Stuart Little Critical Context
by E. B. White

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Critical Context

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

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.