Study Guide

Charlotte's Web Summary

By E. B. White

Charlotte's Web Summary

You'd be surprised how much can happen in the life of a pig. And for Wilbur, life's got some definite ups and downs.

Right off the bat, we know Wilbur is in for some trouble. Just after he's born, Papa Arable wants to kill the little piggy merely because he's the runt of the litter. Thankfully, eight-year-old Fern Arable isn't going to stand for such injustice. She convinces her daddy to let her keep the pig as a pet and then gives him a memorable name: Wilbur, of course.

Fern is a great little mama to Wilbur, but Wilbur eventually gets too big to be a house pet. So, she sells her pet to her Uncle Homer Zuckerman. Wilbur is sad to leave Fern. She's the best! But at the Zuckerman farm he finds good friends and a warm manure pile. (Gross? Definitely. But Wilbur likes it.) And the best friend of all in this barn is an itty-bitty grey spider named Charlotte.

Wilbur is enjoying his new home until one day he gets some seriously bad news: eventually Homer Zuckerman will probably kill Wilbur and turn him into bacon and ham. Oh no! Wilbur's a special little bugger, and we're pretty sad to hear he might get sent to the butcher block.

So it's Charlotte to the rescue. Our favorite spider hatches a plan to save Wilbur's life. There are three steps:

(1) Write the words "SOME PIG" in the middle of her spider web. This makes everyone think that Wilbur sure is something special. In fact, they think he's "some pig."

(2) Launch the second slogan in the Save Wilbur Campaign: "TERRIFIC." Now Zuckerman thinks Wilbur is so terrific that he'll take the little pig to compete in the county fair.

(3) Weave the third catchphrase into the web: "RADIANT." The whole county is visiting the Zuckerman farm to see this seriously radiant piggy.

Charlotte has definitely convinced people that Wilbur is a special little guy—er, pig. And once the Arables and Zuckermans get to the County Fair, she's going to have one more chance to show off her friend. So Charlotte weaves her final sign. This time it says: "Humble." All the fairgoers agree: that's one humble pig.

It's time to break out some cheering because Wilbur wins a special prize at the county fair. Charlotte knows she's done her job well and the Zuckermans will never kill such a special pig. Check and mate.

But now it's time to break out the tissues: Charlotte is dying. We know, this seems pretty sudden. But spiders just don't live very long. And the worst part of it is that she's created a sac of 514 eggs that she'll never get to see hatch. Plus, they're going to be stranded at the fairgrounds. This is seriously sad.

Thankfully, her dear buddy Wilbur is going to save the day. Charlotte saved his life and now he's going to save the lives of her little kiddies. So Wilbur takes the egg sac back to the Zuckerman farm, while Charlotte dies alone at the fairgrounds. Yep, totally tragic.

But here's the silver lining: once spring comes, Wilbur has lots of new spider friends. And even though those spiders eventually die too, they also leave egg sacs filled with more future friends. Basically, Wilbur is never going to be lonely a day in his life.

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