Charlotte’s Web, by E. B. White | Summary and Analysis
Relationships in Charlotte’s Web
I chose to read Charlotte’s Web because it has always been one of my favorite stories. I instantly knew this would be the perfect story to write about human and animal interrelationships. There are many different relationships between the people and the animals throughout this book. Along with those relationships, there are also various interrelationships between the animals as well. I loved reading this book again, and found it the perfect book for this type of essay.
The story begins with a litter of pigs being born at the Arable’s farm. There were a total of eleven pigs, including the runt. Normally, Mr. Arable kills the runt because it usually dies anyway. However, Fern, the Arable daughter, became very upset when she heard her Papa was going to kill the baby pig. She begged and pleaded with him until he finally gave in and told her that he would not kill the runt if she took care of it. Fern was so ecstatic to have her very own baby pig. She named her new pig Wilbur. Wilbur loved Fern, and would follow her wherever she went. After Wilbur was two weeks old, he had to live outside in a little wooden box under the apple tree. Fern would go outside everyday to feed, walk, and play with Wilbur. They both really loved each other’s company.
Unfortunately, when Wilbur was five weeks old, Fern had to sell him to her Uncle Homer Zuckerman. The Zuckerman’s farm was close to Ferns house, so she could go and visit Wilbur whenever she pleased. The farm had horses, cows, geese, chickens, sheep, dogs, cats, and now Wilbur. Wilbur became very bored on the farm; he no longer got to go on walks or swims with Fern. He was always stuck in his little pig pen.
One sunny day, Wilbur was just walking around his pen talking to himself about how bored he was, when a goose overheard. The goose told Wilbur that there was a board loose on his pen and he could get out and do whatever he wanted. Since Wilbur was so bored he decided that he would like to leave the pen and see what’s out there. While walking around the farm with complete freedom, Mrs. Zuckerman saw him. She yelled out to her husband and Lurvy, the hired man to go and catch him. News like this spread fast throughout the farm. All the animals were talking about Wilbur’s freedom. Then Mr. Zuckerman, Lurvy, and the dog surrounded Wilbur. All the animals started yelling for Wilbur to run away. However, the sweet smell of slope soon came over Wilbur’s nose, and he was quickly lured back into his pen.
There is a lot of human and animal interrelationship in these first three paragraphs. Mr. Arable doesn’t really care about the pigs, he just uses them to make money. He doesn’t see them as actual living things that have feelings just like him. However, his daughter Fern makes a real connection with Wilbur. She saves his life, and takes care of him just as she would her own child. They become each others best friend. If Ferns is not at school, she is with Wilbur. They do everything, and go everywhere with each other. They become true companions. Fern also develops a relationship with the rest of the animals on the farm. They all get to know her, and start to trust her. They allow her to sit in their pens and watch Wilbur.
In the next three chapters, many things happen at the Zuckerman farm. Wilbur becomes very, very lonely. He had planned his whole day out. He planned when he would eat, when he would sleep, and when it would just sit there doing absolutely nothing. Unfortunately, when he awoke all his plans went out the window due to the rain. So he then asked the goose to play with him, but she was sitting on her eggs. Next he asked a sheep to play with him but the sheep said no and called him less than nothing. Not even Templeton the rat would take time out of his day to play with poor Wilbur. Wilbur then became extremely depressed, and started to weep.
Right before Wilbur was about to go to bed he heard a little voice that said, Do you want a friend, Wilbur? I’ll be a friend to you (White 31). Hearing this excited Wilbur, but he was confused because he couldn’t see where this little friendly voice was coming from. The voice then told Wilbur to go to sleep, and that they will meet in the morning. Wilbur did as he was told, and in the morning he discovered his new friend was a spider named Charlotte A. Cavatica. At first, Wilbur was disgusted by his new friend Charlotte. She showed him how she caught her food in her web, and sucked out their blood. Wilbur didn’t know what to think about her because he really wanted a friend, but he thought that what she did was very cruel.
In these three chapters there weren’t any human and animal interrelationships because there weren’t any humans mentioned. However, there were a lot of animal relationships between Wilbur and the other animals. The goose doesn’t even give Wilbur the time of day, and just sort of sees him as a distraction. The sheep say they consider pigs less than nothing, which is odd to me because what do the sheep do that make them that great? Hearing this just devastates poor Wilbur, as it would anyone. Wilbur then turns to Templeton who has no interest in Wilbur, just Wilbur’s food. After hearing that no one cares about him Wilbur becomes very depressed. He feels that he doesn’t have any friends on the farm, which makes him sad because he was so used to having a friend all the time when he lived with Fern. Then Charlotte comes into the picture, but Wilbur isn’t so sure if he really wants to be her friend because she is so bloodthirsty.
In the next couple of chapters Wilbur gets extremely stressed. One of the sheep tells him that the Zuckerman’s are just fattening him up to kill him at Christmas time. Naturally, Wilbur freaks out and starts running around saying Save me, I don’t want to die!(50). Charlotte overheard the conversation between the sheep and Wilbur, and told Wilbur to calm down. Charlotte said that she would come up with a plan to save Wilbur.
The next morning Fern tells her family all about the animals at the barn. She tells her parents exactly what the animals were saying, which implies that she can understand animal talk. Her mom gets very concerned, and says she is going to call Fern’s doctor. Fern’s dad just blows off the whole conversation like it wasn’t a big deal.
Later the next afternoon, Wilbur starts admiring Charlotte’s Web. He tells Charlotte that he thinks he could build a web just like hers if he wanted to do so. Charlotte knows that this is impossible and tells Wilbur to try. So Wilbur then climbs to the top of the manure pile, and jumps off hoping a string will come out of his butt and catch him. Naturally, this does not happen, and Wilbur lands flat on his face in the ground. His next brilliant idea is to tie a string that Templeton gave him to his tail, and then try the same thing again. Just like the first attempt, this one failed too. Wilbur finally gives up, and everyone including Fern laughs at him. Charlotte then cheers him up, and tells him to just lie down and relax. After a while of silence, Wilbur asks Charlotte how she plans on saving him from being Christmas dinner. Charlotte says she has not thoroughly thought of the plan yet, but she will think of one that will work. Wilbur is still very curious of how this is going to work, and keeps asking Charlotte many questions. Finally, Charlotte tells him not to worry, and just to do as he’s told. She then tells him to eat well, stay healthy, and to get a lot of rest. Wilbur does as he is told, and falls asleep.
In these last three paragraphs, the first human and animal interrelationship is between the Zuckermans and Wilbur. The Zuckermans just see Wilbur as a Christmas dinner. The reason they feed him and take care of him is not because they actually care about him; it is because they want a nice, big Christmas dinner. To me, this is so sad. I don’t know how people could raise a pig and then just kill it and eat it! I know this is what happens in real life, and it is how everyone gets their bacon and ham, but it is just so sad to me. The other human and animal interrelationship is between Fern and all the animals on the farm. Fern can understand the animals when they talk to one another. She knows what all of them are saying, but I don’t think the animals know she has this special gift. Fern’s mom just thinks she is going crazy, but Fern’s dad just blows it off like its nothing. I think this is probably one of the most important human and animal interrelationships throughout the story.
During the next three chapters many events take place. First, Charlotte figures out a way that she can trick the Zuckermans into not killing Wilbur. However, she knows she has to work fast because there isn’t a lot of time. That day, Fern and Avery come down to the Zuckerman’s house for some blueberry pie. Avery brings a frog with him, which causes a disaster in the Zuckerman’s house. After the frog incident the two of them decide to go swing on the rope in the Zuckerman’s barn. After they got tired of swinging they went and picked some raspberries. While doing this, Avery found a little candy box to put his frog in. Fern then wants to go and visit Wilbur, so they both walk over to the pig pen. Avery discovers Charlotte and her web. He then tries to knock Charlotte out of her web and kill her. Luckily, Avery tripped and happened to break Templeton’s rotten egg. The nauseating smell lures Avery and Fern away from the pig pen, and Charlotte.
The next day was very foggy, which made it easier to see Charlotte’s web. When everyone awoke they discovered that Charlotte had written the words some pig, in her web. The Zuckermans were so startled by this message, and started believe they truly had an amazing pig. Mr. Zuckerman then went and told a fellow priest, who of coarse told the whole town. By the next day people were lined up in front of Wilbur’s pen to see him, as well as Charlotte’s web.
With all this excitement, Charlotte knew her plan to save Wilbur’s life was working. But she knew that in order to keep Wilbur alive she would need to do more, and change the words. So Charlotte then called a group meeting where they decided the new word would be terrific. However, Charlotte wanted more words as well, so she then convinced Templeton to go to the dumpster and collect magazine clips with more words on them that would continue impressing the people.
The first human and animal interrelationship demonstrated in these chapters was between Avery and Charlotte. Avery saw Charlotte and her web and automatically wanted to swat her down and kill her. Even though Charlotte wasn’t bothering Avery one bit, his natural instincts were to just kill her. This shows that not all human and animal interrelationships are good, or fair in this case. Another human and animal interrelationship shown in these chapters was between all the people and their reactions to Charlotte, Wilbur, and Charlotte’s web. The people were so astonished by the sight of the writing in Charlotte’s web. They could not believe that a spider could spin the letters so clearly in her web. The words some pig, completely changed everyone’s views of Wilbur. Before, he was just an ordinary pig that one day would be made into dinner, but now he is so good looking and perfect in their eyes. It’s really interesting how the animals can change the views of the people so easily.
During the next three chapters many events occur. After the words some pig, started to get old, Charlotte decided to reconstruct her web, and write in the word terrific. Once again, everyone came down to the Zuckerman’s farm to see the new web. Wilbur loved all of the attention, and started to believe that he was a terrific pig. Mr. Zuckerman also loved all of this attention. He started giving Wilbur all sorts of special treatment, and decided that he will enter him in the Country Fair.
Templeton searched through the dumpster to look for new words that Charlotte could carve into her web. His first couple trips weren’t very successful; however he finally found the perfect word, radiant. Wilbur loved the new word, and started doing flips and turns to prove that he was a radiant pig. After a long day of flipping, Wilbur lay down, and asked Charlotte to tell him some stories. She went on telling him about her cousin who actually caught a fish in her web, and how another one of her cousins was a balloonist.
The next day Fern told her mom all the stories about Charlotte’s cousins. Her mom began to worry about Fern, and how she thinks she can understand animals. Her mom decided to go see Dr. Dorian to talk about Fern’s strange behaviors. Dr. Dorian didn’t see anything wrong in what Fern was doing, and he actually found it quite enchanting. Mrs. Arable then goes on to ask if he has heard about the words written in Charlotte’s web. He says he has heard about them, and that it is a miracle that a spider could spin a web in the first place. So the fact that Charlotte could write something in it does not surprise him. Mrs. Arable then felt relieved after Dr. Dorian told her that he thinks Fern is perfectly fine.
Wilbur started thinking about the County Fair, and what was going to happen to him. He asked Charlotte if she was going to come with him but she said she wouldn’t be able to. Charlotte needs to stay at the farm and lay her eggs during that time. Wilbur pleads and pleads with her until she finally says she will try her best to be there. However, she knew she wasn’t going to be able to help Wilbur much longer because she needs to start building her sac for the eggs.
There are quite a few human and animal interrelationships during these couple of chapters. The first one is between Mr. Zuckerman and Wilbur. Mr. Zuckerman now sees Wilbur as something more than food. Wilbur has a chance to win the County Fair, and become useful to Mr. Zuckerman. In reality, Wilbur is still the same old pig, but because of Charlotte’s words in the web, Wilbur all of a sudden becomes a prized possession, as well as a very important asset to Mr. Zuckerman’s farm. Wilbur loves all the attention the people give him, as well. He now see’s himself as terrific and radiant, instead of just a normal old pig. So here, both Wilbur and Mr. Zuckerman help each other out. Another human and animal interrelationship that is shown in this chapter is through Dr. Dorian. Dr. Dorian explains to Fern’s mother that it is perfectly fine that Fern spends all of her time at the Zuckerman barn. He goes on to tell her that animals are very amazing creatures, especially spiders. Dr. Dorian says that he is not surprised by the miracle that Charlotte could spin letter in her web, because he thinks it’s an even greater miracle that a spider can spin a web in the first place. To me this shows that Dr. Dorian really respects animals, and all the amazing things they can do.
During the next three chapters they take Wilbur to the County Fair. Mrs. Zuckerman wanted Wilbur to look extra clean, so she bathed him in buttermilk. The buttermilk worked very well, making Wilbur white as can be. After Wilbur was all clean, everyone went and changed into their best clothes to go to the fair in. When they were all done they met at Wilbur’s pen to help load him in his crate. When Mr. Arable saw Wilbur, he made a remark that the Zuckermans will get some extra good ham and bacon from him when they kill him in the winter. When Wilbur heard this he immediately passed out. Fern ran over to him with tears in her eyes, and Lurvy ran over with a bucket of cold water to splash on him. When Wilbur regained consciousness, they all helped load him into the car, and took off to the fair. Wilbur felt a lot better now that Charlotte and Templeton were coming with him as well.
When they arrived at the fair many people gathered around to see Wilbur. Charlotte soon became worried because she noticed that the pig next to Wilbur was much bigger than Wilbur. However, when Charlotte went down to meet the large pig she was not impressed with his personality. His name was Uncle, and according to Charlotte he is too familiar, too noisy, and cracks weak jokes. This made Wilbur feel a little better because he knew that he could win over the crowd with his radiant personality.
The next night Charlotte set Templeton out to find a new word for her web. She told him to make it a good word because it will be the last one she will ever create. Templeton found the word humble written on a piece of newspaper and brought it back to Charlotte. He said humble describes Wilbur perfectly because it means two things: not proud and near the ground. Charlotte agreed that it was a good word for the web, and quickly got to work. Later that night when the web was complete, Wilbur could not see Charlotte. She told him that she was in a different corner creating a masterpiece. Wilbur wanted to know what this masterpiece was, but Charlotte told him to get some rest and she will show him in the morning.
In these few chapters there weren’t very many interrelationships between the humans and the animals. The time that there was any interaction between the two was when they were all at the Zuckerman’s farm talking about Wilbur. Mr. Arable made a remark about killing Wilbur, which shows that he has not changed his views on Wilbur from the beginning of the story. He is a farmer who sees pigs as food and nothing else. Fern on the other hand sees Wilbur as a companion, and would never do anything to hurt him. She shows her affection for Wilbur by running over to him and holding him when he passed out. They have a very close bond just like anyone would have with someone or something they loved.
During the last chapters of the book many events occur. The first event was that Charlotte laid an egg sac with five hundred and fourteen eggs in it. Wilbur becomes ecstatic that Charlotte is going to become a mom, and that he will have a whole lot of new friends. However, Charlotte has horrible news for Wilbur. She tells him that she has become very ill. But she doesn’t want to focus on the negative, so she changes the subject and points out how beautiful her web looks with the new word in it. It was the best web out of all the ones she had created before. But then of course, Templeton returns from a night of ravishing around the fair grounds with some unfortunate news.
Templeton tells Charlotte and Wilbur that he noticed that Uncle, the pig next door has a blue ribbon placed on his pen. He then went on to tell Wilbur that this meant that Wilbur will soon be forgotten by everyone, and eventually end up as the Zuckerman’s Christmas dinner. This hit Wilbur really hard, but he tried to stay strong and listen to Charlotte. Charlotte told him not to worry, and everything will be fine. Within a couple of minutes the whole gang returned to see Wilbur. Fern pointed out the new web, and everyone stood admiring it with astonishment. Then Mrs. Zuckerman began to cry because Avery pointed out that Uncle had already won first prized. Everyone became very upset, except for Mr. Zuckerman. Mr. Zuckerman took control and told everyone to help him bathe Wilbur, and make him look his best. Everyone did as they were told. Suddenly, there was an announcement over the loud speakers that Wilbur had won a special prize, and everyone was to report to the judge’s booth. Excitement rushed through the whole fair as everyone raced over to the booth.
Once everyone was there, the announcer presented Mr. Zuckerman a prize of $25, and a bronze medal for Wilbur. Wilbur had won this award because he and the words in the web had brought many spectators to the fair from all around. Everyone cheered, and Wilbur felt so proud. Then as things wound down, the Zuckerman’s took Wilbur back to his pen before loading up the car. Wilbur noticed that Charlotte was a lot quieter than normal. Charlotte then told Wilbur that she would not be returning to the farm with him because she would only live for one more day. This news hit Wilbur hard, and began to weep. He did not know what he would do without Charlotte, his best friend. Then Wilbur came up with an idea to bring Charlotte’s egg sac back to the barn with him so Charlotte would at least know her children would be safe. So Wilbur called over Templeton to run up and get the sac. However, Templeton would not do it unless Wilbur agreed to give Templeton first pick of his food from that day forward. Wilbur instantly agreed. As Wilbur was being loaded back into his crate, he had Charlotte’s egg sac safe in his mouth. He could not talk, so he looked up and gave Charlotte a wink. Charlotte knew that he was saying goodbye and quietly said goodbye back.
The next day Charlotte died alone. Wilbur, Templeton, and her eggs were all back at the barn with the other animals. They all made it through the cold winter, and patiently awaited the little spider’s arrivals. Then one warm morning they finally hatched. They all said hi to Wilbur, but then made little balloons with their strings from their butts, and flew away. Wilbur began to cry because they were all leaving him and he thought he would be all alone again. Then he heard three little voices coming from the corners of the doorway. Wilbur looked up and saw that three of Charlotte’s daughters decided to stay, their names where Joy, Aranea, and Nellie. They became Wilbur’s close friends because now that Fern was growing up she didn’t stop by to visit as often. As the years went on Wilbur became friends with Charlotte’s daughters, granddaughters and even great granddaughters. However, none of them could ever take the place of Charlotte in Wilbur’s heart.
In these chapters the Zuckerman’s and the Arables all fall in love with Wilbur and his achievement. Wilbur essentially becomes their hero, and the highlight of their lives. However, Fern who was Wilbur’s best friend, didn’t even want to stay to see Wilbur win his prize. She was to busy running around after a boy on the ferris wheel. This shows that the human and animal interrelationship changes a lot throughout the story. In the beginning of the story all Fern cared about is Wilbur and his health. Her parents, along with the Zuckerman’s didn’t care about Wilbur; they just saw him as a good Christmas dinner. However, as the story develops, the tables turn, and it seems that Fern out grows Wilbur in a sense. Fern still loves Wilbur, and always will, but she has found other loves in her life now as well. Whereas the Zuckerman’s find a whole new love in Wilbur, and now see him as their pet. I thought the interrelationships in the last few chapters were very interesting. However, the true relationship in the last chapters was between Charlotte and Wilbur. Charlotte succeeds in saving Wilbur’s life, and in return Wilbur protects Charlotte’s eggs for her. They both would do anything for one another, whether it meant giving up their own lives or just always being there for the other.
Charlotte’s Web was a great book to read for this essay. Not only did it show human and animal interrelationships, but it also showed animal relationships as well. It demonstrated the many ways people perceive and value certain animals, along with how their views can change. Fern saves Wilbur’s life and develops a very close connection with him. They become best friends, and would do everything together. However, no one else saw Wilbur in the way that Fern did. They saw Wilbur as a pig that would be used for food. Poor Wilbur then got sent away to the Zuckerman’s farm where their intentions were to kill him come summertime. There was no interrelationship between them and Wilbur. Eventually, Wilbur develops a close relationship with the animals on the farm, especially Charlotte. As time goes on, Charlotte and Wilbur become extremely close, and Charlotte also saves Wilbur’s life. The Zuckermans and Arables also start to develop a close relationship with Wilbur when he becomes famous. They end up seeing Wilbur as their pet, as well as part of the family. However, it took words in a web for them to realize how great of a pig Wilbur actually was.