Study Guide

Charlotte's Web Chapter 5

By E. B. White

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Chapter 5


  • 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).

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