Study Guide

Wilbur in Charlotte's Web

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Wilbur is the best pig you're ever going to meet. Plus, he may be the only pig you get to hear talk. (Anyone out there ever heard a pig talk? Anyone? Bueller?) Lucky for us, we get to follow this little guy from his first days on the Arable farm, where he's the runt of the litter, all the way to his days of winning a prize at the county fair.

Watch Out for the Waterworks

If Wilbur were a third-grader, he would totally get bullied on the playground. We know that, because he gets bullied in the barn by—well, almost all of the animals except Charlotte. Templeton gives Wilbur a hard time; the lamb tells Wilbur that he smells; the goose refuses to play with him. For a sociable little piggy like Wilbur, all this negativity can really make him feel lonely.

But the one thing that really makes Wilbur feel down is the news that the Zuckermans want to, well, eat him. And Wilbur's just not ready to call it quits. There are two ways he could react to this news:

(1) He could stand up and fight for himself.
(2) He could fling himself in the mud and cry.

Any guess about which option Wilbur takes? Yep, #2. When it comes to helping his friends or trying new tricks, he's gung-ho. But when it comes to saving himself, Wilbur panics.

Case in point: take a look at Wilbur's reaction when he learns of the plot to kill him one day:

"'I don't want to die!' screamed Wilbur, throwing himself to the ground.

'You shall not die,' said Charlotte, briskly.

'What? Really?' cried Wilbur. 'Who's going to save me?'

'I am,' said Charlotte." (7.21-24)

We're super happy that Charlotte rises to the occasion. But we're also curious about why Wilbur doesn't try to think of ways to save himself, too. He sounds pretty hopeless when he asks "Who's going to save me?" This has us wondering: what would have happened to Wilbur if Charlotte hadn't been around?

We're thinking that the Zuckermans would have had a pretty tasty Christmas dinner, is what.

But by the end of the novel, Wilbur is looking out for Charlotte's kids. In fact, he is a really good friend to those little spider babies. And he'll do just about anything to take care of them. So maybe our favorite little pig is starting to grow a thicker skin. What do you think? Does Wilbur toughen up during the novel?

Wilbur the Wonderful

Now for the good stuff. Wilbur is a seriously great buddy to have. He's there for his friends through the little stuff and the big stuff. And when we say big stuff, we mean it. If you're looking for a friendly little pig who just wants to hang out in the hay, Wilbur is your guy. But if you want someone to carry your egg sac with 514 baby spiders in his mouth so that they can stay safe, Wilbur is happy to do that too. See what we mean? Wilbur will do anything for his friends.

For Wilbur, being a good friend also means being selfless sometimes. Check out the deal Wilbur makes with Templeton so that the rat will help Wilbur save Charlotte's eggs:

"'Templeton,' he said, 'I will make you a solemn promise. Get Charlotte's egg sac for me, and from now on I will let you eat first, when Lurvy slops me. I will let you have your choice of everything in the trough and I won't touch a thing until you're through.'" (21.41)

Throughout the book, we've heard a lot about how much Wilbur loves his slop. Food is really important to him. (You can read more about food in "Symbols" and then head back here). So, it's pretty cool that Wilbur doesn't just give up part of his meals. Instead, he gives Templeton "everything." We know just how greedy Templeton is, so this means Wilbur might not get much food at all, and he's definitely not going to get some good stuff.

And that's a pretty big sacrifice to make. Is it as big a sacrifice as Charlotte makes for Wilbur? Well, we don't want to put a number on it. But it's definitely the biggest sacrifice he can think of. By the end of the book, Wilbur has lived up to his name: he truly is "Some Pig."

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