Charlotte's Web

by E. B. White

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Topics for Discussion

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1. In what way does White adapt the animals' fictional personalities to the way those animals act in real life?

2. The threat of death is a very serious part of everyone's life. Is it surprising to find that threat central to such a charming story as this?

3. When the message "some pig" appears in Charlotte's web, everyone except Mrs. Zuckerman is immediately impressed with Wilbur, not Charlotte. What might White be trying to say about human nature?

4. What do you think about the doctor's lack of concern over Fern's apparent delusions about animals and spiders talking?

5. A fable is a simple narrative in which talking animals are used to represent human characteristics. Usually, the fable ends with an explicit moral, or lesson. What moral, or morals, might be drawn from Charlotte's Web?

6. Part of White's reason for writing this novel was his own sense of the unfairness of raising an animal simply to kill it for food later. How does that basic sense of barnyard injustice help you to understand the book?

7. Templeton the rat acts solely out of self-interest, yet he is in many ways the hero of the story, next to Charlotte. How does Templeton's role in the book contribute to the impression that the story is real?

8. Think about the words Charlotte chooses to write in her web. What are the reasons she gives for choosing those words? Why are they particularly appropriate for Wilbur?

9. In the early drafts of Charlotte's Web, Fern and the other humans played a much smaller role. In fact, the book began with Wilbur already living in Zuckerman's barn, and Fern did not appear until several chapters had passed. Why did White decide to begin the book with Fern's saving Wilbur from her father's ax? What is Fern's role in the story?

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