Stuart Little is a novel about conflict, coping, persistence, and hope. Stuart Little, so small a creature in so large a society, brings into focus the major theme of the individual versus a larger, hostile environment. Stuart personifies the positive aspects of the human spirit. He is unrelenting in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Secondary themes include an awareness of individual differences, the dynamics of interpersonal relationships, and the impact of societal conventions on the quality of life of individual members. These themes are crucial for young people coming of age. White masterfully mixes humor, satire, and concerns about social justice, allowing the characters to present specific issues without proselytizing.
Stuart is challenged by his size and must struggle to complete even the simplest tasks that most people take for granted. Yet, the struggle has made Stuart resourceful, not cynical or bitter. In some ways, he becomes the personification of the American hero as he overcomes adversity and seeks adventure. Unlike the typical American hero, Stuart elects to travel north instead of west. In yet another digression from tradition, he leaves young Harriet behind, choosing to continue his search for Margalo, his symbol of perfection and the embodiment of the unattainable goal.
White uses anthropomorphism, the giving of human qualities to animals, to advance his themes. This approach enables the fantasy to come to life, allowing him the...
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Stuart Little was the first of E. B. White’s three well-received and popular animal tales for children; the others are Charlotte’s Web (1952), a Newbery Honor Book, and The Trumpet of the Swan (1970). Each book offers suspense and adventure, and White’s characters come alive and seem to leap off the page. He demonstrates masterful use of dialogue and poetic language, elevating animal stories to a new dimension. The interactions and experiences shared by animals and humans invite complete absorption into the world of fantasy. Thus the adventures of Stuart—or Charlotte, Wilbur, and Fern, or Louis—are delightful reading on the literal level.
Some of his characters, such as Stuart and Charlotte, are well rounded. Others, such as the superintendent and the repairman in Stuart Little, only serve to advance the story line. Each of the characters has a unique personality, with foibles and virtues. They mirror human experiences. Although these texts were written for children, they are not for children alone. In Stuart Little and the other novels, White stretches the genre of the animal tale to the level of modern allegory, exploring human nature and the role of humankind in the natural environment. These novels encourage introspection and the examination of the motives underlying interpersonal relationships. They challenge readers to find their own directions and to follow the paths best-suited to their needs and dreams.