Wilbur returns home to the barn, but his homecoming is a strange and bittersweet one. He places the egg sac in a safe corner, and then greets the geese and the sheep. Homer hangs Wilbur’s medal on a nail over the pigpen for all to see.
Wilbur’s safety has been secured, but he has lost his best friend. Charlotte died, but Wilbur will live—her sacrifice has made his continued existence possible.
As the days and weeks go by, Wilbur continues to grow larger in size, but doesn’t worry that Homer will kill him for meat—he knows he is safe. Though Wilbur is happy and secure, he misses Charlotte badly, and spends many hours staring at the wispy remnants of her web over the barn door. Autumn turns to winter, and just before Christmas, Wilbur sees snow for the first time. He plays briefly in the snow with Fern and Avery, but Fern is still more interested in her memories of the fair, the Ferris wheel, and Henry Fussy than her old friends.
All of the characters are growing up in their own ways. Wilbur has become wiser and less nervous, while Fern and Avery have mostly left behind their preoccupation with the natural world and moved more firmly into the concerns of the human one.
All winter, Templeton gorges himself daily on Wilbur’s food, and grows huge and fat. The old sheep chastises him for his greedy—and dangerous—eating habits, but the rat insists the “satisfaction” he gets from eating is more important to him than a long life. All winter, Wilbur guards the egg sac as if it were full of his own children, and even keeps it warm on frigid nights. One evening, at the sound of frogs in the field, the old sheep declares that spring is near. As the snows melt and the fields come back to life, the goose lays nine new eggs and the last threads of Charlotte’s web float away.
As winter turns to spring, everything is reborn, and the natural world is restored to its glory. Though Charlotte’s web blows away at last, new life comes to the farm, and the endless cycle of death and rebirth continues on.
One morning, Wilbur is amazed to see tiny spiders crawling out of the egg sac. They are grey and look just, Wilbur thinks, like Charlotte. He greets the spiders as they emerge in hundreds from the sac, and introduces himself as a good friend of their mother’s. They wave at him, but don’t say anything in return. For several days and nights they move silently around the barn, growing slowly. One morning, when Homer opens a door on the north side of the barn, a draft comes in. The air is warm and fragrant, and slowly, one by one, all of Charlotte’s children launch threads of silk and float off into the air, waving goodbye as they go. Wilbur is distressed and calls for the children to come back, but they insist that it is time for them to go “out into the world to make webs for [them]selves.”
Just as Fern and Avery have grown up and moved on from the world of their childhood, so too are Charlotte’s children participants in the endless circle of birth, maturation, and death. They go off to seek their own lives and assert their independence, and though their departure pains Wilbur, they know it is necessary—their instincts guide them as their lives begin in earnest.
Wilbur is miserable as he watches all of the spiders float away, and cries himself to sleep during his midday nap. That afternoon, though, when he awakes, he hears a small voice cry out: “Salutations!” Two more voices greet Wilbur, and tell him that they like this place—and they like Wilbur, too. Wilbur looks up at the barn door to see that three of Charlotte’s daughters have woven brand-new webs of their own. Wilbur is overjoyed that the spiders have chosen to stay and live in the barn with him.
Wilbur is the same dramatic pig he always has been, and is just as hungry for friendship and attention as ever. When Charlotte’s daughters reveal themselves to him, he is delighted and comforted. Their presence—and their new webs—signify the novel’s theme of mortality and rebirth, and show that even in the face of loss and despair, renewal is always possible.
The spiders name themselves Joy, Aranea, and Nellie with Wilbur’s help. Wilbur’s heart is full, and he tells all three of them how devoted he was to their mother, and how wonderful Charlotte was. He pledges his friendship “forever and ever” to the three tiny spiders, and they pledge theirs in return.
Wilbur cannot repay Charlotte for all she’s given him—but he can pledge his devotion to her daughters, and help to make their lives happy and full.
As the months and years go by, Wilbur is always surrounded by friends. Though Fern does not come to the barn so much anymore, Charlotte’s children—and their children, and their children’s children—always decorate the barn door. Most of them float away, but two or three always stay and keep Wilbur company. Homer takes great care of Wilbur for the rest of his life, and they both continue to entertain admirers over the years. Wilbur is often overcome by his wonderful home and “the glory of everything” about it. He never forgets Charlotte, and though he loves her descendants fiercely, none of them “ever quite [take] her place in his heart.”
As Wilbur’s life goes on, he grows more and more mature and appreciative of the sacrifice his friend Charlotte made for him. Her efforts secured his safety, and even though she is gone, she remains alive in his heart and mind. She has helped him to be grateful for the beauty of the world around him, and has taught him what it means to be a good friend—as a result, Wilbur is a better pig and a better friend to all in need of friendship and attention.