Charlotte’s Web

by

E. B. White

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Charlotte’s Web: Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The scene at the fair is jovial and bustling as the Zuckermans and the Arables arrive. The Ferris wheel is turning, and the smell of hamburgers fills the air. Mr. Arable and Mrs. Arable give the overexcited Fern and Avery some money to go off by themselves and play games, and the two children run off into the hubbub dreaming of rides, prizes, and treats. As Mr. and Mrs. Arable watch Fern and Avery get lost in the crowd, Mrs. Arable worries whether they’ll be all right, but Mr. Arable answers that “they’ve got to grow up some time.” 
Though Mrs. Arable has been concerned for much of the novel that Fern isn’t growing up fast enough, as her little girl heads out into the hustle and bustle of the fair, Mrs. Arable feels a twinge of anxiety and sadness that her daughter is indeed going to grow up sooner than later.
Themes
Growing Up Theme Icon
Crowds gather to watch as Wilbur is unloaded from his crate into his new pig pen. The pen is shady and grassy, and Wilbur is happy. Charlotte scurries up onto the roof of a nearby shed, but Templeton stays hidden in the crate, biding his time until evening. The Zuckermans and Arables go off to see the sights, leaving Charlotte and Wilbur alone. Charlotte tells Wilbur that she’s worried: there is a pig in the next pen over, and he’s “enormous”—much bigger than Wilbur. The indignant Wilbur begins to cry, and Charlotte goes off to get a closer look at the rival pig.
While Charlotte approaches the threat of a large neighboring pig with a clear, calm head, Wilbur is given to his usual drama and hysterics. He still has a lot of growing up to do, even though he’s already come so far.
Themes
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Charlotte drops into the pig’s pen and engages him in conversation. He says he has no name, but asks to be called “Uncle.” Uncle confirms that he is a spring pig, no older than Wilbur, and then Charlotte takes her leave of him. She returns to Wilbur and reports that though she doesn’t much like Uncle, “he’s going to be a hard pig to beat.” Charlotte, though, has a plan to help Wilbur win first prize anyway. Wilbur asks when she’ll spin a web, and Charlotte says she’ll get to it later in the afternoon—but admits that she’s feeling tired all the time lately, and is running out of energy. Wilbur takes a closer look at Charlotte and sees that she does indeed look “swollen and […] listless.”
Charlotte does not diminish the threat Uncle presents—but also doesn’t allow it to defeat her and Wilbur outright. Instead she doubles down and commits to seeing her plan through—even though she’s feeling tired and worn out, and seems to be nearing the end of her short life.
Themes
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
Throughout the day, as people mill about around Wilbur and Uncle’s pens, Wilbur overhears them making remarks about how large Uncle is and grows worried about his chances of winning. At noon, Fern and Avery return from their romp and the whole family sits down for a picnic. Wilbur overhears them discussing when the judges are due to make their decision on which pig will take first prize—Homer says the announcement won’t be made until tomorrow.
The atmosphere is happy but nerve-wracking as the first day of the fair speeds by. Wilbur truly believes that his fate hinges on whether or not he is chosen as the first-prize winner, and anxious to know whether all of Charlotte’s hard work on his behalf will pay off. 
Themes
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
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