Study Guide

Charlotte's Web Friendship

By E. B. White

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.

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