What does the "touch-me-not" appearance of the cottage mean in Natalie Babbitt's Tuck Everlasting?

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Payal Khullar | College Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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In the very beginning of Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting, we are introduced to a cottage located near the village of Treegap, which is also called as the touch-me-not cottage. Owned by Fosters, this cottage is small and homey, and has a rare beauty. The “touch me not” appearance of the cottage means two things. Firstly, the cottage is in perfect condition, i.e. it is neat, clean and very orderly. And secondly, any stranger is discouraged to come close to it (just like the touch-me-not plant). Hence, the cottage, although naturally beautiful and well kept, looks very uninviting, unwelcoming and isolated (This is in contrast with Tuck’s home, which is disorganised and messed up, but very welcoming). Fosters' cottage, through the “touch me not” appearance, gives a clear, strict sign that the owners don’t want anyone who passes by that place to come towards their cottage.

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Natalie Babbitt's Tuck Everlasting, when the narrator describes the Fosters' cottage as being "touch-me-not," the narrator is describing the cottage as looking so well-kept that it looks different from the rest of the houses in their society. In looking different, the house looks cut off from the rest of society, as we see when the narrator describes the house as looking proud:

The house was so proud of itself that you wanted to make a lot of noise as you passed, and maybe even throw a rock or two (2).

The house's pride and pristine condition are further described in the fact that the house is "surrounded by grass cut painfully to the quick and enclosed by a capable iron fence" (1).

The Fosters' cottage stands in great contrast to the Tucks' cottage, which is described as being very messy, yet Winnie also notes how comfortable the messiness looks because it looks lived in.

The differences between the two houses represents the two families' appreciation or lack of appreciation for life. The Tucks, having gained eternal life, have developed a deep appreciation of life, especially of the circle of life. In contrast, the Fosters are so absorbed in their own concerns that they have not developed an appreciation of life and want to keep all of life away from them, as seen in image of the "touch-me-not" cottage surrounded by grass that is cut far too short and an iron fence. The image of the grass cut far too short, in an effort to keep the cottage looking well-kept, especially portrays the Fosters' lack of appreciation for life; they value life so little that they don't even want their grass to grow.

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