Study Guide

Charlotte's Web Chapter 9

By E. B. White

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Chapter 9

Wilbur's Boast

  • 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?

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