Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Charlotte's Web

Dear reader, 7/13/09

Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White's classic tale of loyalty, friendship, and dealing with the realities of life takes place, for the most part, in a barn cellar in what is most likely in 1950s middle-America. Charlotte's Web begins early on a spring morning in the Arable kitchen. Eight-year-old Fern Arable learns that her father is heading out to do away with a tiny pig that was born the night before, and she quickly heads out to correct this horrible injustice. After much discussion, young Fern convinces her father to spare the runt's life, and he allows her to take the responsibility for raising the small pig upon herself. This is how the young pig, christened "Wilbur," begins his life full of adventure and controversy.
Soon, though he and Fern spend many idyllic days as faux mother and baby, Wilbur must leave the safety and routine of the Arable home. He is sold to Fern's uncle down the road, Homer Zuckerman, and Wilbur settles into his new home in Zuckerman's barn cellar. He is happy here, but he is also lonely and needs a friend. This is when a voice speaks out from the darkness, saying that it will be his friend.
The next day, Wilbur discovers that the voice belongs to Charlotte, a beautiful gray spider with a large vocabulary. She befriends Wilbur, and he no longer feels lonely in his new home. Eventually, though, Wilbur and Charlotte are faced with a horrible fact - Zuckerman is planning to slaughter Wilbur at Christmas. Charlotte promises that she will come up with a plan to save her friend.
After some thought, Charlotte concocts a scheme, based on the fact that humans are much even more gullible than the insects she traps in her web. One morning, when Zuckerman's hired man Lurvy brings Wilbur his breakfast, there in the spider's web are the words "Some Pig!" People come from miles around to witness the unexplainable phenomenon, and Charlotte feels her plan is working. She keeps up the charade, writing first "Terrific" and then "Radiant" in the web, and all who witness the "miracle" are very impressed with the pig. Due to his popularity, Zuckerman decided to take Wilbur to the County Fair - but on the day of the Fair, Mr. Arable mentions that Wilbur will make "extra good ham and bacon." Realizing she still has work to do, Charlotte agrees to accompany Wilbur to the Fair, though she explains to him that it is a very inconvenient time for her, as she is preparing to lay eggs.
Once at the Fair, Charlotte writes her final word in the web - "Humble," which epitomizes Wilbur. The Zuckermans and Arables are thrilled when Homer receives a special medal and $25 in recognition of his famous pig. Wilbur, too, is thrilled, assured that he will now be allowed to live. He is also excited to see that Charlotte has laid her eggs in an egg nest - 514 of them. His excitement is short-lived, however, when he learns her death is soon to come. Showing an until-now-unseen maturity, Wilbur decides to take on the responsibility for the eggs and takes the nest back with him to the barn. Later that day, Charlotte dies alone.
Months pass, and with spring comes the birth of the spiders. All but three of them, however, float away to find homes of their own. We are told that this continues for many generations, with a few of Charlotte's descendents stay with Wilbur. He loves her children and grandchildren, but Wilbur also knows that he will never forget Charlotte, his first, best, truest friend.

1 comment:

  1. Great book. I'ts nice to see reviews of older books.