E.B. White's "Charlotte's Web"

A classic story that deals with of the nature of friendship and loss

Charlotte's Web Book


First published on October 15, 1952, "Charlotte's Web" is a popular children's book written by acclaimed American author E.B. White and illustrated by Garth Williams that deals with themes of the nature of friendship, loss, fate, acceptance, and renewal. The story centers on a pig named Wilbur and the unlikely but deep friendship he shares with an uncommonly talented spider named Charlotte.

Dodging Destiny

While it's normal in the course of events on a farm for pigs to be slaughtered when they reach a certain size and age, cunning Charlotte hatches a scheme to keep Wilbur from his fate by weaving words into her web to create what amounts to a one-pig publicity campaign. By elevating Wilbur to celebrity status, Charlotte ultimately saves him from his date with the butcher's knife.

The ending of the "Charlotte's Web" is bittersweet, however, because while Wilbur survives, Charlotte does not. But even Charlotte's passing is a lesson—for Wilbur and those reading his story—about the nature of death and renewal.

The Circle of Life

Death and destiny are both themes that the book explores. While Charlotte is willing to help Wilbur dodge a destiny that's being imposed on him by outside forces beyond his control, she also understands that some fates are inevitable: All living creatures are born, have a life cycle, and die. Charlotte accepts her role in this natural circle without remorse.

Charlotte helps Wilbur realize that immortality is not about living forever, but rather, ensuring that new generations will follow. She also helps him understand that love and friendship are not finite in quantity. While we may lose a friend, new friendships can come along, not as replacements for what we've lost, but as blessings to build on what we've learned.

Quotes From "Charlotte's Web"

"Wilbur didn't know what to do or which way to run. It seemed as though everybody was after him. 'If this is what it's like to be free,' he thought, 'I believe I'd rather be penned up in my own yard.'"
"Wilbur didn't want food, he wanted love."
"I am a glutton but not a merrymaker."
"[W]hen your stomach is empty and your mind is full, it's always hard to sleep."
"It's true, and I have to say what's true."
"'Well,' he thought, 'I've got a new friend, all right. But what a gamble friendship is! Charlotte is fierce, brutal, scheming, bloodthirsty—everything I don't like. How can I learn to like her, even though she is pretty and, of course, clever?'"
"A rat is a rat."
"There's a regular conspiracy around here to kill you at Christmastime."
"If I can fool a bug... I can surely fool a man. People are not as smart as bugs."
"It seems to me you're a little off. It seems to me we have no ordinary spider."
"But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle."
"I don't understand it, and I don't like what I don't understand."
"It is quite possible that an animal has spoken to me and that I didn't catch the remark because I wasn't paying attention."
"No one was with her when she died."
"She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both."
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Your Citation
Lombardi, Esther. "E.B. White's "Charlotte's Web"." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/charlottes-web-quotes-739202. Lombardi, Esther. (2023, April 5). E.B. White's "Charlotte's Web". Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/charlottes-web-quotes-739202 Lombardi, Esther. "E.B. White's "Charlotte's Web"." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/charlottes-web-quotes-739202 (accessed May 30, 2023).