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Literature / Tuck Everlasting

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Tuck Everlasting is a 1975 fantasy novel exploring immortality and whether it's worth it.

In the late 1800s, Winnie Foster's life is boring. Nothing exciting ever happens, and being in a family of strait-laced blue bloods has cramped her style. She goes out exploring in the woods one day and meets the Tucks. The Tucks became immortal after drinking water from a spring. She is fascinated by Jesse Tuck, a boy who's really 104 years old. The family shares with her the secrets of the spring. However, a man in a yellow suit is also after the secret behind the Tucks' immortality. The Tucks are threatened by the man in a yellow suit until they are in grave danger. Winnie must choose whether to live forever, and find how to save the Tucks.

The story has been adapted into a film twice: in 1981 by Office of Communications and in 2002 by Walt Disney Productions. A musical adaptation was produced in 2013, and premiered on Broadway in 2015.


Tropes used by the novel and films:

  • Adaptation Expansion: Some filler is to be expected, as the book isn't very long. Also, the immortality is only claimed in the book, with no real evidence in the actual story to confirm it. The 2002 movie shows fully that the claims were true: Jesse gets shot but is otherwise undeterred. A literal Wham Shot.
  • Adaptational Intelligence: In the book, Winnie tells Jesse to put her in Mae's place in the jail cell so that the sheriff won't get suspicious until the morning. This leads to her getting grounded for a long time by her family. In the film, Winnie goes to the sheriff screaming that the Tucks are coming after her and trying to kill her, so he'll go out and deal with the sons while she goes to free Angus and Mae. The sheriff runs away when he sees that Jesse and Miles are bulletproof, which means it's more plausible that the sons freed their mother and Winnie gets off scot-free.
  • Adult Fear:
    • Winnie runs away and goes missing for days. Her family is understandably frantic.
    • Miles describes how he outlived his children, and his wife. Immortality aside, parents and spouses have faced this fear. In the film, it's worse; his daughter died when she was a teen, and his wife was committed to an asylum.
  • Age Lift: Winnie is ten years old in the book, but in the 2002 movie, she's in her mid teens. This is probably to make the romance between her and Jesse less squicky (she's still underaged, though at least they do nothing more than kiss).
  • An Aesop: You Only Live Once.
  • And Then What?: Jesse begs Winnie to run away with him and the Tucks when she frees his parents from jail and they prepare to leave. Angus vetoes the idea, telling Jesse that if they do that, they'll get caught again since Winnie's family would be searching for them. Winnie agrees to stay behind, and Jesse tells her to drink the water when she's ready to be immortal.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
    • A mild example. Winnie wishes to get away from her family. Then she's kidnapped. But the experience turns out to be not so bad after all.
    • There's also the obvious one about desiring immortality. The Tucks take care to see that Winnie understands how staying young forever isn't as great as it sounds with the troubles and pain that come with immortality physically and emotionally.
  • Bittersweet Ending: In the movie, Jesse returns to the tree after a hundred years have passed to see if Winnie had taken the water and was waiting for him, only to find her tombstone instead, placed beneath it. Reading it, he finds out that she had a long and happy life with a husband and children. Jesse looks to the sky with a wistful smile. In the book Winnie is buried in the Treegap graveyard and Mae and Angus Tuck are the ones who find her headstone.
  • Bittersweet 17: Jesse Tuck is seventeen forever, and is carefree and adventurous... but the fact is, he's still a child who can never grow up, never achieve adulthood and never truly integrate with society because of his secret. He says his immortality is a blessing, but it's very clear he's Blessed with Suck.
  • Blessed with Suck: The Tucks cannot age, and cannot be killed by any means. This unfortunately has led them to become isolated from the world around them, with Miles watching his own family walk out on him when his wife believes him to be possessed. They will literally spend eternity watching every generation grow old and die, unable to make love or to have any part in society knowing what the consequences would be. As such, they are determined that nobody ever finds the spring that has made them this way.
  • Can't Grow Up: The Tucks, obviously.
  • Complete Immortality: They don't age and they are Nigh-Invulnerable.
  • Deal with the Devil: The Tucks are suspected of this in-story.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Winnie grows up and dies instead of becoming immortal with Jesse.
  • Dramatic Irony: The Tucks notice a toad in the way of their wagon, and muse that it probably thinks it'll live forever, not knowing it's the same toad Winnie gave up her immortality water for.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: The first chapter of the book has the cows sensing something very wrong with the forest itself and quickly going around it.
  • Extremely Short Time Span: The bulk of the novel covers just over two days.
  • The Film of the Book: There are two different adaptations, in 1981 and 2002.
  • Friendless Background: Winnie, due to her family's strict upbringing.
  • I Just Want to Be Free: Winnie’s main reason for running away.
  • Immortality Seeker: The Man in the Yellow Suit is this.
  • Immortal Procreation Clause: The Tucks don't age, they don't die. Mrs. Tuck was past childbearing age when she drank from the spring, so it isn't an issue for the elder Tucks. However, the eldest Tuck son got married in the years after they drank from the spring and before they realized its effects; he had children, but his wife eventually thought he'd made a Deal with the Devil and left him.
  • The Jailbait Wait: Jesse gave Winnie some of the water, intending for her to use it when she was of marriageable age. She gave the water to a toad or a turtle instead in the book and the 1981 film adaptation. In the film, she always had access to the spring and considered drinking it, but never did as she aged and got married.
  • The Kindnapper: The Tucks do kidnap Winnie (even they admit it), but they did so in a panic when she learns their secret, and they mean no harm and fully intend on bringing her home the next day, once they've had time to explain everything and get her promise not to tell.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Winnie.
  • Magical Realism: The only fantastic element in the story is the spring, which itself is never really explained.
  • The Magic Goes Away: In the Distant Finale of the book, the immortality spring has been bulldozed over and destroyed. Averted in the film, where Jesse sees her buried in the woods.
  • Mama Bear:
    • Mae's usually very sweet, but she kills The Man in the Yellow Suit to protect her family. Not to mention kidnapping Winnie for the same reason, to avoid getting her caught up with the Man in the Yellow Suit.
    • She's also this to Winnie. That's the main reason she kills The Man in the Yellow Suit. She didn't want him to force Winnie to drink the spring water and condemn her to an eternity of loneliness.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Winnie (who is ten years old in the novel) wants to marry Jesse when she turns seventeen. (In the movie, they changed her to be fifteen.) He's also on board with the idea. But it doesn't come to pass, and she dies as an old woman, while he's still seventeen.
  • The Men in Black: Well, yellow in this case.
  • The Mourning After: In the Disney film, Miles still wears his wedding ring, despite years having passed since his wife and children died.
  • My Beloved Smother: Mrs. Foster.
  • No Name Given: The Man in the Yellow Suit.
  • Of Corset Hurts: In the movie, Winnie is forced to wear a corset. Her mother tells her "You must suffer to be beautiful, so say the French", to which Winnie replies, "Well, the French are crazy!". When Winnie is staying with the Tucks, Mae helps her remove the corset, commenting on how she can't understand why women torture themselves with them. The Tucks teach her how to live a very natural and easy lifestyle.
  • Pistol-Whipping: Mae Tuck smacks The Man in the Yellow Suit with a shotgun, fracturing his skull.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: Winnie and Jesse in the 2002 movie, sort of. In the book, she has a crush on him and he suggests they marry when she's old enough, but nothing ever happens during the story since she's only ten. The movie ages her up, and they share a kiss.
  • Rebellious Princess / Spirited Young Lady: Winnie longs for a life outside her gates and her upper class lifestyle and learns to become a somewhat modern woman after her escapade with the Tuck family. The 2002 film takes this up by a greater degree. Said film also shows her trying her hand at playing baseball with a group of boys.
  • The Runaway: Winnie, tired of the stifling environment around her, runs off into the forest where she meets the Tucks.
  • Sarcastic Confession: When Winnie first meets Jesse, she asks how old he is. He tells her the truth, and she asks him to be serious.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Winnie is technically kidnapped by the Tucks, but they didn't mean any harm by it.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Mrs. Foster softens up in the 2002 film adaptation.
  • Uptown Girl: Winnie hails from a rich family, but she makes friends with the Tucks and the 2002 movie gives her and Jesse an interclass romance.
  • Villain Ball: The Man in the Yellow Suit when he takes Winnie hostage on seeing that the Tucks won't willingly show him where the spring is or volunteer to be a part of his "freak show". He loudly tells them he's going to use Winnie, the girl he was supposed to rescue, as his guinea pig, seconds before the sheriff arrives and follows him. If Mae hadn't hit him with a shotgun, then the sheriff would have seen the Man's true character.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: This is a major theme. Angus Tuck in particular dislikes his immortality and despite being sad over Winnie's passing, praises her in the book for choosing to not drink the water and live a normal life.


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