broken. But there were new threads now, tugging and insistent, which tied her just as firmly to the Tucks. (21.5)
At this point in the novel, Winnie feels torn between her own family and the Tucks. But she chooses her family, right? Why?
One by one, as the rain began, they drew her to them and kissed her. One by one she kissed them back. Was it rain on Mae's face? On Tuck's? Or was it tears? Jesse was last. He put his arms around her and hugged her tight, and whispered the single word, "Remember!" (24.12)
Goodbyes are the worst. Especially when it's with family.
"So," said Tuck to himself. "Two years. She's been gone two years." He stood up and looked around, embarrassed, trying to clear the lump from his throat. But there was no one to see him. […] Tuck wiped his eyes hastily. Then he straightened his jacket again and drew up his hand in a brief salute. "Good girl," he said aloud. (Epilogue.23)
Now that's love. If Winnie had drunk from the spring, she would have been there with the Tucks forever. But Tuck loves her and he wants what's best for her. And according to him, what's best for her is mortality.
She did not allow herself to consider the idea that making a difference in the world might require a bolder venture. She merely told herself consolingly, "Of course, while I'm in the wood, if I decide never to come back, well then, that will be that." She was able to believe in this because she needed to; and, believing, was her own true, promising friend once more. (5.4)
At the beginning of the novel, Winnie is a friend to herself. And to be honest, she's the only friend she's got. But sometimes that's all it takes.
"Look here, Winnie Foster," said Jesse. "We're friends, we really are. But you got to help us. Come sit down, and we'll try to tell you why." (6.22)
This is more like "we're friends, not enemies" as opposed to "we're friends, let's grab lunch." But hey, when you're low on friends, you take what you can get. Even if they're kidnappers, apparently. (P.S. Don't try this at home.)
"It was the same with our friends," said Mae. "They come to pull back from us. There was talk about witchcraft. Black magic. Well, you can't hardly blame them, but finally we had to leave the farm. We didn't know where to go." (7.18)
The whole immortality thing prevents the Tucks from having friends. That basically means they only have each other. Not a bad bunch to be stuck with, but it probably gets lonely after a while.
And Winnie, laughing at him, lost the last of her alarm. They were friends, her friends. She was running away after all, but she was not alone. Closing the gate on her oldest fears as she had closed the gate of her own fenced yard, she discovered the wings she'd always wished she had. And all at once she was elated. (8.13)
Winnie's friendship with the Tucks gives her courage. Everything's less scary when you've got company, don't you think?
It sounded rather sad to Winnie, never to belong anywhere. "That's too bad," she said, glancing shyly at Mae. "Always moving around and never having any friends or anything." (10.11)
Winnie can definitely empathize with the no-friends situation. She's got that in common with the Tucks, and maybe that's what brings them closer together.
[Winnie] found that she loved them, this most peculiar family. They were her friends, after all. And hers alone. (17.4)
Hmmm, we're not sure about this sentiment. Winnie sounds a little possessive here. If the Tucks had other friends, would she like them as much? Or is it just because they're her only friends that she's happy it goes both ways?
"You wanted to [come with the Tucks]?" echoed the constable, his eyes wide with disbelief. "You wanted to?"
"That's right," said Winnie unflinchingly. "They're my friends." (20.9-10)
Friends stick up for each other, and that's exactly what Winnie does for the Tucks. She totally could have thrown them under the bus, but she stands by them, protecting them from a pretty nasty punishment.
She had gone away with the Tucks because—well, she just wanted to. The Tucks had been very kind to her, had given her flapjacks, taken her fishing. The Tucks were good and gentle people. (21.3)
Winnie has a tough time expressing why she went with the Tucks. But we can all understand that we-just-wanted-to feeling. While it doesn't fly in some situations ("we just wanted to skip school"), when it comes to choosing friends, it's usually a solid bet.
"I don't know," said Winnie, "but it doesn't matter. Tell your father I want to help. I have to help. If it wasn't for me, there wouldn't have been any trouble in the first place. Tell him I have to." (22.23)
Friendship doesn't come with obligations. In this case, Winnie has to help the Tucks get out of a pretty sticky situation. Other considerations (like, say, her safety) go out the window.
They had tried to bring her up properly, with a true sense of right and wrong. They did not understand. And finally she had sobbed the only truth there was into her mother's shoulder, the only explanation: the Tucks were her friends. She had done it because—in spite of everything, she loved them. (25.7)
"And we figured it'd be very bad if everyone knowed about that spring," said Mae. "We begun to see what it would mean." She peered at Winnie. "Do you understand, child? That water—it stops you right where you are. If you'd had a drink of it today, you'd stay a little girl forever. You'd never grow up, not ever." (7.25)
The Tucks seems to have a moral responsibility to protect others from the fate they were dealt. Cue million-dollar question: is it wrong to take this choice away from other people?
"That kind of talk'll make her want to rush back and drink a gallon of the stuff," warned Miles. "There's a whole lot more to it than Jesse Tuck's good times, you know."
"Oh, stuff," said Jesse with a shrug. "We might as well enjoy it, long as we can't change it. You don't have to be such a parson all the time." (8.5-6)
Is Jesse being immoral here? Does he have an obligation to Winnie to help her think through the possible consequences of drinking the spring water?
"We're plain as salt, us Tucks. We don't deserve no blessings—if it is a blessing. And, likewise, I don't see how we deserve to be cursed, if it's a curse. Still—there's no use trying to figure why things fall the way they do. Things just are, and fussing don't bring changes. Tuck, now, he's got a few other ideas, but I expect he'll tell you." (10.12)
Mae sure hates fussing—she says it loud and clear again and again (and again). But is all the fussing that Tuck is doing really wrong? Or is it just his way of dealing with his crazy situation?
"Here, child," said Mae hastily. "Hide your eyes. Boys? Are you decent? What'd you put on to swim in? I got Winnie up here, do you hear me?"
"For goodness' sake, Ma," said Jesse, emerging from the stairwell. "You think we're going to march around in our altogether with Winnie Foster in the house?" (10.14-15)
Aw, the Tucks are so old-fashioned. It just wouldn't be right to be indecent in front of a stranger. Oh wait, we guess that's not really all that old-fashioned.
"If people knowed about the spring down there in Treegap, they'd all come running like pigs to slops. They'd trample each other, trying to get some of that water. […] [C]an you imagine? All the little ones little forever, all the old ones old forever. Can you picture what that means? Forever? […] they wouldn't know till after, and then it'd be too late." (12.11)
Tuck has a moral responsibility to keep the spring a secret. After all, he can guess how terrible things would turn out if everyone knew about it, and he needs to protect the people who aren't quite yet in the loop (i.e., everyone).
And all at once she wondered what would happen to the Tucks when her father came. What would he do to them? She would never be able to explain how they had been with her, how they made her feel. She remembered guiltily that at supper she had decided they were criminals. Well, but they were. And yet… (14.23)
Winnie is feeling guilty that she thought kidnappers were criminals. Hmmm. That makes us wonder: do our morals change when we're thinking about our friends as opposed to total strangers? That sure would explain Winnie's sudden change of heart.
"But I'm not going to sell it to just anybody," he protested. "Only to certain people, people who deserve it. And it will be very, very expensive. But who wouldn't give a fortune to live forever?"
"I wouldn't," said Tuck grimly. (19.23-4)
This seems pretty obviously wrong, wouldn't you say? But why? How is controlling who gets the water any different than keeping it a secret (like the Tucks are doing)? What's the difference?
And then, seeing its body broken, the thin wings stilled, she had wished it were alive again. She had wept for that wasp. Was Mae weeping now for the man in the yellow suit? In spite of her wish to spare the world, did she wish he were alive again? There was no way of knowing. (21.10)
Winnie killed a wasp. Mae killed a person. Pretty big difference, right? But in Winnie's mind, wrong is wrong.
Winnie had her own strong sense of rightness. She knew that she could always say, afterward, "Well, you never told me not to!" But how silly that would be! (23.7)
The narrator couldn't be any clearer: Winnie's got firm ideas about morality. Ah, but there's the rub. That sense of rightness tells her not to disobey her family, but it also tells her to help the Tucks. Hey, we never said morality was easy.
Jesse Tuck's face was instantly serious. "Oh, that. No—no, it's not," he said quickly. "You mustn't drink from it. Comes right up out of the ground. Probably pretty dirty." And he began to pile the pebbles over it again. (5.40)
Jesse isn't so good at lying—not to Winnie, anyway. Why not? After all, he's had plenty of practice. One hundred and four years' worth, to be exact.
"Well, child," she said to Winnie, standing up, "now you share our secret. It's a big, dangerous secret. We got to have your help to keep it. I expect you're full of questions, but we can't stay here no longer." (8.8)
Whoa. Wait a second. These people just met Winnie and they're asking her to keep a secret for them? We have two concerns here: (1) How do they know they can trust her? (2) Isn't that kind of presumptuous?
It was good. So good, in fact, that through it all, not one of them noticed that the man they had passed on the road, the man in the yellow suit, had crept up to the bushes by the stream and heard it all, the whole fantastic story. Nor did they notice that he was following now, beside the road far behind, his mouth, above the thin, gray beard, turned ever so slightly toward a smile. (8.14)
Uh oh. Consider the secret leaked. The beans spilled. The cat out-ed from the bag.
"But they can't stay on in any one place for long, you know. None of us can. People get to wondering." She sighed. "We been in this house about as long as we dare, going on twenty years." (10.10)
What secrets don't come with baggage, really? For the Tucks, this baggage comes in the form of moving around from place to place, never able to make a permanent home.
"I'll take you home. I promised I would, soon's we've explained a bit as to why you got to promise you'll never tell about the spring. That's the only reason we brung you here. We got to make you see why." (11.4)
The only reason the Tucks are still hanging with Winnie is because they need her to promise not to spill the beans about their secret. Not sure that falls under the "true friendship" category.
Was it true? Could they really never die, these Tucks? It had evidently not occurred to them that she might not believe it. They were only concerned that she keep the secret. Well, she did not believe it. It was nonsense. Wasn't it? Well, wasn't it? (14.6)
Because of how removed and observant the narrator is (check out "Tone" for more), Shmoop almost forgot the possibility that the Tucks might be lying about the whole immortality thing. If we had a narrator who just came out and said it—"Um, immortal? Seriously? Prove it."—we might have questioned this earlier.
The Tucks were right. It was best if no one knew about the spring, including the mosquitoes. She would keep the secret. (17.26)
We may not get any input from the narrator herself, but through the tricky technique of free indirect discourse (check out "Writing Style" for an explanation of why that's not a scary term), we get to hear that at least Winnie believes the Tucks.
But Mae's face was dark red. "Not Winnie!" she said between clenched teeth. "You ain't going to do a thing like that to Winnie. And you ain't going to give out the secret." (19.37)
As much as Mae is concerned about protecting Winnie, she's also concerned about keeping the spring thing under wraps. We could look at that two ways: (1) She wants to continue the lie she and her family have perpetuated for so long, or (2) she's protecting more than just Winnie—she's protecting the world at large.
"I can help! When your mother climbs out the window, I'll climb in and take her place. I can wrap myself up in her blanket, and when the constable looks in, he won't be able to tell the difference. Not in the dark. I can hump up and look a lot bigger. Miles can even put the window back. That would give you time to get away! You'd have at least till morning!" (22.21)
Whoa there, ten-year-old criminal. Winnie is actually the brains behind one of the most deceitful (not to mention) illegal acts in the book.
What would happen in the morning, when the constable found her in the cell and had to bring her home for the second time? What would they say? Would they ever trust her again? Winnie squirmed, sitting in the rocker, and swallowed uncomfortably. Well, she would have to make them understand, somehow, without explaining. (23.8)
Sir Walter Scott put it best: "Oh what a tangled web we weave, / When first we practice to deceive!" (Marmion, 7.17). Winnie has gotten herself into a sticky situation, that's for sure.