In the morning, as the birds begin to sing, Wilbur wakes up and looks around for Charlotte. When he spots her, he sees that she looks small and wan—beside her, though is a “curious object” which looks a lot like “cotton candy.” When Wilbur asks Charlotte what the object is, she says it’s her “magnum opus”—her greatest work. It is an egg sac full of five hundred and fourteen eggs. Wilbur compliments Charlotte’s hard work and craftsmanship, and says he’s looking forward to meeting all her children. Charlotte wistfully tells him they won’t “show up” until the spring. When Wilbur asks Charlotte what’s troubling her, she tells him not to pay attention to her—she’s just feeling sad because she “won’t ever see her children.”
Though Charlotte has spent most of the novel working on Wilbur’s behalf, in laying the egg sac, she has at last done something for herself—and yet the act seems born out of instinct, and its completion appears to have depleted Charlotte’s energy. She knows she is not long for the world, and though nature dictates she must perpetuate her species, she is feeling weary and saddened about her role in the circle of life in this moment.
Charlotte explains to Wilbur that she is “slowing up” and “feeling her age”—but she doesn’t want him to worry about her, as today is his special day. She urges him to take a look at the web, and as Wilbur peers at it, he thinks it’s her most beautiful one yet, dazzling in the morning dew. As Wilbur admires the web, a bloated Templeton drags himself across the yard of the pen, returned from a night of feasting. He informs Wilbur that on his way back in he saw a blue ribbon hanging on Uncle’s pen, and cruelly states that he wouldn’t be surprised if, in the wake of Wilbur’s loss, “Zuckerman changes his mind” about killing Wilbur. Charlotte urges the worried Wilbur to pay Templeton no mind.
This passage represents one of the novel’s most intense moments of tension and worry. Charlotte is in decline, and Wilbur is concerned that Charlotte’s work has all been for nothing in the end—Uncle has won, and Wilbur’s worth and glory perhaps won’t be recognized.
A little later, the Arables and Zuckermans arrive at the fairgrounds. Fern leaps out of the truck and points out the web, which has been woven to include the word “humble.” Everyone “rejoice[s]” at “the miracle of the web,” and Wilbur tries to look as humble as possible. As Lurvy feeds Wilbur, though, Avery points out the blue tag on Uncle’s pen. The family is devastated, and Mrs. Arable even starts crying. Homer, though, remains cheerful as ever, and gives Wilbur yet another buttermilk bath. As he bathes the pig, fairgoers stop to look at Wilbur and comment on how clean and shiny he is. As the day goes by, more and more people express admiration for the “humble” Wilbur, even though Uncle is the bigger pig.
Even though Uncle has won the top prize, Homer does not love Wilbur any less or show any disappointment in him. Charlotte’s plan has worked—in pointing out the different ways in which Wilbur is special and worthy, she has shown his owners that he is worth of dignity, respect, and care.
At the end of the morning, a voice on the loudspeaker calls Homer Zuckerman and his “famous pig” to the judges’ booth, where a “special announcement” will soon be made. The Arables and the Zuckermans are so excited they can hardly move, but as reality settles in, they scramble and struggle to get Wilbur ready to face the judges. In the midst of all the commotion around Wilbur, though, a wistful Fern stares up at the Ferris wheel, wishing she were “in the topmost car with Henry Fussy at her side.”
Even as the excitement regarding Wilbur mounts to a fever pitch, Fern finds herself feeling detached from the events of the animal world and more focused on her new friends in the human one. Just as Dr. Dorian predicted, she is growing up in her own time.