Study Guide

Tuck Everlasting Choices

By Natalie Babbitt


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?