Review of Charlotte’s Web ‘Charlotte’s Web’ by E.
B. White was first published by Hamish Hamilton in 1952.It is a classic children’s novel which won the 1970 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award (Amazon).It is beautifully written with a great mix of seriousness, excitement and comedy.Even though this book is now over fifty years old it is still a wonderful book for children as its main themes of friendship and hope will always be current.
The story is about Wilbur, a runty farm yard pig, who is saved from death by Mr Arable’s eight year old daughter, Fern.Fern cares for and loves Wilbur as if he is a pet but eventually has to ironically send him to suffer another fate of death on Mr. Zukerman’s farm.Fern remains a main character who is considered to be a little bit crazy as she spends all her spare time sitting in the barn at Zukerman’s and talking to the animals but, the main plot follows the exploits of Charlotte A. Cavatica, a large grey spider, to prevent Wilbur becoming Christmas dinner.Charlotte becomes Wilbur’s best friend when Fern stops spending so much time at the barn and, through writing messages on her web manages to save his life too.The main theme in ‘Charlotte’s Web’ is friendship.
First we see the friendship of Fern and Wilbur, then the strong bond between Wilbur and Charlotte that never waivers from the day they meet.Charlotte becomes Wilbur’s friend when nobody else on the farm will be.She is the heroin in the story, working hard to save her friend from his fate but, ironically dying after she has achieved this.Wilbur repays Charlotte by taking her nest of eggs back to the barn when she is dying so that he can look after her children and he is repaid by every year having a new spider friend in the barn.Charlotte death is a sad event in the story but as it happens there is new life on the farm such as her spiders, lambs and goslings which, symbolises hope.
As although Wilbur’s best friend has died she has not only saved his life but has made new life.Fern also moves on from spending all her time at the farm and listening to the animals, to becoming more interested in boys.‘Charlotte’s Web’ is therefore also a story about how life changes and it is nothing to fear as there is always hope.
Trust as both Charlotte and Wilbur have that for each other till the very end, the passing of time and, life and death.Although ‘Charlotte’s web’ is mainly a book of fantasy, as animals talking and spiders writing in a webs don’t really exist, White researched his book on his own farm in Maine (Hartman, 2005) and, as a result both the setting of the farm barn and the habits of the animals come across as very realistic.For example, Wilbur is very emotional but is still likes to roll around in the mud and, Charlottes is intelligent but still traps flies in her web and sucks their blood.The language is quite descriptive making it easy for the children to understand what is happening but is very accessible to key stage two children.
For instance, some of Charlotte’s more tricky words are defined by Wilbur asking for it: ‘”What does “gullible” mean?”’ ‘”Easy to fool,’ said Charlotte.’ (page 89)As it is written in the third person we are able to see what is happening at other places in the farm which helps to build the atmosphere and understanding of the themes and, as it has been written through the eyes of children and animals its themes are put simply.The only change in the structure of the text is when the messages in the web are shown as these as depicted in capitals, e.g.
‘SOME PIG’ (page 103) and ‘TERRIFIC’ (page 120).This makes them jump out at the reader, symbolising the significance of what Charlotte has achieved and the reaction they receive and, the love that both she and Fern have for Wilbur.There are only a small number of illustrations but these add character to the story.It is very well written books with one of the best first lines in any book I have ever read:“’Where’s Papa going with that axe?’” (page 1)It gives very realistic images of what is going to occur and grabs the readers’ interest immediately.This is the first threat of death for Wilbur but, interest is maintained as the threat continues and Wilbur’s naivety and innocent make him a character that you want to see saved.As well as the main characters the other characters also help to maintain interest.Comedy comes from the geese and the rat, Templeton.Templeton is a greedy hoarder who the other animals distrust and,.