Tuck Everlasting

by

Natalie Babbitt

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Tuck Everlasting: Chapter Twenty-Two Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After breakfast the next morning, Winnie heads outside. Her parents treat her carefully and while they normally would insist she stay inside on such a hot day, they just ask her to come in if it gets too hot. Winnie leans against the fence and thinks of Mae in the jailhouse. She suddenly notices the toad on the other side of the road. It looks dry and parched, so Winnie runs inside to ask Granny for some water to give the toad a drink. Though Granny wrinkles her nose, she explains that toads take water in through their skin and accompanies Winnie back outside with a bowl of water. The toad is gone when they get there, so Winnie dumps the water on the ground. It evaporates immediately and Granny goes back inside.
When Winnie’s parents let her go outside, it shows that they recognize that she's a more mature person than she was two days ago. The fact that Winnie is back inside her fence suggests that her return home represents a return to childhood, though Winnie's desire to help the toad also seems to come from the things she learned with the Tucks--in other words, it's a mark of her newfound emotional maturity, even if she is physically stuck inside the fence.
Themes
Childhood, Independence, and Maturity Theme Icon
Winnie sits down and closes her eyes. A few minutes later, Jesse interrupts her reverie. Winnie grabs his hand through the fence and asks if they have a plan to get Mae out. Jesse whispers that Miles is planning to use his carpentry skills to remove the window in the jail cell so Mae can climb through tonight. The constable, however, is so proud to be using the jail that he'll certainly notice immediately. He says that he's come to say goodbye, as his family will have to leave for a long time. He gives Winnie a small bottle of spring water so that when she's seventeen, she can drink it and join them.
Reaching through the fence to Jesse reminds the reader and Winnie that the fence isn't an impenetrable barrier. It's something that she can pass through, reach through, and even mentally exist on either side. The bottle of water is effectively a symbol of the choices that Winnie will need to make as she grows up. Now, she can choose to stop her life and join Jesse, or she can choose to keep on living and changing.
Themes
The Purpose of Living Theme Icon
Childhood, Independence, and Maturity Theme Icon
Winnie accepts the bottle and excitedly whispers that she can help. She says that after Mae escapes, she can take her place in the jail cell, make herself look large, and fool the constable. Jesse says it might work and asks what Winnie's family will say. Winnie says that it doesn't matter what her family thinks, since she wants to help and needs to get the Tucks out of this situation that she got them into in the first place. They agree to meet at midnight and Jesse slips away.
Winnie's lack of interest in the bottle--and her interest in helping Mae instead--foreshadows Winnie's choice to not drink the water. It's more important for her to help her friends than it is to live forever and be one of them, even at this early point in her development. Here, Winnie displays her newfound sense of autonomy and morality by taking responsibility for her actions and relying on her friendships to guide her through this complex situation.
Themes
The Purpose of Living Theme Icon
Childhood, Independence, and Maturity Theme Icon
Morality, Choices, and Friendship Theme Icon
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