Technologically Prolonging Life and Tuck Everlasting

Many of our recent readings have dealt with the advancement of medicine and technology and how it has affected the length of life.  In America, we see this triumph over death as a great accomplishment and therefore strive to keep increasing the length of life.  However, are we raising quality of life as well, or just delaying the inevitable processes of nature? As we age and become more feeble and sickly, technology that preserves our lives becomes more increasingly present.  It is used to keep our heart pumping when the heart has stopped doing so on its own, to keep us breathing, and to replace body parts that can no longer perform correctly.  These actions can prolong life, but they also commonly leave patients in a state of non-life, non-death; comas, forms of social death after living longer than family and peers, and failed organ transplants.  For these reasons we can wonder not only how beneficial these actions are, but also when should we plan to stop technology advancements.  After a point, extended life is no longer a beneficial thing if all other important aspects of life are absent.

Movie poster for Tuck Everlasting (2002)

Movie poster for Tuck Everlasting (2002)

This argument is presented in the book/movie Tuck Everlasting. The Tucks have lived for over a hundred years after drinking from a stream that gave them eternal life.  Winnie Foster falls in love with one of the Tuck sons and eventually learns their secret of immortality; he tries to convince her to drink from the stream and wait for him so that they can share the rest of time together.  The father, Angus Tuck has a conversation with Winnie in which he tries to convince her otherwise (see video link).  It is here that the concept of longevity versus quality of life is incorporated into this fantasy film.  Angus establishes the idea that living forever is not such a great gift; they become a being in a world in which everything around them passes by throughout time.  They no longer have an importance as an individual since they exist outside the boundaries of normal functioning life.  He believes that Winnie, as a mortal, is able to live a true life of meaning and social connections with the world she lives in.  Taking  Tuck’s advice, Winnie decides not to drink from the spring and we see that she dies after a long and fulfilling life; the film shows us that if given the choice, opting for a natural life is more meaningful and rewarding than “living forever”.  Maybe this should be considered as we continue along our path of forever advancing science and technology.

Winnie Foster at the immortal spring

Winnie Foster at the immortal spring

-Victoria Grumbles

2 responses to “Technologically Prolonging Life and Tuck Everlasting

  1. The topic of immortality is extremely prominent in our popular culture, but many people fail to see the repercussions of what living forever would entail. Would we continue aging? Or would we stay at the age at which we “became immortal”? Even if you do stay healthy and young throughout time as in Tuck Everlasting, I definitely agree that life would indeed lose a sense of purpose, which many have trouble finding anyway. Also, as the case is in the movie, not everyone is living forever, thus one would have to go through seeing all the people they know around them die. This would become extremely difficult to deal with, one would basically have to disconnect from the social aspect of life. On the other hand if the ability to become immortal was available for everyone imagine the overpopulation of our nearly already overpopulated planet! Fun post, I had totally forgotten about this movie. It does raise an interesting dilemma.

  2. Nicholas Anton Tigges

    The immediate problem that comes to mind with extending human life way beyond when it would normally end is the resource problem that comes with it. If everyone suddenly had the ability to live forever, the planet’s resources would rapidly disappear due to over-consumption by a population that never loses any members. Once all resources are depleted, a barren wasteland would be all that remains and there would be nothing left for anyone to do but sit around and wait for the sun to consume the planet; if immortality allows people to even survive this, everyone would end up floating in the cold empty void of space forever. This is definitely not the best way to spend an eternity!
    Another problem is the ethical dilemma that comes with living forever. If technology becomes available to extend the human lifespan beyond normal capacity, it would likely be very expensive and reserved for those who are wealthy enough to afford it. This would mean that billions of people would get the short end of the stick and would continue to suffer and go through death while those who are well off would be able to enjoy their immortality. Also, imagine if a dictator managed to become immortal; there is literally no end to the amount of destruction that he/she could cause because there would be no repercussions that could affect them.

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