As the long days of summer wind down, crickets all across the countryside sing a song mourning the season’s end. The animals wonder when the first frosts will arrive, and are sad summer has come to a close. Even humans, like Fern and Avery and Lurvy, hear the crickets’ song, and know the heady, hazy days of vacation will soon be over.
E.B. White looks at the unstoppable progression of the seasons through the eyes of his characters. The changing seasons suggest a poignant reminder of mortality.
Wilbur is the center of attention on the farm and has grown to be a large and beautiful pig. More and more people have come to see the “radiant” animal, and Wilbur has been trying to live up to the words Charlotte has woven for him in her webs. Wilbur tries to show off and look pretty for the audiences who come to see him, but remains modest and quiet in private. He still fears that he will be killed by men, and often dreams of people chasing him with knives—but in the daytime, surrounded by his friends, he comes to learn that “friendship is one of the most satisfying things in the world.” Wilbur is looking forward to the chance to “distinguish himself” at the county fair, and cement Homer’s commitment to keeping him alive.
Wilbur still has some fears about his fate, but has been feeling better about things on the whole both because of the attention he’s received from the humans who come to see him and from his barnyard friends, who support his cause and champion his worth at every turn.
One evening, Wilbur asks Charlotte if she’ll be coming along to the fair, but she’s unable to give him a straight answer. She replies that the fair comes at a “bad time for [her],” and that it will soon be “inconvenient” for her to leave the barn. Wilbur begs Charlotte to come along, but she protests that she has a lot of hard work coming up—she has to make an egg sac and fill it with eggs. Wilbur pleads with Charlotte, asking her to come to the fair and lay her eggs at the fairgrounds. Charlotte tells Wilbur that she can’t promise him anything—she has to be ready to lay her eggs at a moment’s notice—but urges him not to worry about things. As Wilbur happily goes about his evening, Charlotte worries, knowing that she won’t be able to help Wilbur much longer.
Charlotte has made sacrifice after sacrifice for Wilbur, and is beginning to feel worn out and deprived of her own time. Charlotte is the character most attuned to the rhythms of the natural world—and the banality of life and death—and knows that in the limited time she has left there is only so much she can do. She has to decide whether she will continue to devote her life to Wilbur, or take some much-needed time for herself.