Charlotte’s Web, by American writer
(E) B. White, is a classic children’s novel about a pig named Wilbur and his friendship with a barn spider named Charlotte. It was listed by Publisher’s Weekly as the top-selling children’s paperback of all time in the year 2000.
When a little girl, Fern Arable, learns that her father intends to kill a baby piglet because it is the runt of the litter, she begs him to spare the piglet’s life. Mr. Arable finally relents and gives Fern the responsibility of raising the piglet, hoping this will show Fern “how much trouble a pig can be.”
Fern nurses the piglet, which she names Wilbur, for several weeks. Once Wilbur is old enough, Mr. Arable makes Fern sell Wilbur to her uncle. At Zuckerman’s farm, Wilbur becomes lonely for friendship but none of the farm animals will play with him. Eventually, Charlotte, a large gray spider whose web stretches above the door to Wilbur’s pigpen, extends the hand of friendship. Wilbur is at first horrified by the bloodthirsty nature of the spider, but eventually the two become dear friends.
By chance, Wilbur discovers that he will soon be killed for Christmas dinner. Charlotte promises she will devise a plan to save his life, and after several days an idea comes to her. Charlotte begins weaving praise of Wilbur into her web, including “Some Pig!” and “TERRIFIC,” attracting publicity among Zuckerman’s neighbors. Mr. Zuckerman becomes so preoccupied with the miracles of his famous pig he decides to enter Wilbur in a competition at the County Fair. With Charlotte’s assistance, Wilbur goes to the fair and wins Mr. Zuckerman top prize, ensuring that Wilbur will not go to slaughter.
Charlotte, however, has reached the end of her natural lifespan, and after laying her eggs, she becomes too weak to go on. With help from a rat, Wilbur salvages Charlotte’s eggs and transports them back to Zuckerman’s barn. When Charlotte’s eggs eventually hatch the following spring, most of the baby spiders depart to build webs of their own elsewhere. Three of Charlotte’s daughters, however, stay behind at Zuckerman’s barn as friends to Wilbur.