Charlotte's Web Summary

Charlotte's Web is a novel by E.B. White about the friendship between Wilbur, a pig, and Charlotte, a spider.

  • Fern Arable rescues Wilbur, the runt of his litter, from being slaughtered.
  • Wilbur grows up and is sent to the Zuckerman farm, where he befriends a spider named Charlotte.
  • In order to save Wilbur from being slaughtered, Charlotte writes the words "some pig" in her web. Mr. Zuckerman takes Wilbur and Charlotte to the County Fair as an exhibit.
  • At the County Fair, Charlotte dies after laying eggs. When the eggs hatch, Charlotte's children emerge and drift away. Three of them stay behind with Wilbur.


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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1654

E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web is a widely read children’s story first published in 1952. It tells the story of a friendship between a farmyard pig named Wilbur and a grey spider named Charlotte. Wilbur is a spring pig, and he is distressed to learn that he is being fattened for slaughter in the fall. Charlotte resolves to save Wilbur. Through the friendship between Charlotte and Wilbur, White explores themes of death, loyalty, and friendship.

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Fern Arable, an eight-year-old farm girl, is an early riser. One morning, she wakes and sees her father, John, heading outside with an axe with the intention of slaughtering a runt pig. Fern objects and begs her father to let her nurse the piglet to strength and health. Fern’s father agrees, and she feeds the piglet from a milk bottle every day. Although he is just a runt, the pig grows well and Fern names him Wilbur. Before long, Fern nurses Wilbur to the point that he can eat food, though all of the other pigs in the litter have by now been sold. John would now like to sell Wilbur as well, and the Arables decide to sell Wilbur to Fern’s uncle, Homer Zuckerman. Fern will be able to visit Wilbur.

Wilbur’s life on the Zuckerman farm gets off to a rough start. He finds the days long and lonely. When he complains to himself about his loneliness, a goose informs Wilbur that there is a loose board in the barn and that he can escape. However, the second he is out of the fenced area, Mrs. Zuckerman sees that he has been let out. The Zuckermans catch Wilbur and return him to the barn. Actually, Wilbur is quite happy to return to the barn, where there is a lot of food and a place to sleep. Besides, Wilbur reflects, he is too young to go out alone into the world.

However, he still has no company in the barn. Resiliently, Wilbur works out a daily schedule, which revolves around eating and napping. Unfortunately, when it rains, his plans are ruined and Wilbur finds himself bored once again. The lamb refuses to play with Wilbur because pigs mean “less than nothing” to her, which Wilbur points out is an illogical statement because nothing can be less than nothing. Still, the lamb remains uninterested in his company. Templeton, a rat, also refuses to play because he is a “glutton, but not a merrymaker.” Wilbur is about to despair as he goes to bed that night, but an anonymous voice informs him that it will be his friend.

Wilbur tries to discover the identity of his potential friend. It is not the goose, who is busy keeping her eggs warm before they hatch. It is also not any of the sheep, who are irritated by Wilbur’s interruption. It turns out that Wilbur’s mysterious friend is a spider named Charlotte A. Cavatica. At first, Wilbur struggles to find Charlotte because she lives in a web at the entrance of the barn. Charlotte has an impressive vocabulary, impeccable manners, and is very pretty.

However, Charlotte is very different from Wilbur. She is near-sighted, so she cannot see Wilbur as clearly as he can see her. She is a predator and drinks the blood of her prey, which Wilbur finds alarming. However, Charlotte explains that when a fly is caught in her web, she bites it to put it to sleep so...

(The entire section contains 1654 words.)

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