The story opens on Arable's farm where his sow has just given birth to a litter of piglets. When Mr. Arable discovers one is a runt, he wants to kill it. His 8 year old daughter, Fern, however, begs him to let the little pig live. He allows her to nurse the baby pig (literally feed it with a bottle) hoping to show her how much work keeping the pig will be.
Fern falls in love with the pig, of course, and names it Wilbur. By the end of Chapter 2, Mr. Arable realizes he cannot kill the pig but he still does not want to keep it either. His wife convinces him (and Fern) to call her uncle Homer Zuckerman and have him buy the pig. This way, the pig lives and Fern can walk up the road and visit any time she wants