'Charlotte's Web' Summary

A Fable About a Lovable Pig and a Clever Spider

Wilbur Pig Goes To The Fair In 'Charlotte's Web'
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A masterpiece of American children’s literature, Charlotte's Web is a fable by E.B. White about a runt of a pig named Wilbur, who is loved by a little girl and befriended by a very clever spider named Charlotte.

Summary of Charlotte's Web

Author E.B. White, a humorist and elegant essayist who wrote for the New Yorker and Esquire and edited The Elements of Style, wrote two other classic children’s books, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan. But Charlotte’s Web—an adventure story set largely in a barn, a story of friendship, a celebration of farm life, and much more—is arguably his finest work.

The story begins with Fern Arable rescuing the runt of a pig’s litter, Wilbur, from certain slaughter. Fern cares for the pig, who beats the odds and survives—which is something a theme for Wilbur. Mr. Arable, fearing his daughter is becoming too attached to an animal that is being bred to be butchered, sends Wilbur to the nearby farm of Fern’s uncle, Mr. Zuckerman.

Wilbur settles into his new home. At first, he’s lonely and misses Fern, but he settles in when he meets a spider named Charlotte and other animals, including Templeton, a scavenging rat. When Wilbur discovers his fate—pigs are raised to become bacon—Charlotte hatches a plan to help him.

She spins a web over Wilbur’s sty that reads: “Some Pig.” Mr. Zucker spots her work and thinks it is a miracle. Charlotte keeps spinning her words, deploying Templeton to bring back labels so she can copy words such as “Terrific” over Wilbur’s pigpen.

When Wilbur is taken to the country fair, Charlotte and Templeton go to continue their work, as Charlotte spins new messages. The results draw enormous crowds and Charlotte’s plan to save Wilbur’s life pays off.

At the close of the fair, however, Charlotte says goodbye to Wilbur. She is dying. But she entrusts her friend with a sack of eggs she has spun. Heartbroken, Wilbur takes the eggs back to the farm and sees that they hatch. Three of Charlotte’s “kids” stay with Wilbur, who lives happily with Charlotte’s descendants. 

Charlotte’s Web was awarded the Massachusetts Children's Book Award (1984), Newbery Honor Book (1953), Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal (1970), and Horn Book Fanfare.

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Lombardi, Esther. "'Charlotte's Web' Summary." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, thoughtco.com/charlottes-web-summary-739203. Lombardi, Esther. (2021, February 16). 'Charlotte's Web' Summary. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/charlottes-web-summary-739203 Lombardi, Esther. "'Charlotte's Web' Summary." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/charlottes-web-summary-739203 (accessed May 29, 2023).