Study Guide

Charlotte's Web

by E. B. White

Charlotte's Web Characters

Themes and Characters

The suspense of Charlotte's Web is evident from the opening line, when Fern asks, "Where's Papa going with that ax?" As the reader soon discovers, he is going after Wilbur, and the main question becomes when—or whether— Wilbur will get the ax. Will the young girl Fern, spider Charlotte, or any of the other animals be able to save him? Justice, according to Fern, demands that a living creature be allowed a full life, even if it is just a runt pig. The practical farmer, however, sees the runt of the litter as a troublemaker and a source of food. Necessity dictates that the pig be slaughtered in the fall. Throughout the book, Wilbur's life hangs in a delicate balance.

It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.
Fern acts as a liaison between the human world and the animal world. She sits patiently in the barn, watching the antics of the animals, but when she tries to report to her parents that pigs and spiders can talk, the gulf between the two worlds becomes readily apparent. None of the other human characters— Fern's parents or the Zuckermans— believe her, and Fern's anxious mother asks the family doctor about her "delusions." The main adult characters are so practical that without some kind of extraordinary intervention, Wilbur's fate is sealed. Fern saves him once but cannot save him again.

The necessary intervention comes, not from outside, but from inside the barnyard,...

(The entire section is 477 words.)