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.
- Charlotte's Web kicks off with Fern Arable asking her mother a question: "Where's Papa going with that ax?" (1.1). Huh, that's not the first line you normally see in a kids' book. But now that you mention it, Fern, we're pretty curious too.
- According to Fern's Mama, Mrs. Arable, Papa is heading out to the hoghouse to "do away" with the smallest pig (1.4).
- But this little euphemism isn't about to fool Fern. She turns out to be quite the smarty-pants and realizes right away that "do away" means "kill" (1.5).
- Fern isn't about to stand for this pig-killing business. It just doesn't seem fair to kill a newborn pig just because he's the runt of the litter.
- So Fern rushes outside and pleads with her dad to spare the pig. She even tries to take the ax from his hands. Whoa, Fern, safety first!
- Papa puts up a struggle, but it looks like Fern is a daddy's girl because she eventually gets her way. Her dad decides to save the pig, and let her care for it just like a baby.
- Sounds like he also thinks this might teach Fern a lesson about just how tough it can be to care for animals.
- Soon after, Papa brings the pig into the house and sets it in a carton at the kitchen table. Oh, and there's bacon for breakfast sitting at the kitchen table. Awk-ward.
- When Fern sees the pig, she's psyched. A new pet!
- We can't say the same for Fern's ten-year-old brother, Avery. Check this out: Avery comes into the kitchen with not one but two weapons: an air rifle and a wooden dagger. Don't cross this kid, is all we're saying.
- When Avery sees the pig, he thinks it looks pretty silly because it's so small. But then he asks his dad if he can have one too.
- Hmm, seems like Avery might be a smidge jealous of his little sis.
- The family tries to eat a bit of breakfast before the kids head off to school. But Fern just wants to make sure her new pig gets his meal.
- So she feeds him milk with a baby bottle. How sweet is that?
- On the bus to school, all Fern can dream about is her cute little pig. And soon she's come up with "the most beautiful name she could think of": Wilbur (1.34).
- Fern is so into her new pet that she keeps daydreaming about him in class. So when her teacher asks Fern to recite the capital of Pennsylvania, what do you think Fern says? Yep: Wilbur.
- The girl's only got one thing on her mind.
- Based on this chapter's title, we're thinking Fern's obsession with Wilbur hasn't gone away yet. If anything, she's even more into her adorable pig.
- Fern loves taking care of Wilbur every chance she gets. She gives him bottles multiple times a day.
- She even has a bib for him, which, okay, maybe not strictly necessary. But still, a pig with a bib is pretty cute.
- You know what? We're getting the idea that Fern is someone who's outgrown her dolls—but not quite.
- The next order of business around the Arable home is to find a place for Wilbur to live. He starts out in his carton in the kitchen. But Mrs. Arable gets fed up with that—pigs in the kitchen doesn't sound super hygienic—so Wilbur moves to the woodshed.
- Two weeks later, Wilbur moves into his third and coolest (literally) home yet: a small patch of yard under an apple tree. Fern is worried he might be cold outside. But Wilbur shows her just how resourceful he is when he burrows into some straw to keep warm.
- Now that's a smart pig.
- Wilbur and Fern get into a nice little routine together. It goes something like this:
- Morning, before school: Fern gives Wilbur a warm bottle of milk. Then Wilbur waits with Fern until she catches the bus and heads to school.
- During school hours: Fern is at school, of course. So Wilbur stays in his yard while she's gone.
- Afternoon, after school: Fern and Wilbur spend every second together. He follows her everywhere. And sometimes she pushes him around in her stroller alongside her doll. There was one afternoon when Fern swam in the brook while Wilbur played in the mud.
- Sounds like a pretty sweet daily routine. But all of this fun is about to change because Papa has an announcement: he's going to sell Wilbur. Oh no!
- Fern is super upset at this news. She's had five glorious weeks raising Wilbur and she doesn't want to lose him. But Papa says the pig eats too much now, and all his brother and sister pigs have already been purchased.
- Thankfully, Mrs. Arable comes up with a solution: Fern should see if her Uncle Homer wants to buy Wilbur. Fern can give her uncle a good deal on the pig, since Wilbur is so small. Plus, Fern can just head up the road to visit her baby.
- Uncle Homer says he's in, Fern says okay, so everybody wins. Now it's time for Wilbur to move one more time to Uncle Homer Zuckerman's barn.
- Wilbur's new digs are pretty sweet. Uncle Homer's barn is huge, filled with fun barn stuff like ladders and rope, and full of warm places to relax and enjoy the day.
- Every day, Fern comes to visit Wilbur. In fact, she comes so often that all the animals get used to her and start to trust her.
- During her visits, Fern sits on a milk stool and looks into Wilbur's pen. She's not allowed to take Wilbur out of his pen or climb in there with him.
- This means Wilbur doesn't get to go on stroller rides or go swimming anymore.
- But at least he and Fern still get to see each other every. single. day.
- On one particular day, Wilbur heads outside to enjoy a bit of sunshine. Fern isn't there yet so he's pretty bored. But here's the crazy thing that happens: we hear Wilbur's first thought. And it goes like this: "There's never anything to do around here" (3.6).
- Actually, Wilbur is so bored that he talks out loud to himself all about how there's just nothing to do but walk in and out of his little barn space.
- But then something happens that's about to make Wilbur a lot less bored: he hears a voice that says: "That's where you're wrong, my friend, my friend" (3.8).
- And who is the giver of this nugget of insight? A very resourceful goose. The goose tells Wilbur that he can get out of his fence if he just pushes on one of the loose boards.
- Wilbur does, and he's free. Yippee!
- But now that he's free, Wilbur doesn't quite know what to do with his newfound liberty. The goose has some advice: jump, dance, and do whatever you want. Sounds like a good plan.
- So Wilbur does a little twirl. Yep, this pig not only talks, but dances too. Then he heads over to an apple tree to enjoy one of his favorite pastimes: digging his snout into the ground.
- But the fun can't last forever. Mrs. Zimmerman sees that the pig is loose and sets off the alarm. Before you know it, Uncle Homer, Lurvy (a man hired to help on the farm), and even the family cocker spaniel are chasing down Wilbur. All the animals in the barn have heard of Wilbur's escape and are eager to watch the chase.
- Poor Wilbur doesn't know what to do. Should he run? Stay? Do a jig? He's so bewildered that he's wondering why on earth he broke through the fence in the first place.
- Homer, Lurvy, and the cocker spaniel start grabbing for Wilbur. So he's stuck dodging arms left and right. To make it all even more confusing, the animals are shouting contradictory advice from the barn. Some say go uphill, others down. Some say dance, some say spin. It's a regular kerfuffle!
- The chase comes to an end when Mr. Zimmerman whips out a pail of slop. The slop is a mix of milk, old breakfast cereal, and leftover food. Ew, right? But Wilbur thinks the slop has the most heavenly smell ever.
- So Wilbur follows Mr. Zimmerman and his pail back into the pen. The whole time the goose is shouting to Wilbur that it's a trap, but he couldn't care less. All he wants is some nice comforting food, especially since Fern isn't there.
- Back in the pen, Wilbur is happy again. He's full, Homer is scratching his back with a stick, and Lurvy and Homer are talking about what a swell pig Wilbur is. Perhaps life inside the pigpen isn't so bad after all.
- The day after Wilbur's fence-escaping adventure, it's raining cats and dogs. Wilbur is super bummed about the bad weather, because he'd had his day all planned out.
- How's this sound for a daily schedule: eat, have a chat with a rat, nap, dig, stand still (seriously, Wilbur schedules time for standing still), eat, scratch, stand still again and wait for Fern, eat.
- This pig sure is a planner.
- But sadly for Wilbur, the rain sends these plans out the window.
- So Wilbur sets about calling for Templeton, the rat that camps out under his trough. When Templeton doesn't respond, Wilbur feels pretty miserable and lonely. Even breakfast doesn't cheer him up because "Wilbur didn't want food, he wanted love" (4.22).
- Poor little guy.
- Wilbur decides to see if he can find a friend to play with him. So he makes his pitch—some version of "Will you play with me?"—to each barn animal around, one after the other.
- First up: the goose. But the goose says she's too busy sitting on her eggs.
- Second in line: the lamb. But the lamb is super rude and tells Wilbur that he just isn't interesting enough to be the lamb's playmate.
- Well, that's just not nice.
- Third up to bat: Templeton the rat. But Templeton says he doesn't know how to play. Instead, he's going to eat Wilbur's breakfast, since the pig hasn't had a bite of it.
- Seeing Templeton eat his breakfast is the last straw. Wilbur has no friends and now no food. He feels so stinkin' lonely that he breaks down and cries.
- Lurvy thinks they need to do something to cheer this pig up, so Mr. Zuckerman says to give Wilbur some medicine and molasses. And Wilbur is so not in the mood for medicine or molasses. His day just can't get any worse.
- But once nighttime hits, Wilbur gets a pleasant surprise. A voice in the darkness says: "Do you want a friend, Wilbur?" (4.40).
- You bet he does!
- Wilbur can't see where this mysterious voice is coming from because it's so dark out. But the voice tells him two important things that just might turn Wilbur's luck around:
- (1) The voice wants to be Wilbur's friend.
- (2) Wilbur will get to see the source of this voice in the morning.
- Wilbur is so excited to meet this new friend that he can't sleep.
- When the sun finally comes up, Wilbur just can't wait any longer, so he makes an announcement to the whole barn.
- And he may just be the politest pig around because check out how he tries to find his new friend: "Attention, please! […] Will the party who addressed me at bedtime last night kindly make himself or herself known by giving an appropriate sign or signal!" (5.17).
- The other animals think Wilbur is being pretty ridiculous. And one old sheep points out that maybe this alleged new friend of Wilbur's is sleeping in late.
- And it turns out that's precisely what's been happening. So when the new friend eventually wakes up, the mysterious small voice greets Wilbur again.
- Wilbur still can't figure out where this voice is coming from until the voice says to look up in the corner of the barn doorway where she'll be waving at him.
- When Wilbur takes a peek in the barn corner, there's none other than a spider waving one of her eight little legs at him. Spiders can be creepy, but this one seems pretty nice, actually.
- At this point some introductions are in order. And, based on the chapter title, what do you think our newest character is going to be named?
- Yes dear Shmoopers, this little spider is Charlotte.
- Actually, make that Charlotte A. Cavatica. This is no ordinary spider. She's a fancy shmancy spider.
- Wilbur learns a few things about his new friend:
- (1) She's seriously pretty. But Charlotte thinks there are other prettier spiders out there.
- (2) Charlotte is near-sighted, so she can't see Wilbur too well. Someone get that girl some glasses!
- (3) Charlotte eats flies, which kind of grosses Wilbur out. (This from the pig who eats slops.) But, she does it mercifully. Wilbur watches as a fly accidentally gets stuck in her web. Charlotte first winds it up in her silky thread, and then knocks it out so it'll feel less pain. She's a humanitarian spider, this one.
- (4) Charlotte comes from a family of "trappers" (5.49). This means that she's good at making a mean web to catch herself some dinner.
- She doesn't love the fact that she needs to eat other little bugs, but that's the way of the world.
- All this talk of trapping bugs gets Wilbur and Charlotte into a debate about bug-eating ethics. Is it really fair for Charlotte to trap and kill these bugs?
- Wilbur seems to think it's a bit cruel. But Charlotte points out that no one brings her a bucket of slop, so she's got to find her own way to survive.
- And Charlotte makes another good point: without spiders like her, there'd be a gazillion bugs in the world and that would make things rather unpleasant.
- So really, she's just helping avoid overpopulation and a bug-spawned apocalypse.
- Well, Wilbur can't really argue with that.
- At this point the eavesdropping goose thinks to herself that Wilbur is pretty naïve. He doesn't even realize that he's probably going to end up being Christmas dinner.
- And neither did we. Yikes!
- Luckily, Wilbur doesn't hear this thought, so he's unfazed. Instead, he lies down to think about his new friend. She sure is clever and pretty, but she's also got a tough streak in her, and Wilbur's not sure how he feels about that just yet.
- But our narrator gives us a hint about what we're going to learn soon enough: Charlotte "was to prove loyal and true to the very end" (5.57).
- You know how summer rocks? Well, it rocks on a farm, too, especially now that Fern is off from school and gets to visit Wilbur more. Plus, the birds are singing and flowers are growing.
- Life is grand!
- If you're a pig like Wilbur, early summer is particularly awesome because Mr. Zuckerman and the farm workers rake lots of fresh hay into the barn.
- One day early in the summer, the barn gets a few new inhabitants: seven cute little goslings. Those eggs the goose has been sitting on for a month finally hatch. Fern, Wilbur, and Charlotte are super excited for the goose and the gander (who we've only just met).
- Templeton, on the other hand, is a regular sourpuss. All he wants to know is why the eighth egg didn't hatch.
- The goose and gander aren't about to let Templeton rain on their parade. So, they let Templeton take the dud egg away to his stash, with the gander warning Templeton that he better stay away from the new goslings… or else.
- Later that day, the goose takes a little walk with her seven goslings and Mr. Zuckerman spies the happy little family. Mr. Zuckerman counts out the geese and seems genuinely happy for the goose when he says: "Now isn't that lovely!" (6.47).
- The more time Wilbur spends with Charlotte, the more he grows to like her. That girl—er, spider—is the best.
- For starters, she's #1 at fly-catching. And Wilbur has decided that flies stink big time. They annoy everyone from the cows to the horses, so it's better that they become Charlotte's dinner.
- On top of her fabulous fly catching, Charlotte is merciful.
- Sure, Wilbur was impressed that she knocked the flies out when he first saw her eating them. But now that he's been watching her for a while, he's even more amazed that Charlotte gives her flies an "anaesthetic" so their death is painless (7.4).
- And Charlotte's not the only good eater in the barn. Wilbur has been doing his fair share of eating and he's getting nice and plump.
- He's pretty pleased with his growing body, but the sheep has some bad news: "they're fattening you up because they're going to kill you" (7.49).
- Wilbur can't believe his little piggy ears. But the sheep clues him in: every year, there's a conspiracy to kill a pig, and everyone from Mr. Zuckerman and Lurvy to Mr. Arable (Fern's dad), is in on the plot. According to the sheep, one day they'll shoot the pig—that is, Wilbur—dead. Yikes!
- That's bad news for our dear Wilbur, who doesn't want to die. Naturally, he has a wee panic attack about it, but Charlotte tells him to hush.
- Wilbur is having a hard time calming down. Actually, he's freaking out.
- Charlotte admits that the sheep probably knows what's going to happen, since she's seen many pigs meet the same fate, but has some good news to offer up: "I am going to save you" (7.26). Charlotte may not be able to tolerate Wilbur's crying (truth be told, she doesn't really sympathize with him at all), but she's still a good friend. So Charlotte is going to do everything she can to save her friend's life.
A Talk at Home
- Fern is having a little breakfast with her mom and dad when they start talking about Uncle Homer's farm.
- Fern is pretty excited about the new goslings and tells her parents all about them, right down to how the eighth egg didn't hatch so Templeton took it away.
- Mr. and Mrs. Arable are confused about this last bit. Who's Templeton? And why is our daughter talking to a rat?
- Mrs. Arable is especially baffled that her daughter (1) appears to be talking to animals, and (2) that those animals have names. What on earth!
- Once Fern's mom sends her off to get ready for Sunday school, Mrs. Arable starts psychoanalyzing her daughter's weird behavior. She's pretty worried that her child thinks animals can talk. To her, that's total cockamamie.
- But Mr. Arable is a bit more open-minded. He thinks that maybe, just maybe, animals can talk and he and his wife just can't hear them.
- This would mean that Fern is an especially good listener.
- So we're back in the barn, witnessing a conversation between Wilbur and Charlotte. Charlotte is weaving herself a web in the late afternoon, which is her favorite time for web weaving.
- Wilbur decides to open the conversation with, well, not the slickest line ever: "You have awfully hairy legs, Charlotte" (9.2). What does he expect the spider to do? Shave?
- But Charlotte isn't perturbed by Wilbur's candid question.
- Instead, she takes it as an opportunity to give Wilbur an anatomy lesson. A spider's legs are super important and complex because of all that weaving business. In fact, they have seven sections, a tidbit that Wilbur just can't believe.
- So Wilbur is partly in awe at Charlotte's awesome legs.
- But he's also thinking that maybe he could spin a web if Charlotte would just teach him how. Charlotte, bless her heart, gets on board and says she'll be Wilbur's web weaving instructor.
- And thus commences Wilbur's Web Weaving Attempt #1: Charlotte tells him to climb up to a high place (for her this is a door frame; for Wilbur it's a manure pile, which is a little grosser, and probably also not as high.)
- Then she says that all Wilbur needs to do is jump, extrude some string, make some attachments, and he'll be good to go. Wilbur jumps but, alas, no spidery string appears.
- So our Wilbur ends up on the ground. Charlotte is a barrel of laughs, but not in a mean way.
- Really. Actually, she's pretty impressed at Wilbur's go-getter attitude. All the while, Fern is enjoying the show too.
- But Wilbur isn't giving up so easily. He figures he'll do better next time around if he just has some string attached to his tail. Templeton to the rescue, with some dingy string for Wilbur to borrow.
- So we get Wilbur's Web Weaving Attempt #2: Wilbur tells everyone to watch and he spins into the air again. Sadly he forgot to tie the other end of the string to anything, so the poor guy ends up on the ground again.
- Templeton seems a little too gleeful about Wilbur's failed attempt. But Charlotte decides to talk some sense into her friend so he doesn't keep hurting himself. She points out that Wilbur (1) doesn't have the proper tools like "spinnerets," and (2) he doesn't have the "know-how" (9.29).
- Plus, Charlotte says that spinning webs is really something only spiders can do. Even humans stink at spinning webs. Take, for instance, the web-like Queensborough Bridge which took humans a whole eight years to build.
- Charlotte, of course, can whip up a web in no time at all.
- (By the way, Charlotte might not be a real spider, but the Queensborough Bridge is real. And it really is pretty web-like.)
- The whole bridge discussion makes Charlotte realize that while humans are always hustling and bustling around, she prefers being sedentary. She gets to rest for huge chunks of time, and she likes it that way.
- Wilbur realizes he's pretty sedentary too, but not necessarily by choice. If Wilbur had his way, he'd be out in the woods poking his snout around and trying to find food and smelling the ground.
- Out of the blue, a lamb decides to insult Wilbur, saying that the pig smells.
- Well, now, that's not very nice. Thankfully, Charlotte comes to Wilbur's defense.
- Wilbur tries to brush off the insult and enjoy the rest of his evening.
- On the one hand, he's really enjoying the familiar sounds of the farm. But on the other hand, there's that pesky little problem of the humans wanting to kill Wilbur.
- Wilbur confesses his fears to Charlotte: he just doesn't want to die.
- Charlotte understands, and reminds Wilbur that she's hatching a plan to keep him alive. In fact, Charlotte has been thinking a lot about how to save Wilbur's life.
- Fun fact: She likes to think with her head hanging down. According to her, all the blood is in her head, which helps her think. So she spends lots of time now head down, legs up, thinking cap on.
- The good news for Wilbur is that Charlotte is super certain that her plan will work. Her new mantra for Wilbur is "Never hurry and never worry!" (9.67). Easier said than done, Char.
- So Charlotte has become a very helpful little friend, but she's also become a bit of a bossy pants. Wilbur asks for her permission to go eat some of his remaining food, and she's says that's okay. But when Wilbur asks if he can get some milk to drink, Charlotte orders Wilbur to bed. Apparently, Wilbur isn't allowed to worry or allowed to drink. In case he pees in his cozy manure pile?
- Charlotte has one main task these days, and that's scheming up how to save Wilbur's life. Happily, our girl has hatched a plan: fool Mr. Zuckerman.
- Around the same time, Avery and Fern head onto the Zuckerman farm. In the kitchen, Aunt Edith (aka Mrs. Zuckerman) offers them some blueberry pie.
- Being an ungrateful kid, Avery lets the frog he's holding hop all around his aunt's kitchen.
- But eventually Fern and Avery grab the frog and head outside to play on the rope swing.
- Here's the thing about this rope swing: it's the best rope swing ever. We repeat, the very best rope swing ever! Kids can stand on the ledge of the hayloft, grab the rope, and go swinging like nobody's business.
- Parents aren't huge fans of the swing (obvs), but the kids love it.
- So, Fern and Avery take turns on the rope swing. Then they go berry picking and eat a bunch of raspberries.
- Besides the fact that Fern bites into a berry with a bug in it (gross!), this sounds like an awesome day on the farm.
- Once the Arable kids are tuckered out, Fern says she wants to visit Wilbur.
- And now the lovely day on the farm is about to take a dark turn, because Avery has spotted Charlotte. And do you think Avery is going to leave a beautiful spider specimen like Charlotte alone?
- Nope, he wants to capture her.
- Avery starts to reach a stick to knock Charlotte down, when the potential spider-killer trips and falls.
- The good news is that Charlotte's life is spared. The bad news? Avery falls into Wilbur's trough and apparently that old goose egg is underneath it.
- When Avery falls, he breaks the egg, and now the whole barn stinks of rotten egg. The smell is seriously disgusting, but at least it forces Avery to jet away from the barn and from Charlotte.
- Most of the animals had been out of the barn during the egg-exploding debacle, and when they return Wilbur tells each of them about how the rotten egg saved Charlotte's life.
- The goose and Templeton are both pretty proud of their part in the whole thing. If the rotten egg hadn't been there, Charlotte would have been one unlucky spider.
- But now Templeton is the unlucky one, because when Lurvy brings some yummy slop for Wilbur's dinner, he discovers Templeton's nest. Lurvy covers Templeton's little home in dirt and turns all the rat's possessions into buried treasure.
- Charlotte's been super quiet throughout this whole ordeal. Later that night, while everyone sleeps, Charlotte spends her time thinking and working. And this isn't just any work. Charlotte's doing some mysterious things to her web. She's taken out the middle and now is adding something else in.
- We can't wait to see what it is.
- Now it's the next day and it's a foggy one. Everything from the barn to the grass is wet as can be.
- Luckily for Charlotte, fog is a spider web's best friend. And here's why: "This morning each thin strand was decorated with dozens of tiny beads of water" (11.2). Sounds like a seriously pretty sight to see.
- Lurvy agrees: the web is a beauty. Actually, it's not just extra beautiful this morning, it's also got some extra writing in it. Inside that hole Charlotte made in the center of the web, now sit the words: "SOME PIG!"
- Okay, that's maybe the coolest web ever in the history of spider webs.
- Seeing this web, Lurvy kind of starts to freak out. Is he seeing things? Going crazy? So he fetches Mr. Zuckerman, who is also baffled by the writing in the web.
- Lurvy and Homer Zuckerman can't make heads or tails of the web, so it's time for a third opinion. They head into the house and talk to Edith Zuckerman, where Homer tells his wife everything that he saw.
- His conclusion: they have a seriously special pig. But Edith has a different conclusion: they have a seriously special spider. (Maybe they're both right.)
- The Zuckermans and Lurvy spend some time at the barn analyzing the spider web and admiring their pig.
- As for Charlotte and Wilbur, they're loving all the attention. The more they look, the more Lurvy and the Zuckermans realize just how special this pig is. In fact, by the time they're walking away, Lurvy is repeating the words on the web: "He's some pig" (11.32).
- Soon after, Homer heads out to talk to the minister about the miracle on his farm. According to the minister, they should keep this miracle a secret and not tell a soul about it.
- But it's tough to keep a secret about something as cool as a miracle pig and a literary spider. We don't know who spills the beans, but soon the whole county seems to know about the spider web.
- This means the Zuckerman farm becomes a bit of a local attraction, with tons of people visiting to see Wilbur and the web. And the consensus is clear: "All said they had never seen such a pig before in their lives" (11.84).
- All this attention on Wilbur has some pros and some cons.
- The cons: Well, for starters, when Mrs. Arable finds out that Avery almost killed the spider, he gets sent to his room. No fun for Avery.
- Plus, everyone on the Zuckerman farm is so distracted by the visitors that the crops are going rotten. On top of that, Charlotte is a little peeved that all the visitors mean the barn is always bustling these days.
- But there are also some pros: The Zuckerman farm is famous! And, oh yeah, it doesn't look like anyone wants to kill Wilbur. So that's a pretty big pro.
- Remember how Charlotte can be bossy sometimes? Well, this is one of those times. It's been a few days since her message in the web went viral and she's called a meeting in the barn.
- First thing on the agenda: roll call. Wilbur? Check. Gander and goslings? Check and seven little checks. Lamb? Present. Templeton?
- Radio silence. But Charlotte thinks they can just move along even in Templeton's absence. She doesn't seem to have a high opinion of her not-so-friendly rat neighbor.
- The main point of this meeting is to discuss new messages for Charlotte to weave into the web.
- Turns out that Charlotte is a master at public relations, and she realizes that the visitors will soon tire of reading the same words over and over. So a new slogan is in order.
- The goose suggests the word "terrific" and Charlotte is into this new idea. The only problem is no one is quite sure how to spell "terrific."
- The old sheep has a suggestion: ask Templeton for help. Charlotte isn't sure the selfish rat will get in on their campaign to save Wilbur.
- But Templeton could be helpful since he can fetch magazine scraps from the dump to help with spelling.
- When Templeton enters the barn, the old sheep works to convince the rat to help out. At first, Templeton doesn't care a lick about saving Wilbur's life. But when the old sheep points out that the rat gets most of his meals from Wilbur's leftovers, Templeton gets on board.
- So a plan is in motion: Templeton will collect some magazine scraps for spelling and inspiration.
- And in the meantime Charlotte is going to write "Terrific" inside her web to give everyone in the county a new sensation to gab about.
- Wilbur doesn't think he really is terrific, but Charlotte says he is so he's just going to have to go with it.
- Charlotte gets to work on the new web design. She clears out the center of the web to give herself a blank canvas, and then sets to work on the letters.
- This spider is not only clever at campaigning, but she's also quite the engineer. She thinks about which types of thread she'll use for different parts of the web. Plus she considers how thick she should make the letters so that they'll be more visible.
- Charlotte works on her web all night and stays cheery the whole time. The girl's a mighty hard worker.
- In the morning, Lurvy finds Wilbur standing under the new and improved web. There's also a bit of dew this morning, so the web is sparkling again.
- Lurvy is amazed and needs to spread the news. This sets off a good old-fashioned game of telephone: Lurvy tells Mr. Zuckerman who tells Mrs. Zuckerman who tells the Arables who come straight over to the farm. Phew! And then there's one more important call to make: to a reporter at the Weekly Chronicle.
- You know this kind of buzz can't stay quiet for long (not that anyone is trying to keep it a secret). So soon everyone in the county is making a second trip to the Zuckerman farm to see the new writing in the web.
- Mr. Zuckerman realizes that things need to start changing on his farm now that he has such a special, nay, a terrific pig. He instructs Lurvy to only put clean straw in Wilbur's pen instead of manure, because a terrific pig deserves a clean bed.
- Plus, Mr. Zuckerman makes plans to take Wilbur to the County Fair. Lurvy needs to find a big crate and paint "Zuckerman's Famous Pig" in gold letters onto the crate. It's going to be super fancy.
- Now it's time to switch gears, mid-chapter, and turn to Templeton. Our little rat has been snooping around in one of his favorite places: the dumpster just below the apple orchard. And Templeton has found some goodies that he thinks Charlotte might like. But it takes him a few tries to get it right:
- (1) On his first attempt, Templeton gives Charlotte a magazine advertisement that says "Crunchy." Charlotte points out that the word crunchy might make people think of bacon. That would be really bad for Wilbur.
- (2) With his second attempt at dumpster diving, Templeton brings back a label that reads "pre-shrunk." Nope, no good.
- (3) So on the third try Templeton brings back the packaging for some soap. The box says: "With New Radiant Action." Neither Charlotte nor Templeton know what this means, but they agree it might have potential.
- Charlotte decides to test out this potential slogan. She orders Wilbur to dance about so she can see if he is radiant. Charlotte isn't entirely convinced that Wilbur is radiant, but the slogan seems like a good one so it'll have to do.
- Wilbur and Charlotte are both tired from all this slogan-testing, so they settle down for bed. And Wilbur asks his spider friend for some bedtime stories.
- First, Charlotte tells Wilbur a story about how her cousin caught a fish in her spider web. The fish and the spider had an epic battle before the fish became so entangled in the web that it couldn't get free. Then the spider ate the fish. Bam!
- Next, Charlotte tells Wilbur about another spider cousin who would form balloons with her thread and float through the air. Wilbur thinks sounds a little far-fetched, but Charlotte insists that it's the truth. Apparently she comes from a family of exceptional spiders.
- After this last story and a little lullaby, Wilbur finally falls asleep. And then Fern goes home. We haven't heard much about Fern lately, but turns out she's been in the barn for a while. Who knew?
- The next day, Fern is washing some dishes after breakfast. And while she's cleaning Fern tells her mom all about Charlotte's stories.
- Remember how Mrs. Arable thought Fern was a little nuts for thinking animals could talk? Well, Mrs. A hasn't yet changed her tune.
- Mrs. Arable tells Fern to stop being such a little liar.
- Once Fern leaves to head to the Zuckerman farm, Mrs. Arable decides she's had enough of this nonsense. She heads out to talk to Dr. Dorian.
- Dr. Dorian seems like a pretty open-minded fellow. When Mrs. Arable asks for the doctor's opinion on the words in the spider web, the doc says that he's totally fine not knowing how they got there. Come to think of it, he doesn't really understand how spiders make webs in the first place, and he's a-okay with that.
- Well, no offense to Dr. Dorian, but we like to know these kinds of things.
- But enough about the web. What Mrs. Arable really wants to know is if Dr. Dorian thinks animals can talk. Surprise: Dr. Dorian sides with Fern. He thinks that maybe animals do talk, and adults just don't pay enough attention to them.
- Mrs. Arable feels much better about Fern. Plus, the doc thinks Fern will eventually grow out of her obsession with animals and become interested in boys instead. Phew!
- Sadly, summer is coming to an end. Everyone knows it, but no one knows it better than the crickets who sing about it over and over again. These creaky crickets let everyone around know that summertime is done for and autumn is on the way.
- The crickets' message travels fast. Everyone from Fern to Lurvy to Charlotte gets the picture. Even a "little maple tree in the swamp" hears the song (15.5). News of summer ending has definitely gotten around town.
- Meanwhile, Wilbur is still making the most of his new-found fame. Charlotte's newest slogan of "Radiant" is emblazoned in the web.
- This means Wilbur now spends his days trying to look as radiant as possible. So he bats his eyelashes and does back flips. We have to admit, that would be one radiant pig.
- But amid all this radiance, Wilbur worries about his future. What if Mr. Zuckerman still wants to kill him one day? That would totally stink.
- But Wilbur has one hope left: if he does well at the County Fair, he'll have a decent chance of staying alive.
- There's just one problem: Charlotte might not be going to the fair with Wilbur. When Wilbur wonders why his best friend in the whole wide world would leave him high and dry, Charlotte explains that she needs to stay home to lay some eggs.
- Wilbur is so worried about going to the fair without Charlotte that she promises she'll join him if she can make it work. But secretly, Charlotte knows that she'll be laying eggs soon and definitely won't be going to that fair. Big bummer all around.
Off to the Fair
- It's fair time, y'all! The night before the fair, everyone is dreaming about how great the next day is going to be. Mr. Zuckerman dreams that Wilbur wins all the fair prizes so that he's completely covered in blue ribbons.
- Even the barn animals are excited for the fair. They all go to bed early so they can see Wilbur in the morning before he begins his first road trip.
- On the morning of the fair, the Arables and the Zuckermans get ready for the big event. For Fern, this means putting on a cute dress because you just never know who you're going to see at the fair.
- For Wilbur, getting ready for the fair means enjoying a buttermilk bath from Mrs. Zuckerman. Mr. Zuckerman doesn't think Wilbur is dirty at all, but Mrs. Zuckerman insists that she bathe Wilbur in buttermilk. Apparently it's something her grandmother used to do.
- Turns out that Mrs. Zuckerman is right. After Wilbur's buttermilk bath, he sparkles. He sure does look radiant on the outside and he feels radiant on the inside, too.
- While the Zuckermans and Lurvy finish getting ready for the fair, Charlotte makes an announcement: she is going to the fair with Wilbur, after all. Woo!
- Charlotte thinks Templeton should come, too. He might be good for running errands. But Templeton is being his grumpy self and declares that he has no interest in coming to the fair. Thankfully, the wise old sheep tells Templeton all about the food scraps he'll find at the fair, and Templeton changes his tune.
- So Charlotte and Templeton hide in Wilbur's green crate for the fair. The sheep figures this means the crate should really read "Zuckerman's Famous Pig and Two Stowaways" (16.33).
- The Arables arrive to load Wilbur into his crate and get it onto the truck. Everyone can't help but notice what a very handsome pig Wilbur is.
- Unfortunately for Wilbur, this admiration is short-lived because Mr. Arable is about to say something really upsetting: "You'll get some extra good ham and bacon, Homer, when it comes time to kill that pig" (16.46).
- Uh-oh, looks like Charlotte's plan to save Wilbur's life isn't working out as well as it should.
- Wilbur can't stand this news, so he does precisely what a nineteenth-century lady would do: he faints.
- One bucket of water later, Wilbur is awake again and shoved into the crate. Now that he's on the back of the truck, everyone is off to the fair.
- When the truck arrives at the fairgrounds, the place is already hoppin'. There's music blasting and rides spinning, so Fern and Avery waste no time heading off on their own.
- Mr. and Mrs. Arable warn them to keep safe, but otherwise those kiddos have no supervision for the day. Freedom!
- The adults load Wilbur into his pen, and then they head off to enjoy the fair, too.
- Charlotte has found herself a perch in Wilbur's pen. She can see into some of the other pens and realizes that there's a huge pig next door to Wilbur.
- Charlotte thinks this is bad news for her friend, so Charlotte sets out to meet this big pig. When she drops into his pen, the big pig says that he has no name but is just called "Uncle." Hmm, wonder where that name came from?
- Charlotte thinks Uncle is pretty crass and noisy, while Wilbur is much nicer. But she does worry about how big Uncle is. When you're a pig getting judged at a fair, size is definitely important.
- After this meet-and-greet, Charlotte is exhausted—even though the day has just begun. This has Wilbur pretty worried about how his friend is feeling.
- Meanwhile, the Arables, the Zuckermans, and Lurvy all head back to Wilbur's pen. The children have clearly been having a lot of fun. Now it's time for some lunch and a little nap.
- That sounds pretty good to us, too.
The Cool of the Evening
- After such a hot day, everyone is happy when the cooler evening arrives.
- For Charlotte, this is a good time for her to spin a web. She tells Templeton to bring her back some inspiration, because "I shall be writing tonight for the last time" (18.2).
- Uh-oh, that sounds pretty ominous to us.
- Templeton heads out of the pen. His first concern is food, but once he's eaten his fill of scraps he snatches part of a piece of paper to bring back to Charlotte.
- Templeton's a lucky little rat, because it turns out that he just so happened to grab a good word: humble. Charlotte says this word is perfect because it means both "not proud" and "near the ground" (18.12). Wilbur is both, so the word is two for two.
- Charlotte weaves "HUMBLE" into the center of the web. Because it's so dark, none of the people can see the word. The Arables and the
- Zuckermans head home for the night and Wilbur settles in to catch a few Zs.
- When Wilbur starts to chat with Charlotte, he realizes that she's not on her web. Instead, she's in a corner doing something mysterious.
- All she tells Wilbur is that she's "making something" and he'll have to wait until the morning to see it (18.31). That means we're stuck in suspense too.
- Back at the Arable home, Fern and Avery are off to bed. This has been a pretty great day. In fact, Fern says it's the best day ever.
The Egg Sac
- The next day, Wilbur gets to find out what this "something" is that Charlotte was making. When he looks up into the corner of the pen, he sees a peachy-looking sac next to his spider friend.
- Charlotte tells Wilbur that this is her greatest work. She's super proud of her egg sac. And why wouldn't she be when there are five hundred and fourteen eggs in there? Yep, 514. That's a lot of spiders.
- Wilbur is amazed at this jam-packed egg sac. He can't quite believe that Charlotte is going to have five hundred and fourteen little kiddos. She's going to be one busy mama.
- But according to Charlotte, the spiders won't arrive until next spring. And this is bad news for Charlotte because she doesn't feel too great. Actually, she feels like she might not be around for much longer.
- This is super sad news, guys.
- Charlotte doesn't want to focus on that, though. Instead, she points out the nice dewy web that she's woven. This one is another beautiful masterpiece.
- While Wilbur and Charlotte admire the web, Templeton comes back into the pen to rain on their parade. Templeton has seen a blue ribbon on Uncle's pen, so he figures that Wilbur hasn't won a prize and the Zuckermans will probably kill Wilbur soon.
- Charlotte tells Templeton to shut his trap, and Wilbur tries to ignore the rat's rudeness. To change subjects, Wilbur points out Charlotte's beautiful egg sac. Even Templeton has the courtesy to congratulate Charlotte on her hundreds of future offspring.
- Later that morning, the Arables and Zuckermans arrive at the pen. They all love the new writing on the web.
- Soon, this joy goes down the pipe when Avery points to that blue ribbon on Uncle's pen. They realize that Wilbur didn't win first prize, which is a huge bummer.
- Mrs. Zuckerman is really upset, but Mr. Zuckerman plucks up pretty quickly. He says it's time for Wilbur's bath, so it's time to whip out the buttermilk.
- Bath time becomes a pretty popular spectacle at the fair, since more and more people gather to watch the Zuckermans bathe Wilbur.
- Everyone seems impressed with how clean Wilbur is, even if he isn't as big as his neighbor, Uncle.
- After a little while, there's an announcement over the loud speaker. Mr. Zuckerman needs to bring Wilbur to the grandstand for a "special award" (19.55). Maybe Wilbur's luck hasn't run out just yet!
- Everyone is super jazzed about this special prize. Charlotte, invisible to human eyes up in her perch, is happy too because she knows she saved her friend's life. But Charlotte is also feeling weak. We have a bad feeling about the future of this spider.
- The men load Wilbur into the crate and onto the truck. Templeton sneaks his way onto the crate and Fern perches on top. Everyone is happy about Wilbur's prize.
- Fern is too, but she's also looking at the Ferris wheel and thinking about that cute boy, Henry Fussy.
The Hour of Triumph
- When they arrive at the grandstand, the audience steps aside to let the truck through. All this attention is very exciting for humans and pig alike.
- The one person who seems to have lost interest in the proceedings is Fern. She sees Henry, asks her mom for some money, and heads off with her crush to ride the Ferris wheel.
- Actually, Avery seems more interested in Wilbur than Fern nowadays. Ah well, Wilbur still has plenty of admirers.
- One of those admirers is Charlotte. She's holding onto her egg sac in the pigpen and listening to the announcements over the loud speaker. Even though she isn't with Wilbur, she feels triumphant.
- Back at the grandstand, the announcer reminds everyone of Wilbur's far-reaching fame. Everyone knows about Zuckerman's famous pig and the miraculous spider web. But no one can figure out how the spider web with the writing got there in the first place.
- According to the announcer, it must be because of "supernatural forces" (20.18). Spiders can't write and that's that. Charlotte knows this is a load of baloney, but no one is around to hear what she has to say. (Not that they'd hear her if she did.)
- So Wilbur wins the Zuckerman's a special prize: twenty-five bucks and a medal.
- Okay, twenty-five dollars might not seem like much, but the kids were able to go on rides and buy food all day for just seventy cents.
- That definitely puts the cash prize in perspective.
- There's an awkward moment where Wilbur faints from all the attention. According to the announcer, a dead pig can't win the prize, so Zuckerman better fix this problem ASAP.
- Templeton's wily side becomes useful here since he decides to bite Wilbur's tail to get the pig to wake up again.
- And Wilbur does! And the crowd cheers! Woohoo!
- Then Lurvy comes blundering through the crowd with a pail of water to wake up Wilbur. But since Wilbur is in the crate and Lurvy just isn't thinking straight, the water ends up all over Mr. Zuckerman and Avery instead.
- By this time, the crowd is going bananas. A cute pig and some accidental slapstick humor all in a few minutes? Best fair EVER.
- Plus Avery is hamming it up, pretending to take a shower now that he's all wet. The audience is eating this up.
- So looks like everyone had a good day full of tons of applause and attention.
- After such a long day, it's nice for Wilbur and Charlotte to have some quiet time alone in the pigpen.
- Charlotte tells Wilbur how happy she is that his life is saved. She's so glad to have helped out her friend. Wilbur can't understand why Charlotte would be so nice to him when he hasn't done anything for her. But according to Charlotte, that's just what friends do. Plus, it made her life a little more entertaining.
- You know how Charlotte kept making comments about being tired or not being around for much longer? Well all that ominous talk turns really dark, because Charlotte tells Wilbur that she's going to die soon. In a few days, in fact. She won't even be able to make it back home.
- Wilbur is upset, so upset that he starts to throw a tantrum. Can you blame him? The poor guy is about to lose his best friend in the entire world.
- Wilbur doesn't want Charlotte to be alone, so he declares that he will stay with her. But Charlotte tells Wilbur that he has to go home.
- He has no choice.
- All of a sudden, Wilbur has an idea: he'll bring the egg sac back to the barn. That way, at least Charlotte's children will live and have lots of barn friends.
- There's just one problem: Wilbur can't reach all the way to the corner to get the egg sac. So he asks Templeton for help. But Templeton is being as mean as he's ever been. He refuses to get the sac because he says everyone is always calling on him for favors.
- The people are returning to the pen soon and Wilbur knows he's only got a little time left. So he cuts Templeton a deal. If Templeton gets the egg sac, then Wilbur will let Templeton eat from his slop first. We know how much Wilbur loves his slop, so that's a pretty nice thing for Wilbur to give up.
- Templeton's one kryptonite is food. Once the prospect of more goodies is on the table, he can't help but agree to get the sac. He grumbles the whole time, but eventually he releases the sac from the pen and gives it to Wilbur.
- This happens just in the nick of time, because the Arables and the Zuckermans have arrived to load Wilbur into the crate. So Wilbur stores the egg sac in the only safe place he can think of: inside his mouth.
- The good news is that the egg sac will be safe. The bad news is that Wilbur can't talk. Instead, he gives Charlotte a wink to tell her goodbye. She whispers goodbye back, and waves with one of her weak little legs.
- Get out the tissues, because it's time for some tragic news: the next day, Charlotte dies.
A Warm Wind
- Wilbur is back at the barn and it's like old times again. The animals are happy to see him and Wilbur is happy to get back to his manure pile. Plus, now there's a shiny medal hanging over the pigpen.
- Everything is swell except for one tiny important detail: Charlotte. Wilbur is sad that Charlotte isn't around anymore. There are a few strands of her web left and when he looks at them he seriously misses his friend.
- After the bittersweet homecoming, the seasons start to change. First fall arrives and then winter. Wilbur survives through Christmas, so looks like Charlotte was right: his life is now safe.
- Throughout the winter, Wilbur also keeps a close eye on Charlotte's egg sac. He becomes the best parent to those eggs that you could ever imagine.
- Eventually, winter turns into spring and Wilbur can't wait to meet the little spiders. They start coming out of the sac one by one. They wave their little spider legs at him, and some of them say hello. Actually, that's pretty cute.
- One day, after they've grown a bit, something strange starts to happen with the spiders. A warm wind starts to blow through the barn and the spiders start to float away. The first one stands on its head, makes a balloon with its silk, and then says goodbye. The other spiders follow suit until there are a bunch of spiders with balloons floating on the wind.
- Wilbur is super upset. He's losing all his new friends and Charlotte's babies!
- Finally, the last spider explains what's happening. Apparently all these little spiders are aeronauts like the spider in Charlotte's story.
- They float on the wind and land "wherever the wind takes us" (22.40). Then they make a home somewhere else.
- This sounds like quite an adventure, but Wilbur thinks it sounds horrible. He can't imagine anything worse than losing all of Charlotte's kiddos.
- But the next morning Wilbur gets a pleasant surprise: three little spiders have stayed! Now Wilbur has three new friends, which rocks.
- These friends need names, so names they shall have. One by one, they talk to Wilbur to get a name:
- (1) Meet Joy. The first spider asks Wilbur why he's shaking and Wilbur says, "I'm trembling with joy" (22.52). This gives the first spider the idea to be called Joy. Hey Joy!
- (2) The second spider feels inspired by her mother's middle initial, A. So she names herself Aranea. What's up, Aranea!
- (Quick brain snack: Araneus is the genus of a lot of common orb-weaving spiders—just like Charlotte.)
- 3. Last but not least, say hello to Nellie. She has no idea what her name should be, so she let's Wilbur pick out something "not too long, not too fancy, and not too dumb" (22.57). Nellie fits the bill. Pleased to meet you, Nellie!
- So Wilbur has three chums who all seem super sweet. They pledge their eternal friendship to one another and it looks like there's only good times ahead.
- Over the years, Wilbur has lots and lots of new friends. This means that each year when his friends die, new friends are born.
- All in all, Wilbur is one happy pig. He has his barn animal friends and his new spider friends. Plus he gets to live through the winter each year instead of being killed, so that's good.
- And he never forgets Charlotte, the best friend and best writer that Wilbur could ever ask for.