In a very real sense, Charlotte's Web is set in E. B. White's barn in Maine. There, White encountered the web of the spider Aranea cavatica in the doorway, while carrying a bucket of slops to his own pig, and decided to write a story in which a spider saves a pig. In transforming his own barnyard into a fictional world, White gives the animals voices and personalities. He uses human characters as well, principally Fern and the Zuckermans.
The main source of the book's enduring ability to touch generations of readers is its sense of reality amid the obvious fantasy. For all the unreal things that happen, the barnyard is nevertheless a real barnyard, with all the sights, sounds, and smells that go with it. Here, Wilbur the pig sleeps in a manure pile, and Charlotte the spider kills flies and drinks their blood. Here, too, Charlotte devises a plan to keep Wilbur from being killed to provide food for the Zuckermans' table. White uses farmyard reality as an anchor and as a source of suspense. Which world will prevail—the fantasy world in which animals talk, or the human world in which animals must die to provide for people's needs?
(The entire section is 202 words.)