Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White | ©

Charlotte’s Web is a classic of children’s literature published in 1952 by E. B. White and illustrated by Garth Williams. To capture the interest of the young ones, the author uses the imagery of animals. Charlotte, the spider, makes a strange discovery, Wilbur, his pig friend is being raised for slaughter. The grey spider then engages on a mission to save Wilbur from being slaughtered by the farmer. However, the task is not that simple. What would be the best way to save the life of the scared pig? They have to think out of the box and come up with the most creative plan.


The book begins with the encounter of a little girl named Fern, who watches her father walk out with an ax to the pigsty. He intends to kill a young pig which happens to be a runt. She asks, “Where is papa going with that ax?” The mother explains that the pig is small and weak and that it would never amount to anything. As such, the father has to kill it. The argument does not anchor well nor convinces Fern. She gets irritated that her father would kill an innocent pig just because it is smaller than the rest.

Fern immediately runs towards the father and pleads with him not to slaughter the pig on the mere fact that it is small. She puts herself in the position of the pig and asks the father if he would have killed her had she been born diminutive. The author’s narrations and the illustrations by Garth Williams paint a clear picture of this back-and-forth scramble of the ax between daughter and father. Eventually, the father-farmer gives in and hands over the pig to Fern to nurture.

She names it Wilbur and takes care of him as her pet. A month later, Wilbur gains weight and is sold to Fern’s uncle, Homer Zuckerman. The way the author tells the story makes you want to read until the end. He uses direct conversations between the animals making the novel more interesting. The meticulous choice of words ensures the story progresses with a set of lessons.

Making Wilbur famous

In the new home, Wilbur is lonely and yearns for companionship, which is offered by the spider Charlotte. Wilbur soon discovers that the farmer is raising it for slaughter and Charlotte hatches a plan to save him. Charlotte’s plan to save Wilbur involves making the scared pig famous. She reasons that the farmer would not kill a famous pig. As such, she weaves words in praise of Wilbur, making the Zuckerman barn a tourist attraction. She even helps Wilbur win an award at the fairgrounds which secures the pig’s place at the Zuckerman’s home.

Later in the novel, Charlotte part ways with Wilbur. However, she allows him to take her egg sac from which new young spiders are hatched. These spiders and subsequent generations give Wilbur the companionship he had always wanted.

The value of friendship

In Charlotte’s Web theme of friendship is probably the most important one. The pig is befriended by Charlotte, who uses her web to write messages about the pig and make him famous. She does all of these intending to convince the farmer not to slaughter him. Charlotte eventually succeeds when Wilbur wins an award at the fairgrounds and becomes a tourist attraction.

The author devotes a considerable part of the book to address the issue of friendship, a brilliant idea for a children’s book. Children need to grow up knowing the value of friendship. They need to learn that they can trust their friends and that they have a lot to gain from genuine friendships. Thus, the author does not give a vivid description of the animals that sidelined Wilbur. With friends, there will be ups and downs, times with disagreement, and even risk for separation. But true friendship entails loyalty and being ready to make sacrifices for one another. Charlotte and Wilbur do not have it smooth always. There are cases when Wilbur lacks patience, and Charlotte becomes quite self-involved.

Wilbur’s lack of patience is well-compensated for by his buddy, Charlotte. She is naturally patient because she knows that to catch a fly, she has to be patient. She also understands that if she gives Wilbur’s dilemma more time and thought, a solution would eventually popup. Indeed it does. Despite their differences in character, these associates watch out for each other, which demonstrates that friendship is a powerful tool and should never be left to fade off. Even when Charlotte leaves, she gives Wilbur an egg nest that hatches her children to ensure the longevity of their friendship.


Children need to learn perseverance. They need to learn to persist despite difficulties or delayed success. Try, and try again, persevere and continue putting in the best effort in spite of regular disappointment. A lesson the author brings out well in this book. Consider all the efforts Charlotte puts into weaving words to Zuckerman. This hard work eventually pays off when Wilbur becomes famous, and the possibility of slaughter gets squashed. Perseverance can incur numerous merits.

Impact of language and communication

It is quite interesting to find that a children’s classic book has a way of reinforcing the need to mind your language and communication. Those in the business world can apply that lesson. Whether you are running a social media campaign or an advert in the newspaper or magazine, your choice of words is a mandatory consideration. People will be convinced to buy from you based on how the message is packaged.

Look at what Charlotte does. She packages her message in a web, praising Wilbur for his kindness and good deeds. How often do you come across words in the web? Rarely, I guess. The point here is that you must be unique in your message, and you will, without doubt, capture your audience’s attention. Your communication must be positive. E.B. White must have foreseen the essence of social media messages long before its advent.


Charlotte’s Web is undoubtedly a good book. It does not have technical views that can quickly distract a child’s attention. It also features several illustrations to support the author’s descriptions. Reading it as an adult is straightforward. However, it is best to ensure that your child is maturely ready for it lest they will sleep throughout the reading session, which might be ok if it’s bedtime.

All in all, at one point, they will encounter the book in school. Maybe you can give them an early start so that they would have an easy time in class readings. Furthermore, the lessons contained within it are some of the most valuable in life.


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