by E. B. White
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
This book is so full of food imagery, it makes us hungry just reading it. Well, to be honest, some of the treats have our mouths watering more than others. Homemade blueberry pie? Two slices please. A bucket of slop? Eh, we'll pass.
Here are some of the appetite-teasing moments that stood out to us:
• Wilbur's slop: it's all the leftovers from the Zuckerman kitchen thrown together with some milk. Sounds pretty nasty to us, but Wilbur loves it.
• Templeton's fair food: he gains a big fat belly when he gorges on food at the county fair.
• Charlotte's flies: she's got a snazzy method for catching herself meals whenever she needs them.
• Aunt Edith's pies: they sound great, as long as you don't get a slice that Avery's frog jumped in.
• Bacon and ham: all over the book we see people eating bacon or talking about turning Wilbur into bacon. That sure is a scary thought for Wilbur!
In some ways, foods help us tell the characters apart. (Hungry to read more about characters and their food? Go check out "Characterization" and then head back here.) Each character has his or her own signature meal. In fact, food is one way each character can show his or her individuality.
Yet all this food imagery also reminds us that the animals must rely on one another. Here's the deal: without each other's presence in the barn, the animals would miss out on one of their most basic needs. Check out what Charlotte say about Wilbur's food: his "smelly pen and stale food attracted the flies that she needed" (9.24). So Wilbur may be a little stinky, but his meals help his buddy get some grub too.
Or take a look at your unfriendly neighborhood rat, Templeton. The old sheep reminds Templeton precisely where his food comes from:
"Wilbur's leftover food is your chief source of supply, Templeton. You know that. Wilbur's food is your food; therefore Wilbur's destiny and your destiny are closely linked. If Wilbur is killed and his trough stands empty day after day, you'll grow so thin we can look right through your stomach and see objects on the other side." (12.41)
Templeton might not want to admit it, but he needs Wilbur just as Charlotte does. So it turns out some finger-licking food is pretty important in this book.