Charlotte’s Web


E. B. White

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Charlotte’s Web: Chapter 13 Summary & Analysis

Charlotte works hard on her web all through the night while the other barn animals sleep all around her. The process is long and boring, and Charlotte talks to herself “as though to cheer herself on” as she spells out the long word “terrific.”
Charlotte undertook her last web with unreserved gusto. This web, though, poses a greater challenge, and she finds herself feeling weary, tired, and in need of motivation.
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The next morning, when Lurvy arrives to bring Wilbur his breakfast, he is shocked to see Wilbur standing under the web, which now spells out “TERRIFIC.” He calls Edith and Homer to show them the new “miracle,” and then the Zuckermans call the Arables to tell them the news. Word of the new web spreads throughout town. That afternoon, Homer is overcome by what a “wonderful pig” Wilbur is, and instructs Lurvy to start using straw rather than manure for Wilbur’s bedding. He also tells Lurvy that he wants him to build a crate for Wilbur, and to paint he words “Zuckerman’s Famous Pig” on the side of it—Homer has decided to take Wilbur to the county fair in September.
Charlotte’s plan is working in earnest now. Wilbur is not just a miraculous attraction any longer—his owners are beginning to recognize his worth outside of his appeal to others, and see that he really is as “terrific” as Charlotte is urging them to believe he is.
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Templeton returns from the dump with some advertisements for Charlotte to look at. The words on the ads include “crunchy”—an unsuitable word that Charlotte worries would only remind the Zuckermans of bacon—and “pre-shrunk.” Templeton goes to fetch some soap flakes from the woodshed—their box has writing on it. The box advertises “new radiant action,” and Charlotte asks Wilbur to show off some radiant action. After his romp, Wilbur does indeed feel radiant.
This passage shows that Charlotte is truly determined to select the perfect words for Wilbur. She doesn’t want to tell the Zuckermans, through her webs, that he’s anything other than what he is—she wants to know if he really can be radiant, and thus worthy of being broadcasted as such.
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As Wilbur settles in to sleep, he asks Charlotte to tell him a story. She begins telling him about a cousin of hers who once caught a fish in his web by weaving it across a river. The story is so great that Wilbur begs for another, and Charlotte tells him about another of her cousins: an “aeronaut” and “balloonist” who traveled the world by spinning out some thread and letting the wind pick it up and carry her all over. Charlotte then sings Wilbur a lullaby whose words urge him to sleep and ease his worries—things are going to be okay.
Charlotte’s fantastical stories about her family’s displays of intrepidness, bravery, and innovation show that Charlotte isn’t the only spider who’s tested the limits of what spiders can do—and how animals can make their way in the world.
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