A Tale Reminding us that Every Action has a Reaction
Every action has a reaction. Sometimes, “It’s something you don’t find out how you feel until afterwards,” as Tuck, from Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting, would say. Consequences, and their effect on us, are truly a matter of perception; all depending on who it is that is opening the envelop of the circumstance placed in front of them. Regardless, life keeps on moving, turning through the motions of days and nights- even when we seize to exist.
But what if we could live forever? What if the age-old concept of mortality were really dangled in front of us in a way that allowed us to choose? Would we take the plunge?
And what if we could not choose? What if the things we thought were unthinkable became our reality, leaving us no choice but to find a means to cope with the choice made for us? How would we handle it?
So many questions run through my mind as I sit and read (for at least the 6th time now) Babbitt’s critically acclaimed children’s fantasy novel Tuck Everlasting. Published in 1975, Babbitt tells a timeless tale that I have never stopped resonating with for the twenty years I have gone back to read it.
It is one of those books that’s use of description and wordplay can never be forgotten. It’s funny to me, because Babbitt said in an interview that she does not believe there are any lessons to be learned through her story- just a series of events and experiences. I laugh because at nine-years-old and still at 29, I am discovering new teachings from the twisting tale she tells.
As a child, I was enthralled by the idea of mortality after reading. Young minds would think that living forever would be fantastic, but through some of the point of views within the Tuck family, we begin to see otherwise. When I was a kid, it left me stumped with this notion of whether it’s what I’d want for myself or not. I still find myself pondering on the concept- though now it is a no-brainer in terms of what I’d choose. Put me to rest when my time is through!
But into my teenage years, I began to twist Babbitt’s words in ways I hadn’t as a child. For later, it was through the father of the Tuck family (who is referred to as Tuck in the book), that I began to shift my thoughts to a whole new ideology that I found to be quite thought provoking.
He says, “It’s a wheel, Winnie. Everything’s a wheel, turning and turning, never stopping. The frogs is part of it, and the bugs, and the fish, and the wood thrush, too. And people. But never the same ones. Always coming in new, always growing and changing, and always moving on. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. That’s the way it is.”
I still remember Tuck’s words hitting me into my core as a young woman revisiting her favorite childhood story. No matter what we do, the world does not stop for us. It is the natural form of life for what begins to come to an end. It made me feel a sense of sorrow for the fictional hearts who had to bear the cross of not being a part of what was natural to our universe.
But it also made me stop and smell the roses for a bit. It made me realize that if we are a part of a cycle, we have to have a great sense of gratitude for the things that make their mark in it. The winding trees, and the colors of dawn, and the currents of the oceans, and many of the other wondrous descriptions Babbitt unravels in her novel. Though we may not know how we will adjust to something that has happened to us, we do know that the world will keep on turning and the flowers will come back to bloom.
However, reading this as a grown woman, and mother, I found myself struck by the most basic concept that the book may have to offer, but that I had not even considered through Babbitt’s words before. In the third chapter of the book, dear and innocent Winnie says in contemplation, “I’m not exactly sure what I’d do, you know, but something interesting- something that’s all mine. Something that would make some kind of a difference in the world.”
Now, it is not necessarily a young girl’s revelation that she should do something meaningful with her life that got me (though it is important for young readers, and I thank Babbitt for bringing up the theme.) But it is the events that end up unfolding for Winnie, and the way she handles it, that reminds me why I cannot wait for my daughter to read this over and over again.
I do not want to give too much away, but I think it is important to note that the things we do that bring us fulfillment and make us feel we have purpose do not always come in the form we have envisioned for ourselves. Sometimes, our calling gives us a ring in a way that we least expect, and don’t even realize that it holds significance until after. But as Tuck said, sometimes we won’t know how we feel until after. Sometimes, we just have to react and trust our instincts.
So, if there is a new moral that I will take from this faceted novel, it’s that our intuition is meaningful. It’s that even when we are not sure how things are going to turn out, the essence of who we are lies in how we react to what is placed in front of us. And those moments where there is victory in our active intuition makes it all worth it.
And Mae Tuck, the mother of the Tuck family, brings up a good point. Sometimes, “Things just are, and fussing don’t bring changes.” So, when we find our actions to lead to an unpleasant circumstance, we have to remember that sometimes, things just are, and if worrying won’t change a thing- we may as well find a way to find a positive alternative.
I so love how Babbitt’s themes all end up tying into each other, and weave into several concepts of the human experience that can captivate both child and adult. Her story is one that leaves so much food for thought, I found it hard to center my own mind to write this. However, they’re all necessary, at any age, and I am grateful to be taken into Tuck Everlasting’s world as a means of putting it all into perspective.
I would hope that any booklover would take the time to pick this one up and give it a chance. I doubt they’d be disappointed.
If you’re looking for a story that you and your children can read together and discuss, I would hope you’d choose this one as your next fictional adventure.
I wonder what I will discover the next time I give it a read.
-Christine Weimer, @beacolorfulyou