Study Guide

Tuck Everlasting Themes

  • Death

    In a book about living forever, it's not surprising that death gets a lot of screen time. It's not easy to think about death—we at Shmoop don't even like squishing that bug that's always crawling around our desks. But Tuck Everlasting gets us to take a step back and think about what it would mean if we never died. Would that be just as scary? Or possibly even worse? It's up to you to form your own opinion, but this novel Shmoops us toward grappling with the tough stuff.

    Questions About Death

    1. What is the Tucks' attitude to mortality? Do you think it changes as the years pass? How does Winnie feel about death at the beginning of the novel? At the end?
    2. Why do you think Winnie chose to pass up the spring water and accept her life as a regular ol' mortal?
    3. Do you think the narrator expresses an opinion about the necessity of death? If so, what is that opinion? If not, why not?
    4. What would you do if you were in Winnie's position? Would you drink the water? Why or why not?

    Chew on This

    Winnie was right to pass up the immortality juice—we can tell from the Tucks' experience that it's not the way to go.

    Winnie would have drunk the spring water if she hadn't seen the look in Tuck's eyes as he was watching the man in the yellow suit die. That just pushed her over the edge.

  • Time

    Would time seem different if we had more of it? Would it pass more slowly? Would we get more out of it? In Tuck Everlasting, time lasts forever (literally!) for the Tucks. And it seems like Tuck is worse for the wear because of it—he's unable to treasure the smaller moments in life because he knows they are infinite. For Winnie, on the other hand, every second counts. The twenty-four-hour adventure she has will be one of the most important days of her life, that's for sure.

    Questions About Time

    1. How do we know when Tuck Everlasting takes place? What clues are we given? And while we're at it, does it even matter?
    2. How does Tuck understand time? How does his understanding of time affect the way he lives his life?
    3. How can someone be both 104 and seventeen at the same time? Do you think Jesse is more like a seventeen-year-old or more like a 104-year-old?
    4. Why do you think the book takes place in August, instead of any other month?

    Chew on This

    The moral of Tuck Everlasting is this: it's not about how long you live, it's about what you do with your life.

    Winnie is immortal, too—we're still talking about her, aren't we?

  • Choices

    One big choice looms over all of Tuck Everlasting: should Winnie drink the immortality water? Does she want to live forever? Pretty hefty, right? But wait a sec—maybe the bigger issue isn't the choice that Winnie has but the lack of choices that the Tucks have. They're stuck where they are, no questions asked. So the next time you're stressed about which shows to prioritize on the DVR, be thankful that you even have the option.

    Questions About Choices

    1. Why do you think Winnie doesn't drink from the spring in the end? Would you have made the same choice?
    2. Which is worse in Tuck Everlasting: to have a tough choice to make or to have no choice at all?
    3. Other than the whole immortality thing, what choices does Winnie have to make throughout the novel?

    Chew on This

    If the Tucks could go back in time and decide whether or not to drink from the immortality spring, Jesse would totally still do it. He thinks being immortal is a giant excuse to have fun.

    Winnie made the wrong choice.

  • Life, Consciousness, and Existence

    What would it mean to live forever? Well, we learn in Tuck Everlasting that everyone has a different answer to that question. (We're guessing you do, too.) The what-does-it-all-mean voice that carries the most in the novel is Tuck's, who thinks that no death means no life.

    As soon as she meets the Tucks, Winnie is plunged into a world filled with philosophical questions about life and existence. She may have a lot of guidance, but she finds herself having to come up with answers in a very personal way.

    Questions About Life, Consciousness, and Existence

    1. Overall, which character in Tuck Everlasting has the most sophisticated or mature understanding of life and death? How would you defend this choice?
    2. How has living forever given Tuck a new appreciation of death?
    3. If you think about it, we miss out on most of Winnie's life. We meet her when she's ten and then we fast forward to her grave. Why don't we get to see her grow up? What's that all about?

    Chew on This

    The characters that are immortal in Tuck Everlasting (yep, the Tucks) experience life in a different way than everyone else.

    The twenty-four hours we witness of Winnie's life are the most important of her existence—that's why we don't get to see the rest.

  • Love

    The Tucks have a lot of love to give. Over a century's worth, in fact. They shower Winnie with that love, and she returns it in full force, falling in familial love with them within twenty-four hours. Not too shabby. But if there's anything the Tucks have learned from immortality, it's that love isn't always easy. Throughout Tuck Everlasting, they often find themselves losing the ones they love—through no fault of their own.

    Questions About Love

    1. How can Winnie find love for the Tucks so quickly? How would you describe their relationship?
    2. Does Winnie love all of the Tucks in the same way? Why or why not?
    3. How does Miles's experience with love differ from the experience of the other Tucks?
    4. What does Winnie's choice say about her love for the Tucks? And what do their reactions say about their love for her?

    Chew on This

    Winnie loves the Tucks more than she loves her own family.

    The most profound type of love in Tuck is revealed by Tuck's reaction to Winnie's death; he loves her so much he wanted what was best for her, no matter what loss it meant for him.

  • Friendship

    Winnie sure knows how to pick 'em. Where other ten-year-old girls have besties over for sleepovers, Winnie traipses around the nearby woods and befriends an entire family of seriously old people—so old they're immortal. The other problem? The Tucks won't stick around very long. That means that in Tuck Everlasting, Winnie needs to rely on herself and be her own best friend.

    Questions About Friendship

    1. Would Winnie have been as open to a friendship with the Tucks if she had a lot of friends to begin with? Why or why not?
    2. Which character ends up being the best friend to Winnie in the book? How so?
    3. How about that toad? Is he a friend to Winnie? Why or why not?
    4. Is Winnie her own best friend?

    Chew on This

    After her adventure with the Tucks, Winnie is still on her own—totally friendless.

    If Jesse were a true friend, he wouldn't have offered Winnie water from the spring.

  • Morality

    What happens when right and wrong collide and you're not sure which way to go? Tuck Everlasting faces that question head on, mostly by putting Winnie and the Tucks in some sticky situations. At the core of all the moral dilemmas is this: should you protect yourself or the people you love? We have to say it: this novel is just as much about morality as it is about mortality.

    Questions About Morality

    1. Why is the Yellow Suit Guy's plan so horrifying to Winnie and the Tucks?
    2. Was it wrong for Mae to kill Yellow Suit Guy? Why or why not?
    3. Why does Winnie decide to help Mae escape from jail? Was this a moral decision?
    4. Why didn't Miles tell his family about the spring water? Does it have anything to do with his morals?

    Chew on This

    Killing people is wrong, no questions asked. Mae should be punished for murdering the man in the yellow suit, no matter her motivation.

    Speaking of doing the wrong thing, the Tucks are living a lie. Talk about immoral.

  • Lies and Deceit

    Someone forgot to tell the Tucks that the truth will set you free. And so, in Tuck Everlasting, they're stuck, never able to admit to the rest of the world who they really are. They're living a lie—through and through—but can we blame them? (Really, we're asking.) After all, they're lying to protect other people. The entire world, actually. Who knows what kind of craziness would go down if everyone knew about the possibility for immortality? But all that doesn't change that they're lying—and asking Winnie to do the same.

    Questions About Lies and Deceit

    1. Why are the Tucks so obsessed with keeping the spring a secret? How has keeping that secret changed their lives—for better and for worse?
    2. What lies does Winnie tell throughout the novel? Are they white lies or big, fat, nasty lies?
    3. Are the Tucks justified in lying to everyone they meet?

    Chew on This

    The lies that the man in the yellow suit tells are clearly the bad kind. The Tucks, on the other hand, are just lying to protect people.

    By the end of the book, Winnie's been totally corrupted by the Tucks: she's willing to lie to her parents and the constable—break the law, even—in order to help Mae Tuck go free.