Charlotte’s Web


E. B. White

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Charlotte’s Web: Chapter 20 Summary & Analysis

At the judges’ table, the fair managers announce that Wilbur is going to receive a “special award.” Wilbur trembles, feeling “happy but dizzy.” Together, the men help to unload Wilbur from his crate. Fern spots Henry Fussy and begs to go off and play with him—Mrs. Arable gives her forty cents and shoos her away from all the commotion.
As Wilbur’s moment of triumph nears, Fern—who has grown up considerably in just a few short months—is more interested in her human friends than she is in seeing Wilbur’s journey through. This reflects the inevitable march of time and nature of growing up.
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Back at the pen, Charlotte listens to the loudspeaker calmly and happily, determined to enjoy her “hour of triumph.” She hears the announcer present the Zuckermans’ “distinguished pig” and laud his role in “attracting many valuable tourists” to the area—and the fair especially. The judges tell the gathered fairgoers that Wilbur is indeed “some pig,” and celebrate how “terrific,” “radiant,” and indeed “humble” he is. The judges present Homer with a prize of twenty-five dollars, plus a special bronze medal. Wilbur, dizzied by all the praise, faints to the ground as the crowd erupts in cheers. Lurvy goes for a pail of water, but the cunning Templeton—who has come to see the spectacle—bites Wilbur on the tail, waking him from his “spell.” As the judge ties the medal around Wilbur’s neck, he blushes—the proud Homer Zuckerman feels that this is the “greatest moment” of his life.
In this passage, White takes a somewhat cynical view of Wilbur and Charlotte’s triumph. Everyone agrees that Wilbur is special—but his worth is only cemented due to the fact that he brought tourism and material wealth to the area. His worth is being measured in human terms, and the people all around him still have trouble understanding the inherent dignity of all animal life—regardless of their contribution to the world of human beings.
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