Study Guide

Charlotte's Web Time

By E. B. White

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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

"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.

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