Tuck Everlasting, part deux

What is it people want most at the end of their lives? Is it peace? Or more time? I just watched Disney’s Tuck Everlasting (2002), based on the children’s fantasy novel published in 1975 by Natalie Babbitt. The story focuses on Winifred Foster, a fifteen-year-old girl from a wealthy family and strict household. Winnie runs into the woods out of her life of frustration and boredom to discover the Tuck family, who drank from a magic spring and became immortal. Apart from exploring themes of immortality, life, and death, Tuck Everlasting presents dualism of fear. Simultaneously, the movie ceaselessly challenges and redefines the definition of a lived life. Finally we see how ritual is as natural as the life cycle itself.
Tuck Everlasting (2002) presents a dualism of fear: fear of death or fear of an unlived life. Commonly people might say that they are scared because they don’t know what is behind the black veil or of leaving the earth unaccomplished. Nevertheless, the film poses a scarier thought: the unlived life. At the words of Winnie, the film suggests that living fully involves doing everything you can and what you want at a slow pace.
Even so, the main point to take home is that living also involves dying; dying oneself and experiencing death of a loved one. For example, Miles Tuck lives in regret and bitterness, wishing he could have died with his family. His immortality obstructs his death, and he becomes a “rock stuck at the side of the stream”. It’s as if his life is one long sentence without a period, forever expanding but never finding closure. Death is natural and it must occur in order to have lived.
To further illustrate is the scene of Winnie’s grandmother’s funeral. Winnie watches her grandmother be buried and she sees her mother crying. Her realization is two-fold: Dying is natural and unlike Miles, she and her mother will eventually pass too. This must have been the realization that kept her from drinking the immortal water.
Although this is not emphasized, we see the importance of ritual in the funeral scene and in the scene where Mrs. Foster mourns. Not only is ritual a way for mourners to remove themselves from social order and expectations, but their removal from society is as natural as life. Humans are designed to feel emotion and express it, and death rituals serve this process. Thus, ritual becomes a symbol of cyclical life itself.
Although, Tuck Everlasting (2002) may be underlined by cheesy romanticism, cliché aphorisms, or hokey mottos, it is an honest film. Ultimately it reminds us that we don’t have to live forever, we just have to live. So get out there and seize the diem.

Julio Medina

4 responses to “Tuck Everlasting, part deux

  1. I think that this is a really good point. People usually say things like they are afraid to die or they are not ready to die yet. In this case Miles Tuck does not have that choice. I feel like people are afraid of death because it is something that is unknown. As much as you believe in a particular religion and what will happen to you after death, there is no way of knowing for sure. I think that people are afraid of death because they feel that they are not yet ready to die, they have not done everything they wanted to do yet. Without death the things we do in our lives have much less purpose and meaning. The “once in a lifetime” experiences that you have had are not longer as special because there is no context without the presence of death.
    Personally I would not want to be immortal either, I would not want to have no closure, I would want to be able to live my life and then have an end to it. If I was immortal then I feel like I would go through more pain because I would have to see everyone that I love die.
    Without death we also have no need for the ritual that surrounds funerary practices and their purpose. The ritual provides closure after a death but without the death we have no end, we would not need ritual. We may need closure as immortal beings, if we where, but we cannot use the same ritual for it because we cannot have closure without an end, or death.

  2. Julie Z. Rosenberg

    Enjoyed your post (I’m a friend of Liv’s). I read Tuck Everlasting in 5th grade (circa 1981) and was totally sucked in by it. I loved that it was a children’s book that dealt with death without being sappy or sugarcoating it. Despite fantastical elements, it felt very real and honest. It’s one of the books that made a lifelong reader (and writer) out of me. Haven’t seen the movie and am not sure I want to as I have all the characters in my own mind and don’t want to destroy that image.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it! I read Tuck around the third grade (1999)! Like you I also enjoyed the story for its honesty. You know Julie, I would not watch the movie if I were you. The images we see on film often distort our previous perceptions of what is being shown on the big screen. This may not be comparable exactly, but I assume you read Harry Potter. Did the films capture what you envisioned when you read the books? And when you look back at it now do you see images of the film or of your imagination? I think you should hold on to your own depiction of these characters. Just a suggestion 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  3. Liv G. Nilsson Stutz

    It seems to me like the inability to eventually accept death must be one of the most painful states to be in. Watching the right to die documentary today, I was struck by the dignity of the lady in Colorado who was speaking with such peace about facing her own death. To be that prepared and accepting must make it so much easier, both for oneself and for ones loved ones. I wonder if most people get to that point of dignity and peace, or if we keep resisting til the very end.

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