Tuck Everlasting

by

Natalie Babbitt

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Tuck Everlasting: Chapter Seventeen Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Winnie wakes up very early and looks out the window. She admires the mist sitting on the water and watches a toad hopping by. She remembers her toad at home and feels as though she's been away for weeks. Winnie starts to blush when she hears steps on the stairs and thinks that Jesse is coming, but it's Miles. He smiles and invites her to help him catch fish for breakfast. Winnie steps carefully into the boat, accepts the fishing poles and bait, and notices frogs and fish in the water. She thinks that she gets to go home today and thinks fondly of the Tucks' visits to her the night before. Winnie decides that they're friends and she loves them.
In the light of day, Winnie is able to think more clearly about what's happened to her and make some sense of it. Because the Tucks recognize her agency and treat her like a person with valid thoughts and feelings, it opens up the door for her to think of them as friends that, in return, she should treat with the same kind of respect. Further, the fact that she takes note of the natural world around her suggests that she's becoming more comfortable with the natural cycles she’s been learning about.
Themes
Nature and the Cycle of Life Theme Icon
Morality, Choices, and Friendship Theme Icon
Miles steers the boat to some lily pads and baits the hooks. Winnie studies Miles, whose face is thinner than Jesse's but whose body is more solid. Softly, Miles looks up and says that one of his children was a girl named Anna. He took her fishing too, and she's almost 80 now if she's still alive. Winnie asks why Miles didn't take his family to the spring to drink. Miles explains that he didn't figure out that the spring was to blame until after his wife left, but by that time, his wife was almost 40 and his children were close to his age. He says it would've been too strange, and besides, Angus thinks that the fewer people know about it, the better.
Miles's tone indicates that losing his family was very traumatic for him, underscoring how crucial interpersonal connections are for a fulfilling, moral life. This suggests that part of his belief that he and his family need to take their immortality seriously comes from the fact that stepping out of the cycle of life brings great loss with it. His choice to not find his family and invite them to drink shows that he also doesn't think that immortality is a great fate, given how much loss it can bring.
Themes
The Purpose of Living Theme Icon
Nature and the Cycle of Life Theme Icon
Morality, Choices, and Friendship Theme Icon
Miles hands Winnie her pole and she lets the hook down into the water. She remarks that there are a lot of frogs in the pond, and Miles says they'll stay unless the turtles move in. Winnie sighs that it'd be nice if nothing had to die, but Miles says that if nothing died, pretty soon there'd be no room for any new life. Winnie admits that Miles is right as a fish nearly jerks the pole out of her hands. The fish gets away and Winnie hands Miles the pole.
When she thinks about it in terms of animals, Winnie is better able to accept that death is normal, natural, and necessary. With this, the novel is able to use another metaphor to help the reader think about the same questions and make those questions and answers easier to understand and conceptualize.
Themes
The Purpose of Living Theme Icon
Nature and the Cycle of Life Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Winnie slaps at a mosquito that lands on her knee and thinks that Miles is right; it'd be awful if mosquitos lived forever. She decides she's going to keep the Tucks' secret and asks Miles what he's going to do with so much time. Miles says he wants to do something important. He doesn't think that Angus's habit of hiding is useful, and he also doesn't believe that he should think only of his own pleasure. He believes that in order to take up space, he has to do something useful, though he's not sure what that is.
Miles's insistence that he wants to do something important confirms and validates Winnie's own thoughts on what she believes she should do with her life. This suggests that though Winnie may have been on the right track before meeting the Tucks, actually befriending them and sharing ideas with them is an essential part of her coming of age process, as it confirms her suspicions while teaching her new things.
Themes
The Purpose of Living Theme Icon
Morality, Choices, and Friendship Theme Icon
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Winnie reaches out and touches a lily pad. Then, Miles catches a trout and pulls it up into the boat. It's simultaneously beautiful and horrifying, and the sight of it makes Winnie want to cry. She tells Miles to put it back and he does. Winnie feels silly as she asks if the trout will be okay. Miles says it'll be fine, but people have to eat meat sometimes--and that means killing things.
By suggesting that humans need to kill animals and eat them sometimes, Miles connects human life with the natural world and suggests that the two are more connected than sheltered Winnie might imagine. This moment also shows Winnie that sometimes, she'll have the choice whether or not to take a life--and she'll have to live with the consequences of that choice, even if the consequence is just feeling foolish.
Themes
The Purpose of Living Theme Icon
Nature and the Cycle of Life Theme Icon
Morality, Choices, and Friendship Theme Icon