Study Guide

Charlotte's Web Quotes

By E. B. White

  • Mortality

    Chapter 1
    Fern Arable

    "Where's Papa going with that ax?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast. "Out to the hoghouse," replied Mrs. Arable. "Some pigs were born last night." (1.1)

    Sheesh, what an opening line! Right off the bat, we know that death is going to be important in this novel.

    Chapter 7
    Wilbur

    Wilbur admired the way Charlotte managed. He was particularly glad that she always put her victim to sleep before eating it.

    "It's real thoughtful of you to do that, Charlotte," he said.

    "Yes," she replied in her sweet, musical voice, "I always give them an anaesthetic so they won't feel pain. It's a little service I throw in." (7.2-4)

    Charlotte might be a ruthless fly-killer, but at least she's a "thoughtful" one. What do you think about the way Charlotte talks about her victims?

    "I don't want to die!" screamed Wilbur, throwing himself to the ground.

    "You shall not die," said Charlotte, briskly.

    "What? Really?" cried Wilbur. "Who's going to save me?"

    "I am," said Charlotte.

    "How?" asked Wilbur.

    "That remains to be seen. But I am going to save you, and I want you to quiet down immediately. You're carrying on in a childish way. Stop your crying! I can't stand hysterics." (7.22-26)

    Wilbur is so upset about dying that he starts throwing a tantrum. We can understand; the little guy is definitely scared. But Charlotte is not about to stand for such shenanigans. What do you think about her reaction to Wilbur?

    "Well, I don't like to spread bad news," said the sheep, "but they're fattening you up because they're going to kill you, that's why."

    "They're going to what?" screamed Wilbur. Fern grew rigid on her stool.

    "Kill you. Turn you into smoked bacon and ham," continued the old sheep. (7.10-12)

    This is pretty shocking news for Wilbur. Clearly our favorite pig is distraught, to say the least. But the sheep doesn't seem to mind. What do you think of the old sheep's tone? Sounds pretty matter-of-fact to us. That may not be the nicest way to tell a little naïve pig that he's about to get turned into bacon, but he's probably seen a lot of pigs die.

    Chapter 9
    Wilbur

    "Charlotte?" he said, softly.

    "Yes, Wilbur?"

    "I don't want to die."

    "Of course you don't," said Charlotte, in a comforting voice. (9.62)

    Wilbur is pretty upfront with his feelings about death. He doesn't want to die, and that's that. Check out how Charlotte has changed her tune a bit. Before she was pretty harsh. But now she's a bit softer when she talks to Wilbur. Why do you think this happens?

    Chapter 16
    John Arable

    Mr. Arable studied Wilbur carefully. "Yes, he's a wonderful pig," he said. "It's hard to believe that he was the runt of the litter. You'll get some extra good ham and bacon, Homer, when it comes time to kill that pig." (16.46)

    Wilbur had hoped all of Charlotte's signs would convince his owners not to kill him. But here it sounds like they might be convincing the humans to kill him instead! Plus, it's the morning of the fair. Does Mr. Arable really need to be so rude? Talking about death right before the fair might put a damper on the day, especially for Wilbur. (To be fair, they don't know he can understand them.)

    Chapter 18
    Wilbur

    Wilbur closed his eyes. "Charlotte," he said, after a while, "do you really think Zuckerman will let me live and not kill me when the cold weather comes? Do you really think so?"

    "Of course," said Charlotte. "You are a famous pig and you are a good pig. Tomorrow you will probably win a prize. The whole world will hear about you. Zuckerman will be proud and happy to own such a pig. You have nothing to fear, Wilbur—nothing to worry about. Maybe you'll live forever—who knows? And now, go to sleep." (18.28-29)

    Charlotte sounds pretty confident. Actually, maybe she's a little over-confident. Does the novel suggest there's a chance for Wilbur to live forever? Or is Charlotte just making things up?

    Chapter 19
    Charlotte A. Cavatica

    "Oh, don't pay any attention to me," said Charlotte. "I just don't have much pep any more. I guess I feel sad because I won't ever see my children." (19.19)

    What a horrible thought! We've been so worried about Wilbur dying that the fact that Charlotte is going to die soon feels almost like a surprise. Check out how even when she's so close to the end, Charlotte doesn't want attention on herself.

    Chapter 21

    She never moved again. Next day, as the Ferris wheel was being taken apart and the race horses were being loaded into vans and the entertainers were packing up their belongings and driving away in their trailers, Charlotte died. The Fair Grounds were soon deserted. The sheds and buildings were empty and forlorn. The infield was littered with bottles and trash. Nobody, of the hundreds of people that had visited the Fair, knew that a grey spider had played the most important part of all. No one was with her when she died. (21.52)

    In the end, Charlotte dies all alone. This makes us pretty sad, since Charlotte was such a good friend to Wilbur. What do you think about Charlotte's death? Why might it be important that she die alone?

    Charlotte A. Cavatica

    "After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die. A spider's life can't help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that." (21.9)

    Charlotte is a bit of a downer in her old age. But even her bleak outlook on life has a bright side. For Charlotte, helping out a friend can help make life better. We're thinking Wilbur will return the favor when he helps out Charlotte by saving her spider babies.

  • Perseverance

    Chapter 1
    Fern Arable

    "Control myself?" yelled Fern. "This is a matter of life and death, and you talk about controlling myself." Tears ran down her cheeks and she took hold of the ax and tried to pull it out of her father's hand. (1.11)

    Fern is one determined little girl. It's got to be dangerous for her to try to grab the ax from her father's hands, but that doesn't stop her from doing everything she can to save the little pig's life. (Wonder what she'd do if Henry Fussy showed up?)

    Chapter 6
    Charlotte A. Cavatica

    When the first gosling poked its grey-green head through the goose's feathers and looked around, Charlotte spied it and made the announcement.

    "I am sure," she said, "that every one of us here will be gratified to learn that after four weeks of unremitting effort and patience on the part of our friend the goose, she now has something to show for it. The goslings have arrived. May I offer my sincere congratulations!" (6.7-8)

    The goose has been sitting on her eggs for a month, and now she finally gets to see the result. And in the end, she has seven little goslings to show for it. Check out how Charlotte compliments her friend's hard work.

    Chapter 9
    Charlotte A. Cavatica

    "But no—with men it's rush, rush, rush, every minute. I'm glad I'm a sedentary spider."

    "What does sedentary mean?" asked Wilbur.

    "Means I sit still a good part of the time and don't go wandering all over creation. I know a good thing when I see it, and my web is a good thing. I stay put and wait for what comes. Gives me a chance to think." (9.36-38)

    Charlotte doesn't think it's a good idea for humans to be too active. Instead, she likes staying more stationary. But when Wilbur is in trouble, Charlotte definitely shows us how much work she can get done with her webs. In fact, she works so much we're not even sure we'd call her "sedentary" after all. What do you think?

    "Oh, I'll work it out alone," said Charlotte. "I can think better if I think alone." (9.65)

    Charlotte is working on a plan to save Wilbur from becoming Christmas dinner. Clearly Wilbur isn't the only hard worker on this farm. Charlotte can be a go-getter, too. But while Wilbur likes to have his friends nearby, Charlotte likes her alone time.

    Wilbur

    "I think I'll try again," said Wilbur, cheerfully. "I believe what I need is a little piece of string to hold me." (9.19)

    After his first try at spinning a web, Wilbur falls to the ground. No success yet for poor Wilbur. But the little guy is not about to give up after just one go. Check out how Wilbur doesn't seem fazed at all here. He just goes about "cheerfully," ready for take two.

    "I could spin a web, if I tried," said Wilbur, boasting. "I've just never tried."

    "Let's see you do it," said Charlotte. Fern chuckled softly, and her eyes grew wide with love for the pig.

    "O.K.," replied Wilbur. "You coach me and I'll spin one. It must be a lot of fun to spin a web. How do I start?" (9.10-12)

    Wilbur sure does have a go-getter attitude. Unfortunately, we already know that Wilbur just won't be able to spin a web. First of all, he's a pig. Secondly, he's a pig. Oh and one more thing, he's a pig. But this doesn't stop Wilbur from giving his first attempt at web-spinning everything he's got. Plus, he's got his friends nearby to help him out.

    Chapter 13
    Charlotte A. Cavatica

    Charlotte got so interested in her work, she began to talk to herself, as though to cheer herself on. If you had been sitting quietly in the barn cellar that evening, you would have heard something like this:

    "Now for the R! Up we go! Attach! Descend! Pay out line! Whoa! Attach! Good! Up you go! Repeat! Attach! Descend! Pay out line. Whoa, girl! Steady now!" (13.8-9)

    Need someone to keep you motivated? Charlotte is your girl. She likes to act as her own cheerleader. Sure, it's great to have friends to cheer you on, but Charlotte is a one-woman show: she can cheer and work at the same time.

    Chapter 15

    It is not easy to look radiant, but Wilbur threw himself into it with a will. He would turn his head slightly and blink his long eyelashes. Then he would breathe deeply. And when the audience grew bored, he would spring into the air and do a back flip with a half twist. (15.7)

    Wilbur has two challenges: (1) Try hard to live up to the web's slogan. (2) Keep the audience entertained. So he works to get both jobs done at once. We have to admit that an eye-lash-batting, back-flipping pig sounds pretty "radiant" to us.

    Chapter 19

    Suddenly a voice was heard on the loud speaker.

    "Attention, please!" it said. "Will Mr. Homer Zuckerman bring his famous pig to the judges' booth in front of the grandstand. A special award will be made there in twenty minutes. Everyone is invited to attend. Crate your pig, please, Mr. Zuckerman, and report to the judges' booth promptly!" (19.54-55)

    The Arables and Zuckermans had worried that Wilbur didn't win any prize at the fair. But turns out their hard work paid off, because he's about to get a special award. Or do you think its Charlotte's hard work that paid off? Does Mr. Zuckerman deserve the credit? What about Mrs. Zuckerman and the buttermilk baths?

    Chapter 21
    Wilbur

    Wilbur was desperate. The people were coming. And the rat was failing him. Suddenly he remembered Templeton's fondness for food.

    "Templeton," he said, "I will make you a solemn promise. Get Charlotte's egg sac for me, and from now on I will let you eat first, when Lurvy slops me." (21.40-41)

    When Wilbur hears that Charlotte needs to get her egg sac back to the Zuckerman barn, he sets to work right away. It takes Wilbur multiple attempts to get Templeton to listen to him, but our persevering pig doesn't give up. He keeps trying to convince Templeton to help out until he hits on the magic key: food.

  • Coming of Age

    Chapter 1
    Fern Arable

    "Please don't kill it!" she sobbed. "It's unfair."

    Mr. Arable stopped walking.

    "Fern," he said gently, "you will have to learn to control yourself." (1.8-10)

    Fern makes a huge fuss when her dad decides to kill a newborn pig. But according to her papa, over time Fern will need to learn some self-control. Do you think Fern learns to control herself as the novel goes on? Or is this something she doesn't grow out of? (And check out that Charlotte says the same thing to Wilbur, later on.)

    Chapter 2

    If she took her doll for a walk in the doll carriage, Wilbur followed along. Sometimes, on these journeys, Wilbur would get tired, and Fern would pick him up and put him in the carriage alongside the doll. He liked this. And if he was very tired, he would close his eyes and go to sleep under the doll's blanket. He looked cute when his eyes were closed, because his lashes were so long. The doll would close her eyes, too, and Fern would wheel the carriage very slowly and smoothly so as not to wake her infants. (2.6)

    Fern sure is a great mama to her baby doll and her baby pig. We think this comparison between Wilbur and a doll is super interesting. It makes him sound like a baby, which he kind of is. But it also makes him sound like a toy.

    Chapter 7
    Wilbur

    "How?" asked Wilbur.

    "That remains to be seen. But I am going to save you, and I want you to quiet down immediately. You're carrying on in a childish way. Stop your crying! I can't stand hysterics." (7.22-26)

    Charlotte thinks Wilbur is acting pretty immaturely. Of course, he did just find out that he'll probably be killed and turned into bacon and ham, so maybe she should cut him some slack. Do you agree with Charlotte's annoyance? Is Wilbur is acting "childish" here?

    Chapter 14

    "Well, I don't think you have anything to worry about. Let Fern associate with her friends in the barn if she wants to. I would say, offhand, that spiders and pigs were fully as interesting as Henry Fussy. Yet I predict that the day will come when even Henry will drop some chance remark that catches Fern's attention. It's amazing how children change from year to year." (14.53)

    Dr. Dorian isn't worried at all about little Fern. He figures she'll eventually care more about boys than she does about animals. What do you think of this proposed transition from animals to boys? Sounds to us like animals and boys have at least one thing in common: the ability to attract Fern's attention.

    Chapter 16

    Fern lugged a pail of hot water to her room and took a sponge bath. Then she put on her prettiest dress because she knew she would see boys at the Fair. (16.3)

    On the day of the County Fair, Fern wants to get gussied up. And is it because of all the animals she might see? Nope, Fern seems to be moving from the animal phase into her boy crazy phase.

    Chapter 18
    Mrs. Arable

    Fern met her friend Henry Fussy, and he invited her to ride with him in the Ferris wheel. He even bought a ticket for her, so it didn't cost her anything. When Mrs. Arable happened to look up into the starry sky and saw her little daughter sitting with Henry Fussy and going higher and higher into the air, and saw how happy Fern looked, she just shook her head. "My, my!" she said. "Henry Fussy. Think of that!" (18.5)

    Sounds like Fern might be on a date. What do you think of Mrs. Arable's reaction? She certainly sounds surprised. Do you think Mama Arable also sounds pleased? Or worried? And isn't Fern a little young to be going on dates?

    Chapter 19
    Fern Arable

    "We have no time to lose!" shouted Mr. Zuckerman. "Lurvy, help with the crate!"

    "Can I have some money?" asked Fern.

    "You wait!" said Mrs. Arable. "Can't you see everybody is busy?" (19.58-60)

    Fern sure has changed over the course of the novel. At first, she couldn't stand being away from Wilbur. Now, when Wilbur is about to get a special prize, all she cares about is money to spend at the fair. Clearly Mrs. Arable is annoyed by this change. What do you think about Fern's new attitude?

    Charlotte A. Cavatica

    "Maybe," said Charlotte quietly. "However, I have a feeling I'm not going to see the results of last night's efforts. I don't feel good at all. I think I'm languishing, to tell you the truth."

    Wilbur didn't understand the word "languish" and he hated to bother Charlotte by asking her to explain. But he was so worried he felt he had to ask.

    "What does 'languishing' mean?"

    "It means I'm slowing up, feeling my age. I'm not young any more, Wilbur. But I don't want you to worry about me." (19.21-24)

    For Charlotte, growing up means growing older. And being older means Charlotte's got lots of wisdom. We're pretty thankful that she has the know-how to save our buddy Wilbur. But growing up also means that she has less energy, which stinks big time.

    Chapter 21
    Wilbur

    "Get up!" screamed Wilbur. "Stop acting like a spoiled child!"

    Templeton grinned and lay still. (21.38-39)

    When Wilbur realizes that Charlotte's egg sac needs to be fetched before the Zuckermans head back to their farm, he demands that Templeton help out. And what does Templeton want to do? Nothing at all, that's what. Check out how Wilbur takes charge here. It doesn't sound like he's an infant anymore. Instead of being the one acting like a child, now Wilbur is the one giving the orders.

    Chapter 22

    Fern did not come regularly to the barn any more. She was growing up, and was careful to avoid childish things, like sitting on a milk stool near a pigpen. (22.67)

    Fern used to love being by Wilbur's side. In fact, she couldn't get enough of her favorite little pet. But this definitely changes as she gets older. What do you think about Fern's decision to "avoid" spending too much time in the barn? Is she abandoning her friend Wilbur, or this just part of growing up?

  • The Home

    Chapter 2

    For the first few days of his life, Wilbur was allowed to live in a box near the stove in the kitchen. Then, when Mrs. Arable complained, he was moved to a bigger box in the woodshed. At two weeks of age, he was moved outdoors. (2.2)

    Within just two weeks of being born, Wilbur has had three different homes. He's quite the little mover. But pretty soon, Wilbur will have one home for the rest of his (hopefully long) life.

    Chapter 3

    Wilbur's new home was in the lower part of the barn, directly underneath the cows. Mr. Zuckerman knew that a manure pile is a good place to keep a young pig. Pigs need warmth, and it was warm and comfortable down there in the barn cellar on the south side. (3.3)

    Wilbur's got a new home in the Zuckerman barn. And what distinguishes this home from his former digs? A nice "manure pile." This home may be stinky, but it's a pretty good place for a pig. And isn't that the most important thing?

    Chapter 9
    Wilbur

    "I just love it here in the barn," said Wilbur. "I love everything about this place."

    "Of course you do," said Charlotte. "We all do."

    The goose appeared, followed by her seven goslings. They thrust their little necks out and kept up a musical whistling, like a tiny troupe of pipers. Wilbur listened to the sound with love in his heart. (9.51-3)

    Wilbur sure does love his home on the Zuckerman farm. And what does he love? "Everything," he says. Check out how many times Wilbur says the word "love" in this quote alone.

    Chapter 12

    "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." (12.41)

    Even Templeton calls the barn home. This means he has to admit that it would be a rough place without Wilbur around. All the animals in the barn seem to depend on each other—and that's what makes it home.

    Chapter 18

    The grownups climbed slowly into the truck and Wilbur heard the engine start and then heard the truck moving away in low speed. He would have felt lonely and homesick, had Charlotte not been with him. He never felt lonely when she was near. (18.19)

    At the end of the first day at the fair, the Arables and Zuckermans head back to their farms. Wilbur doesn't get to go "home" to the farm just yet, but he still has his best bud with him. For Wilbur, it sounds like home is where the heart is… or where Charlotte is.

    Chapter 21
    Wilbur

    Wilbur was in a panic. He raced round and round the pen. Suddenly he had an idea—he thought of the egg sac and the five hundred and fourteen little spiders that would hatch in the spring. If Charlotte herself was unable to go home to the barn, at least he must take her children along. (21.21)

    How sad is it that Charlotte will never go back home to the Zuckerman barn? Super duper sad. At least Charlotte's kiddos will be born in her old home. That'll be something for Wilbur to look forward to.

    Chapter 22

    Life in the barn was very good—night and day, winter and summer, spring and fall, dull days and bright days. It was the best place to be, thought Wilbur, this warm delicious cellar, with the garrulous geese, the changing seasons, the heat of the sun, the passage of swallows, the nearness of rats, the sameness of sheep, the love of spiders, the smell of manure, and the glory of everything. (22.68)

    To us, this sounds like a mix of good and bad. We'll take the "delicious cellar" and the "garrulous geese." But we'll pass on those nearby rats and "the smell of manure." No thanks. But for Wilbur, all these elements add up to one thing: home.

    At last one little spider took time enough to stop and talk to Wilbur before making its balloon.

    "We're leaving here on the warm updraft. This is our moment for setting forth. We are aeronauts and we are going out into the world to make webs for ourselves."

    "But where?" asked Wilbur.

    "Wherever the wind takes us. High, low. Near, far. East, west. North, south. We take to the breeze, we go as we please." (22.37-40)

    These little spiders sure are adventurous. They're willing to make their home anywhere in the world. Wherever the wind takes them, that's where home is. How do you think this compares with Wilbur's ideas of home?

    And so Wilbur came home to his beloved manure pile in the barn cellar. His was a strange homecoming. Around his neck he wore a medal of honor; in his mouth he held a sac of spider's eggs. There is no place like home, Wilbur thought, as he placed Charlotte's five hundred and fourteen unborn children carefully in a safe corner. The barn smelled good. His friends the sheep and the geese were glad to see him back. (22.1)

    Even though Wilbur didn't feel homesick while at the fair, he's definitely happy to be back in the barn. The barn just smells like home, and Wilbur loves that smell. Plus, even though Charlotte is gone, he's got lots of friends who are there to greet him. Oh, and there are those five hundred and fourteen spider eggs to take care of. Sounds like "home" just got some new inhabitants.

    Wilbur

    "Joy! Aranea! Nellie!" he began. "Welcome to the barn cellar. You have chosen a hallowed doorway from which to string your webs." (22.62)

    The doorway was Charlotte's home within the barn. And now it's home for her daughters. We think it's pretty cool how this doorway gets passed down from generation to generation.

  • Time

    Chapter 2

    Wilbur was what farmers call a spring pig, which simply means that he was born in springtime. (2.9)

    This is one of the first times that we learn what season it is, but it's not the last. The narrator is always pointing out the time of year. And it seems pretty important that Wilbur is identified with the time of year he was born. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for other places where Wilbur is called a "spring pig."

    Chapter 6

    The early summer days on a farm are the happiest and fairest days of the year. Lilacs bloom and make the air sweet, and then fade. Apple blossoms come with the lilacs, and the bees visit around among the apple trees. (6.1)

    We have to agree, summer is awesome! On the farm, summer means lots of flowers and fruit. Plus, this quote is in a chapter called "Summer Days." If you keep a lookout, lots of the chapters have titles that track the seasons.

    Chapter 7
    The Barn Animals

    "Well, I don't like to spread bad news," said the sheep, "but they're fattening you up because they're going to kill you, that's why."

    "They're going to what?" screamed Wilbur. Fern grew rigid on her stool.

    "Kill you. Turn you into smoked bacon and ham," continued the old sheep. "Almost all the young pigs get murdered by the farmer as soon as the real cold weather sets in. There's a regular conspiracy around here to kill you at Christmastime." (7.10-12)

    Wilbur's just learned some bad news: winter is pig-killing time. This definitely puts a damper on the whole beautiful changing seasons thing. But there's hope: the sheep says almost all.

    Chapter 14

    "It's amazing how children change from year to year." (14.53)

    In Charlotte's Web, it's not just the seasons that change over time but the people too. Dr. Dorian seems pretty stoked about how children are always changing. But are there any downsides to these continuous changes?

    Chapter 15

    The crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of summer's ending, a sad, monotonous song. "Summer is over and gone," they sang. "Over and gone, over and gone. Summer is dying, dying."

    The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last forever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year—the days when summer is changing into fall—the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change. (15.1-2)

    These crickets sound like pretty depressing creatures. Sometimes in Charlotte's Web, changing seasons seems like a good thing. But here, seasonal change sounds like bad news. What do you make of the idea that summer is "dying"? We're thinking that's a pretty morbid way to talk about changing seasons.

    Chapter 19
    Wilbur

    "Charlotte," said Wilbur dreamily, "are you really going to have five hundred and fourteen children?"

    "If nothing happens, yes," she said. "Of course, they won't show up till next spring." Wilbur noticed that Charlotte's voice sounded sad. (19.16-17)

    Like the goslings, Charlotte's little spider babies will hatch at a certain time of year. Having to wait so long for the eggs to hatch means Charlotte won't get to meet her kiddos. Sounds to us like Charlotte is bummed about how the egg-hatching season works—but there's nothing to do about it. That's just the way the world works.

    Chapter 21
    Charlotte A. Cavatica

    "Your future is assured. You will live, secure and safe, Wilbur. Nothing can harm you now. These autumn days will shorten and grow cold. The leaves will shake loose from the trees and fall. Christmas will come, then the snows of winter. You will live to enjoy the beauty of the frozen world, for you mean a great deal to Zuckerman and he will not harm you, ever. Winter will pass, the days will lengthen, the ice will melt in the pasture pond. The song sparrow will return and sing, the frogs will awake, the warm wind will blow again. All these sights and sounds and smells will be yours to enjoy, Wilbur—this lovely world, these precious days…" (21.5)

    Charlotte has a good forecast for Wilbur's future: he's going to live! This means he'll get to see the changing seasons. He was worried he'd never see winter turn into spring, and now he has lots of seasonal changes to look forward to. But (sorry to bring you down), not so for Charlotte.

    Chapter 22

    As time went on, and the months and years came and went, he was never without friends. […] But Charlotte's children and grandchildren and great grandchildren, year after year, lived in the doorway. Each spring there were new little spiders hatching out to take the place of the old. Most of them sailed away, on their balloons. But always two or three stayed and set up housekeeping in the doorway. (22.67)

    Wilbur has something to look forward to every single spring: new spider babies! This means that spring isn't going to be marked just by Wilbur's birthday, but also by the birthdays of tons of tiny eight-legged new friends.

    For Wilbur, nothing in life was so important as this small round object—nothing else mattered. Patiently he awaited the end of winter and the coming of the little spiders. Life is always a rich and steady time when you are waiting for something to happen or to hatch. The winter ended at last. (22.16)

    Waiting can be tough, but Wilbur is excited to wait for the spiders to hatch. We have to admit we're pretty impressed at Wilbur's patience, and we love the way White says that "Life is always a rich and steady time when you are waiting for something to happen."

    One evening, just before Christmas, snow began falling. It covered house and barn and fields and woods. Wilbur had never seen snow before. (22.6)

    Once Wilbur is back at the Zuckerman farm, he gets to enjoy the passing time instead of dreading it. Before, he was worried he'd be Christmas dinner. Now, he gets to enjoy his first winter and his first snow.

  • Friendship

    Chapter 4
    Wilbur

    Wilbur didn't want food, he wanted love. He wanted a friend—someone who would play with him. (4.22)

    All Wilbur wants in life is a good friend. Is that really too much to ask? When Wilbur first gets to the Zuckerman barn, he's afraid that a good friend might be too hard to find. Check out how Wilbur defines a friend here: "someone who would play with him." Do you think that definition changes over the course of the novel? Or how does it remain the same?

    Chapter 5
    Wilbur

    "Well," he thought, "I've got a new friend, all right. But what a gamble friendship is! Charlotte is fierce, brutal, scheming, bloodthirsty—everything I don't like. How can I learn to like her, even though she is pretty and, of course, clever?"

    Wilbur was merely suffering the doubts and fears that often go with finding a new friend. In good time he was to discover that he was mistaken about Charlotte. (5.56-57)

    Wilbur is pretty skeptical about Charlotte at first. In fact, he's downright insulting when he thinks about this potential new friend. It's a good thing first impressions aren't set in stone. Otherwise, our leading man might have found himself ending up as Christmas dinner.

    Chapter 7
    Wilbur

    "You shall not die," said Charlotte, briskly.

    "What? Really?" cried Wilbur. "Who's going to save me?"

    "I am," said Charlotte.

    "How?" asked Wilbur.

    "That remains to be seen. But I am going to save you, and I want you to quiet down immediately. You're carrying on in a childish way. Stop your crying! I can't stand hysterics." (7.22-26)

    Charlotte is being a great pal. Telling someone who's marked for death that you're going to save his life is quite a promise to make. But Charlotte is also sort of harsh here. What do you think of Charlotte's attitude to Wilbur's crying? She may be supportive, but she's not always the most sensitive.

    Chapter 12
    Wilbur

    Wilbur blushed. "But I'm not terrific, Charlotte. I'm just about average for a pig."

    "You're terrific as far as I'm concerned," replied Charlotte, sweetly, "and that's what counts. You're my best friend, and I think you're sensational. Now stop arguing and go get some sleep!" (12.46)

    Charlotte sure is bossy and loyal, all at once. She has no problem giving Wilbur a compliment and an order back-to-back. (Come to think of it, she's starting to sound a lot more like his mom than his friend.)

    Chapter 14
    Fern Arable

    "Alone?" said Fern. "Alone? My best friends are in the barn cellar. It is a very sociable place. Not at all lonely." (14.16).

    In Charlotte's Web, friendships aren't limited to the pigpen. In fact, Wilbur's first friend is Fern. And Fern sure likes being friends with all the barn animals. But keep an eye out for how this human-animal friendship changes over time.

    Chapter 21
    Charlotte A. Cavatica

    "Your success in the ring this morning was, to a small degree, my success." (21.5)

    Charlotte didn't receive a lick of recognition for her work in earning Wilbur the county fair prize. But to her, their success is still something they share together. It's like she's living vicariously through Wilbur because he's her best bud.

    But as he was being shoved into the crate, he looked up at Charlotte and gave her a wink. She knew he was saying good-bye in the only way he could. And she knew her children were safe. (21.50)

    It's pretty amazing how Charlotte and Wilbur can communicate without talking. They're such good friends that they don't even need words to send one another messages. Turns out maybe there's something more important than writing.

    Chapter 22
    Wilbur

    "I think it is only fair to tell you that I was devoted to your mother. I owe my very life to her. She was brilliant, beautiful, and loyal to the end. I shall always treasure her memory. To you, her daughters, I pledge my friendship, forever and ever."

    "I pledge mine," said Joy.

    "I do, too," said Aranea.

    "And so do I," said Nellie, who had just managed to catch a small gnat. (22.62-65)

    Wilbur's best friend is gone, but now he gets to pledge friendship to Charlotte's three kiddos. What do you think about Wilbur's pledge to be friends "forever and ever"? We have to admit, we're tearing up at this intergenerational chumminess.

    Every day Wilbur would stand and look at the torn, empty web, and a lump would come to his throat. No one had ever had such a friend—so affectionate, so loyal, and so skillful. (22.5)

    Poor Wilbur. We really feel for him here. He's missing his best friend now that Charlotte is dead. Do you think Wilbur and Charlotte's friendship keeps going after she's died? Or does it have to stop once she's no longer physically around?

    As time went on, and the months and years came and went, he was never without friends. […] But Charlotte's children and grandchildren and great grandchildren, year after year, lived in the doorway. (22.67)

    For Wilbur, his friendships with spiders seem to have no end. Instead of stopping when the spiders die, he gets new friends every single year. This means he's always making new chums, which is cool. But it also means he's always saying good-bye to old friends, and that's got to be tough.

  • Language and Communication

    Chapter 11

    There, in the center of the web, neatly woven in block letters, was a message. It said: SOME PIG! (11.2)

    Who knew Charlotte was a writer? Come to think of it, who knew spiders could write at all? But Charlotte sure can whip up a memorable phrase. What do you think of Charlotte's word choice? "Some" isn't necessarily the snazziest word around. Even so, the phrase "some pig" is going to become the start of something big for our friend Wilbur.

    Lurvy

    "Sure. Sure I do," said Lurvy. "I've always noticed that pig. He's quite a pig."

    "He's long, and he's smooth," said Zuckerman.

    "That's right," agreed Lurvy. "He's as smooth as they come. He's some pig." (11.30-32)

    Well, it turns out "some pig" is such a memorable phrase that Lurvy is now using it. He's taken the spider web's words and turned them into his own. Charlotte may have just invented a new catchphrase.

    Chapter 12
    Wilbur

    "But Charlotte," said Wilbur, "I'm not terrific."

    "That doesn't make a particle of difference," replied Charlotte. "Not a particle. People believe almost anything they see in print. Does anybody here know how to spell 'terrific'?" (12.27-8)

    Charlotte knows just how powerful writing can be. She knows that she needs to make people believe that Wilbur is terrific by using the right words. Do you think this makes Charlotte a liar? Or is she just really good at campaigning for her friend?

    Charlotte A. Cavatica

    "The message I wrote in my web, praising Wilbur, has been received. The Zuckermans have fallen for it, and so has everybody else. Zuckerman thinks Wilbur is an unusual pig, and therefore he won't want to kill him and eat him. I dare say my trick will work and Wilbur's life can be saved." (12.20)

    Wow, Charlotte is quite a wily little spider. Check out how she calls her writing in the web a "trick." This would mean writing is equivalent with trickery, which is a crazy intriguing idea. Does calling her message a "trick" make it sound like a good thing or a bad thing?

    The Barn Animals

    "And if Charlotte needs help in finding words, I think she can get it from our friend Templeton. The rat visits the dump regularly and has access to old magazines. He can tear out bits of advertisements and bring them up here to the barn cellar, so that Charlotte can have something to copy." (12.32)

    The old sheep has a good idea: go to magazine advertisements to find slogans to put up in the web. This also makes it sound like the web is similar to an advertisement. What do you think of that comparison?

    Chapter 13
    Homer L. Zuckerman

    Everybody stood at the pigpen and stared at the web and read the word, over and over, while Wilbur, who really felt terrific, stood quietly swelling out his chest and swinging his snout from side to side.

    "Terrific!" breathed Zuckerman, in joyful admiration. "Edith, you better phone the reporter on the Weekly Chronicle and tell him what has happened. He will want to know about this." (13.12-13)

    Apparently Charlotte's propaganda is starting to work on Wilbur too. Remember how earlier Wilbur said he wasn't terrific? Well the sign seems to be changing his mind. The power of language is so strong that it can even change Wilbur's opinion of himself. And that's a huge deal.

    Charlotte A. Cavatica

    "O.K., Wilbur," said Charlotte. "You can go back to sleep. O.K., Templeton, the soap ad will do, I guess. I'm not sure Wilbur's action is exactly radiant, but it's interesting."

    "Actually," said Wilbur, "I feel radiant." (13.50-1)

    After Templeton brings Charlotte a soap ad with the word "radiant," Charlotte has to figure out if the word accurately describes her little piggy friend. But Wilbur doesn't need much convincing at all. It took him a little while to start feeling "terrific," but now he feels radiant almost immediately.

    Chapter 15
    Wilbur

    Charlotte had written the word RADIANT, and Wilbur really looked radiant as he stood in the golden sunlight. Ever since the spider had befriended him, he had done his best to live up to his reputation. When Charlotte's web had said SOME PIG, Wilbur had tried hard to look like some pig. When Charlotte's web said TERRIFIC, Wilbur had tried to look terrific. And now that the web said RADIANT, he did everything possible to make himself glow. (15.6)

    Wilbur's relationship with the words in the web gets closer all the time. Instead of wondering if he's terrific, now he does his best to just be as terrific as possible. Check out how the last three sentences use a similar structure. It's almost like cause and effect: the web says one thing, so Wilbur tries to act it out.

    Chapter 16
    Mrs. Arable

    "That's some pig!" said Mrs. Arable.

    "He's terrific," said Lurvy.

    "He's very radiant," said Fern, remembering the day he was born. (16.42-4)

    It's obvious to us that Mrs. Arable, Lurvy, and Fern are quoting directly from Charlotte's web. But do you think they realize they're quoting the web's messages? Or have they absorbed the web's message into their own minds? Now that's a scary thought.

    Chapter 19
    Homer L. Zuckerman

    "'Humble,'" said Mr. Zuckerman. "Now isn't that just the word for Wilbur!"

    Everyone rejoiced to find that the miracle of the web had been repeated. Wilbur gazed up lovingly into their faces. He looked very humble and very grateful. Fern winked at Charlotte. (19.41-42)

    The very last word Charlotte writes in the web is "Humble." We're thinking that this word is pretty different from the other phrases Charlotte has chosen. Plus, we hate to have to ask this, but is it really accurate to call a pig "humble" when he's been standing under signs saying "TERRIFIC" and "RADIANT" for weeks? Just saying.

  • Admiration

    Chapter 11
    Homer L. Zuckerman

    "There can be no mistake about it. A miracle has happened and a sign has occurred here on earth, right on our farm, and we have no ordinary pig."

    "Well," said Mrs. Zuckerman, "it seems to me you're a little off. It seems to me we have no ordinary spider."

    "Oh, no," said Zuckerman. "It's the pig that's unusual. It says so, right there in the middle of the web." (11.19-21)

    Who deserves more admiration: Wilbur or Charlotte? Mrs. Zuckerman gives the spider the credit; after all, she's the one who wove the web. (Shout out to writers!) But Mr. Zuckerman thinks the pig is the one who deserves admiration. Who do you agree with?

    Chapter 13
    Wilbur

    Everybody stood at the pigpen and stared at the web and read the word, over and over, while Wilbur, who really felt terrific, stood quietly swelling out his chest and swinging his snout from side to side. (13.12)

    Standing under the web reading "TERRIFIC," Wilbur sure is a sight to see. Check out how this quote emphasizes how Wilbur "felt terrific." Sounds to us like Wilbur is starting to believe that sign. Plus, he might even be getting a big head from all this admiration.

    Chapter 15

    Some of Wilbur's friends in the barn worried for fear all this attention would go to his head and make him stuck up. But it never did. Wilbur was modest; fame did not spoil him. (15.8)

    It's pretty tough to stay modest when you're as famous as Wilbur. How do you think Wilbur stays humble with all the farm paparazzi outside? Does fame spoil Wilbur?

    Wilbur was now the center of attraction on the farm. Good food and regular hours were showing results: Wilbur was a pig any man would be proud of. One day more than a hundred people came to stand at his yard and admire him. (15.6)

    Once Wilbur becomes the talk of the town, Mr. Zuckerman makes sure he's getting really good food and plenty of sleep. Looks like Mr. Zuckerman's tactics are working, since Wilbur is as cute as ever. But here's the thing: shouldn't Mr. Zuckerman always have been treating his pig well? It might not be ideal that it takes a little countywide fame for Wilbur to start getting his daily essentials.

    Chapter 19

    Everybody who visited the pigpen had a good word to say about Wilbur. Everyone admired the web. And of course nobody noticed Charlotte. (19.53)

    Charlotte tends to stand on the sidelines. Compare this to all the attention Wilbur gets. In fact, he gets so much attention that "everybody" who sees him thinks he's great. And who admires Charlotte? "Nobody" at all. It seems to us there's a pretty clear difference between "nobody" and "everybody."

    Wilbur

    Everyone rejoiced to find that the miracle of the web had been repeated. Wilbur gazed up lovingly into their faces. He looked very humble and very grateful. Fern winked at Charlotte. (19.41-42)

    Poor Charlotte. We feel a little bad that she never gets any credit. Everyone admires Wilbur, but almost no one notices the spider, except Fern. In fact, everyone thinks the web is a "miracle." It's almost as if they don't think an actual spider wove the web at all. Hm, sounds like someone—a lot of someones—should head back to science class.

    Chapter 20
    Wilbur

    Wilbur blushed. He stood perfectly still and tried to look his best.

    "This magnificent animal," continued the loud speaker, "is truly terrific. Look at him, ladies and gentlemen! Note the smoothness and whiteness of the coat, observe the spotless skin, the healthy pink glow of ears and snout." (20.19-20)

    Wilbur could be a mighty swell pig model. Know anyone who's hiring? This pig sure knows how to work a room—and we're guessing the buttermilk bath helped. So here's our question: was Wilbur always terrific, or did the extra attention make him terrific?

    Wilbur had been feeling dizzier and dizzier through this long, complimentary speech. When he heard the crowd begin to cheer and clap again, he suddenly fainted away. His legs collapsed, his mind went blank, and he fell to the ground, unconscious. (20.25)

    All this admiration can tucker a pig out. Wilbur is so overwhelmed by all the attention that he actually faints. In front of a huge crowd! This has us wondering if admiration may not be such a good thing all the time.

    Chapter 21

    Nobody, of the hundreds of people that had visited the Fair, knew that a grey spider had played the most important part of all. (21.52)

    Charlotte doesn't get much recognition. Actually, she doesn't get any recognition at all. Well, at least the narrator notices her and how important she is. Who else shows Charlotte the appreciation she deserves? (Need a hint? Check out the title of the book.)

    Chapter 22

    Mr. Zuckerman took fine care of Wilbur all the rest of his days, and the pig was often visited by friends and admirers, for nobody ever forgot the year of his triumph and the miracle of the web. (22.68)

    Without his year of fame, Wilbur wouldn't be around on the Zuckerman farm anymore. But thanks to Charlotte's web and his celebrity status, Wilbur is set for life. He gets good food, lots of sleep, a happy home, and even some eager admirers for the rest of his life. We guess fame has its ups.