Title: Charlotte’s Web
Author: E.B. White
Year of Publication: 1952
Format: Audio Book
Length: 3 hours and 34 minutes
First Line: “Where’s Papa going with that ax?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.
Summary: This is the story of a girl named Fern who saves the life of a very small and very lucky pig named Wilbur. It is also the story of Charlotte A. Cavatica, the beautiful, resourceful gray spider who lives with Wilbur in the barn and who becomes his best friend. Surrounded by his barnyard pals and cheered by Fern’s visits, Wilbur enjoys each new day–until the old sheep tells him what farmers do to pigs at Christmas.
Review: I as many others, grew up with the animated cartoon version of Charlotte’s Web. Personally, I had a love/hate for it. I’d watch the movie until the last five minutes when Charlotte dies (ejecting the VHS tape… throwback for you guys). As a child I loved Charlotte, and thought it was a joke that you’re supposed to not feel so bad after she dies because her children are born… and then leave Wilbur.
No more about my early 90s childhood memories, yes? What I was trying to say was that I grew up with Charlotte’s Web, but never read the book, until three years ago when I was 22. I was expecting to have the same feelings I did as a child and apparently… I was wrong…ish.
I had the pleasure of reading/listening to the audio book of Charlotte’s Web which was read by the author, E.B. White. That was pretty amazing in itself. If you can get a hold of a copy I highly suggest that you listen to that version of the audio book.
Usually, I am not one to look for metaphors, themes, etc in books. In fact I usually detest them (thanks English class). But this book had themes screaming from it.
• Life, the universe and everything… 42 (HHGTTG). When Wilbur was moved to Fern’s uncle’s barn, Fern visited him occasionally. On a day when she did not visit, Wilbur wondered why he should be alive, and what was the meaning of life and the poignant fact that he’s only two months old, so if he was this depressed at two months then what’s the point of living? That’s huge. It’s a kids book and that’s so deep. Especially when I felt that White’s not trying to hide Wilbur’s depression and thoughts at all.
• Wizard’s First Rule: People are stupid (Sword of Truth/Legend of the Seeker). Charlotte did not view humans as… smart. She repeatedly said they are gullible, stupid, etc. It was on this point that she gets the idea to spin the words in her webs about Wilbur. All of the humans blatantly ignore that spider spun words into a web. All of the humans looked past that and believed the miracle to be what the words said, ‘Some Pig’, meaning Wilbur, therefore Wilbur was a miracle. Only one character brings up the point about the words being a miracle, but she is dismissed. And of course this happens two more times and hundreds of people see the words in the web and all believe that the pig is the miracle and not the spider. If this isn’t a view of society (well the human mind), than I don’t know what is.
• Growing Up (Now I feel bad that I didn’t get a phrase from a book for this one). This one was focused on Fern. Throughout the novel, her mother was worried about Fern’s mental stability since she spent all of her days in the barn, claiming the animals could talk, and not with boys or playing with other children. Fern’s mother, Mrs. Arable, even went as far as to consult with a therapist about Fern, who said not to worry. Of course, when the first of two days of the Fair comes, Fern took a ride with a boy named Henry Fussy on the ferries wheel. That day, the first day, she divided her attention between Wilbur and Henry equally. The second day of the Fair however, the day that Wilbur won his prize, Fern was only concerned on one thing: Henry Fussy. She literally did not care about her family’s excitement that Wilbur had been called up to receive a medal. She was begging her mother for money to ride the Ferris wheel with Henry Fussy again (by the way, he was always referred to as ‘Henry Fussy’ not just ‘Henry’). The aftermath of the fair, Fern spent less and less time at the barn, thinking of it as childish and more time thinking of her time on the Ferris wheel with Henry Fussy (her brother made fun of her since the summer had long past). It bugged me a little, because Fern was only eight years old in this novel. She’s not old enough to think ‘oh this is too childish, I need to think about boys‘. I don’t know, maybe because it also infuriated me that she just dropped Wilbur so fast, when in the start of the novel she’d do anything for him. And all because of Henry Fussy. (Dear E.B. White, What kind of a last name for a character let alone a small boy, was ‘Fussy’? Sincerely, Me).
In the 70s cartoon, I thought just about every character was annoying. I hated Wilbur because he whined too much and cried all the time. I hated Templeton because he was the bad guy. Didn’t really like the humans or the animals either because they were berks. The only thing I liked was Charlotte and they killed her. So… imagine my surprise with the novel. I didn’t really have a problem with any of the characters in this novel. The only one that bugged me was Fern’s older brother, Avery, but even he kind of redeemed himself when Wilbur received his prize at the Fair and he was present and serious for a change (unlike Fern, for once she was absent and immature). I think it’s rare that a book (or anything really) has every single character be likeable.
(By the way, apparently, E.B. White hated the 1970s cartoon of Charlotte’s Web.)
I honestly found this book very enjoyable.
Worst part: That it’s so depressing.
Best part: There’s really no characters you hate. That’s such a change.
Recommend For: Any child or anyone who is a child at heart.
Other Books by This Author: Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan