What does the "touch-me-not appearance" of the cottage mean in Tuck Everlasting?
The theme of the first chapter, where the term "touch-me-not appearance" is found, is the incongruity of civilization with nature. The peaceful, unfettered layout of the natural world is first described, with the "relaxed" road, created by herds of cattle, meandering along in "curves and easy angles" through the fields and ending at the woods. The scene is idyllic, suggesting "tranquil bovine picnics" and conducive to "thoughtful contemplation of the infinite". On the other side of the wood, however, this "sense of easiness" is spoiled, when the land suddenly becomes "the property of people".
This is where the cottage with the "touch-me-not appearance is located. The cottage is a "square and solid" dwelling, surrounded by "grass cut painfully to the quick and enclosed by a capable iron fence some four feet high which clearly (says), 'Move on - we don't want you here'". Prim and uninviting, the cottage, by being the property of one or a few, automatically forbids others to share it, thus, it has a "touch-me-not appearance". The cottage, and the orderly area around it, is representative of the acquisitive nature of civilization, where the struggle for ownership creates exclusion and division, a state at odds with the natural order of things (Chapter 1).