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Charlotte's Web

Charlotte's Web

by E. B. White

Fern Arable

Character Analysis

Fern is a little girl who grows up right before our eyes. (We gab about growing up in the "Coming of Age" theme. Go check it out and then join us back here.) Seriously, during the course of the novel, she goes from a bona fide kid to a—well, we're thinking the technical word for it is "tween."

Let's break it down:

Good Mom

At the start of the novel, Fern is eight and she's the whole reason this book even has a pig named Wilbur. She's tough enough to wrestle an ax out of her dad's hands so she can save Wilbur's life. She vows to care for Wilbur. Plus, she has the special privilege of giving him a name. Basically, without Fern, Wilbur would have been on the butcher's block. Literally.

So we have to thank Fern for giving us a main character for our novel. But we also have to thank her for being such a good mama to Wilbur while he's a baby. After saving Wilbur's life, Fern spends all of her time with her little piggy. She gives him a bottle, tucks him into bed, and walks him around in a stroller—the whole nine yards. She even puts a bib on her pig! To sum it up: "Fern loved Wilbur more than anything" (2.1).

Bad Mom?

But over time, Fern grows up and changes her tune. You see, there's this boy named Henry Fussy. We know, it's not cool to abandon your friends just because you've met a cute boy. But for Fern, that's pretty much what happens. She's all about Wilbur until one day she gets a little boy crazy.

Our feeling? Fern is at that stage where she's too big for dolls, but not big enough to like boys. Wilbur fills a role in her life just when she needs to learn how to stop playing pretend and start growing up.

(Pro tip for all the girls out there: you actually can like things other than dolls and boys. This book was written a long time ago, so things are different. Now, Fern would probably start writing poetry or taking karate or something like that.)

Our point is, Fern seems like she's going to be Wilbur's very best friend. But in the end, she grows up and finds other human friends of her own. This has us wondering: is growing up really so great after all?

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