Charlotte’s Web

by

E. B. White

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Charlotte’s Web can help.

Charlotte Character Analysis

Charlotte A. Cavatica, one of the novel’s protagonists, is a common barn spider with a number of extraordinary gifts. Sensitive, practical, maternal, and wise, Charlotte introduces herself to Wilbur the pig shortly after he arrives at the Zuckermans’ farm and becomes his guide and ally as he adjusts to his new life there. She teaches Wilbur many lessons about patience, keeping calm, and learning to be himself. When Charlotte and the others get word that the Zuckermans are planning to slaughter Wilbur at Christmastime, Charlotte begins devising a plan to save Wilbur’s life. Eventually, Charlotte comes up with the idea to play a trick on the “gullible” humans by using her webs to communicate with them—she threads the words “some pig” into her web, shocking the Zuckermans and prompting them to announce that a “miracle” has occurred on their farm. As Charlotte creates more and more webs (which announce Wilbur as a “terrific” and “humble” pig,) she works quickly, knowing deep down that she doesn’t “have much time” left—a spider’s life span is short, and even as Charlotte dedicates her energies to saving Wilbur, she knows that it will soon be time for her to lay some eggs in a sac and then die. The tragic but touching friendship between Charlotte and Wilbur is one in which Charlotte sacrifices her time and energy to save Wilbur, despite knowing that the effort may be the defining one of her life. Through Charlotte and Wilbur’s journeys, E.B. White points out the dignity and importance of all life, both human and animal, and shows what a transformative and vital force true friendship can be.

Charlotte Quotes in Charlotte’s Web

The Charlotte’s Web quotes below are all either spoken by Charlotte or refer to Charlotte . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the HarperCollins edition of Charlotte’s Web published in 1952.
Chapter 5 Quotes

“You mean you eat flies?” gasped Wilbur.

“Certainly. […] I have to live, don’t I? […] Of course, I don’t really eat them. I drink them—drink their blood. I love blood,” said Charlotte, and her pleasant, thin voice grew even thinner and more pleasant.

“Don’t say that!” groaned Wilbur. “Please don’t say things like that!”

“Why not? It’s true, and I have to say what is true. I am not entirely happy about my diet of flies and bugs, but it’s the way I’m made. A spider has to pick up a living somehow or other, and I happen to be a trapper. I just naturally build a web and trap flies and other in sects. My mother was a trapper before me. Her mother was a trapper before her. All our family have been trappers. Way back for thousands and thousands of years we spiders have been laying for flies and bugs.”

“It’s a miserable inheritance,” said Wilbur, gloomily. He was sad because his new friend was so bloodthirsty.

[…]

“Well, you can’t talk,” said Charlotte. “You have your meals brought to you in a pail. Nobody feeds me. I have to get my own living. I live by my wits. I have to be sharp and clever, lest I go hungry. I have to think things out, catch what I can, take what comes. And it just so happens, my friend, that what comes is flies and insects and bugs. And furthermore,” said Charlotte, shaking one of her legs, “do you realize that if I didn’t catch bugs and eat them, bugs would increase and multiply and get so numerous that they’d destroy the earth, wipe out everything?”

“Really?” said Wilbur. “I wouldn’t want that to happen. Perhaps your web is a good thing after all.”

Related Characters: Wilbur (speaker), Charlotte (speaker)
Related Symbols: Charlotte’s Web
Page Number: 39-40
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

Wilbur burst into tears. “I don’t want to die,” he moaned. “I want to stay alive, right here in my comfortable manure pile with all my friends. I want to breathe the beautiful air and lie in the beautiful sun.”

“You’re certainly making a beautiful noise,” snapped the old sheep.

“I don’t want to die!” screamed Wilbur, throwing himself to the ground.

“You shall not die,” said Charlotte, briskly.

“What? Really?” cried Wilbur. “Who’s going to save me?”

“I am,” said Charlotte.

“How?” asked Wilbur.

“That remains to be seen. But I am going to save you, and I want you to quiet down immediately. You’re carrying on in a childish way. Stop your crying! I can’t stand hysterics.”

Related Characters: Wilbur (speaker), Charlotte (speaker), The Old Sheep (speaker)
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

“Hey, look at that big spider!” [Avery] said. “It’s tremenjus.”

“Leave it alone!” commanded Fern. “You’ve got a frog—isn’t that enough?”

“That’s a fine spider and I’m going to capture it,” said Avery. He took the cover off the candy box. Then he picked up a stick. “I’m going to knock that ol’ spider into this box,” he said.

Wilbur’s heart almost stopped when he saw what was going on. This might be the end of Charlotte if the boy succeeded in catching her.

“You stop it, Avery!” cried Fern.

Avery put one leg over the fence of the pigpen. He was just about to raise his stick to hit Charlotte when he lost his balance. He swayed and toppled and landed on the edge of Wilbur’s trough. The trough tipped up and then came down with a slap. The goose egg was right underneath. There was a dull explosion as the egg broke, and then a horrible smell.

Related Characters: Fern Arable (speaker), Avery Arable (speaker), Wilbur, Charlotte
Related Symbols: Charlotte’s Web
Page Number: 71-72
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

There, in the center of the web, neatly woven in block letters, was a message. It said: SOME PIG!

Lurvy felt weak. He brushed his hand across his eyes and stared harder at Charlotte’s web. “I’m seeing things,” he whispered. He dropped to his knees and uttered a short prayer. Then, forgetting all about Wilbur’s breakfast, he walked back to the house and called Mr. Zuckerman.

“I think you’d better come down to the pigpen,” he said.

[…]

Zuckerman stared at the writing on the web. Then he murmured the words “Some Pig.” Then he looked at Lurvy. Then they both began to tremble. Charlotte, sleepy after her night’s exertions, smiled as she watched.

Wilbur came and stood directly under the web.

“Some pig!” muttered Lurvy in a low voice.

“Some pig!” whispered Mr. Zuckerman.

Related Characters: Homer Zuckerman (speaker), Lurvy (speaker), Wilbur, Charlotte
Related Symbols: Charlotte’s Web
Page Number: 77-79
Explanation and Analysis:

On Sunday the church was full. The minister explained the miracle. He said that the words on the spider’s web proved that human beings must always be on the watch for the coming of wonders.

All in all, the Zuckermans’ pigpen was the center of attraction. Fern was happy, for she felt that Charlotte’s trick was working and that Wilbur’s life would be saved. But she found that the barn was not nearly as pleasant—too many people. She liked it better when she could be all alone with her friends the animals.

Related Characters: Wilbur, Charlotte , Fern Arable
Related Symbols: Charlotte’s Web
Page Number: 84-85
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

“Run around!” commanded Charlotte. “I want to see you in action, to see if you are radiant.”

Wilbur raced to the end of his yard.

“Now back again, faster!” said Charlotte.

Wilbur galloped back. His skin shone. His tail had a fine, tight curl in it.

“Jump into the air!” cried Charlotte.

Wilbur jumped as high as he could.

“Keep your knees straight and touch the ground with your ears!” called Charlotte.

Wilbur obeyed.

“Do a back flip with a half twist in it!” cried Charlotte.

Wilbur went over backwards, writhing and twisting.

“O.K., Wilbur,” said Charlotte. “You can go back to sleep. O.K., Templeton, the soap ad will do, I guess. I’m not sure Wilbur’s action is exactly radiant, but it’s interesting.”

“Actually,” said Wilbur, “I feel radiant.”

“Do you?” said Charlotte, looking at him with affection. “Well, you’re a good little pig, and radiant you shall be.”

Related Characters: Wilbur (speaker), Charlotte (speaker), Templeton
Related Symbols: Charlotte’s Web
Page Number: 100-101
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 18 Quotes

“What are you doing up there, Charlotte?”

“Oh, making something,” she said. “Making something, as usual.”

“Is it something for me?” asked Wilbur.

“No,” said Charlotte. “It’s something for me, for a change.”

“Please tell me what it is,” begged Wilbur.

“I’ll tell you in the morning,” she said. “When the first light comes into the sky and the sparrows stir and the cows rattle their chains, when the rooster crows and the stars fade, when early cars whisper along the highway, you look up here and I’ll show you something. I will show you my masterpiece.”

Related Characters: Wilbur (speaker), Charlotte (speaker)
Related Symbols: Charlotte’s Web
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 21 Quotes

“Why did you do all this for me?” [Wilbur] asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.”

“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”

Related Characters: Wilbur (speaker), Charlotte (speaker)
Related Symbols: Charlotte’s Web
Page Number: 164
Explanation and Analysis:

He carefully took the little bundle in his mouth and held it there on top of his tongue. He remembered what Charlotte had told him—that the sac was waterproof and strong. It felt funny on his tongue and made him drool a bit. And of course he couldn’t say anything. But as he was being shoved into the crate, he looked up at Charlotte and gave her a wink. She knew he was saying good-bye in the only way he could. And she knew her children were safe.

“Good-bye!” she whispered. Then she summoned all her strength and waved one of her front legs at him. She never moved again. Next day, as the Ferris wheel was being taken apart and the race horses were being loaded into vans and the entertainers were packing up their belongings and driving away in their trailers, Charlotte died. The Fair Grounds were soon deserted. The sheds and buildings were empty and forlorn. The infield was littered with bottles and trash. Nobody, of the hundreds of people that had visited the Fair, knew that a grey spider had played the most important part of all. No one was with her when she died.

Related Characters: Wilbur, Charlotte
Page Number: 170-171
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 22 Quotes

As time went on, and the months and years came and went, [Wilbur] was never without friends. Fern did not come regularly to the barn any more. She was growing up, and was careful to avoid childish things, like sitting on a milk stool near a pigpen. But Charlotte’s children and grandchildren and great grandchildren, year after year, lived in the doorway. Each spring there were new little spiders hatching out to take the place of the old. Most of them sailed away, on their balloons. But always two or three stayed and set up housekeeping in the doorway.

Mr. Zuckerman took fine care of Wilbur all the rest of his days, and the pig was often visited by friends and admirers, for nobody ever forgot the year of his triumph and the miracle of the web. Life in the barn was very good—night and day, winter and summer, spring and fall, dull days and bright days. It was the best place to be, thought Wilbur, this warm delicious cellar, with the garrulous geese, the changing seasons, the heat of the sun, the passage of swallows, the nearness of rats, the sameness of sheep, the love of spiders, the smell of manure, and the glory of everything. Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.

Page Number: 183-184
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Charlotte’s Web LitChart as a printable PDF.
Charlotte’s Web PDF

Charlotte Character Timeline in Charlotte’s Web

The timeline below shows where the character Charlotte appears in Charlotte’s Web. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5: Charlotte
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
...top is a grey spider “the size of a gumdrop.” The spider introduces herself as Charlotte A. Cavatica, but tells Wilbur to call her Charlotte. (full context)
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Charlotte begins wrapping up a fly that’s gotten caught in her web, and explains to Wilbur,... (full context)
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
As Charlotte eats the fly, Wilbur lies down and closes his eyes. He thinks about how though... (full context)
Chapter 6: Summer Days
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
As Templeton starts to roll the egg away, Charlotte worries aloud about what will happen if it breaks—the smell of a broken rotten egg... (full context)
Chapter 7: Bad News
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Wilbur and Charlotte grow closer each day. He even learns to appreciate her diet, as it keeps flies... (full context)
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Charlotte urges Wilbur to be quiet. Wilbur asks Charlotte if what the old sheep has said... (full context)
Chapter 9: Wilbur’s Boast
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
As the days pass by, Charlotte weaves and re-weaves her webs each time one of her prey disturbs its threads. Wilbur... (full context)
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
...smells of dusk fill the bar, Wilbur remembers the old sheep’s warning, and whispers to Charlotte that he doesn’t want to die—he loves “everything about this place.” Charlotte reminds Wilbur of... (full context)
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Wilbur asks if he can do anything to help with the plan, and Charlotte encourages Wilbur to eat a lot, get plenty of sleep, stay healthy, and stop worrying.... (full context)
Chapter 10: An Explosion
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Day after day, Charlotte sits in her web deep in thought, trying to come up with a way to... (full context)
The Natural World  Theme Icon
...to the barn to spend time with Wilbur. Avery joins her, and when he sees Charlotte hanging from the barn door, he becomes determined to catch her. Fern begs Avery to... (full context)
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Just as Avery is about to catch Charlotte, Wilbur’s trough tips over—crushing Templeton’s goose egg and releasing a horrible stink into the air.... (full context)
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
...egg. That evening, as the other animals begin to drowse and drop off into sleep, Charlotte sets to work. She tears out a section in the middle of her web and... (full context)
Chapter 11: The Miracle
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The next morning is foggy and wet, and the farm is covered in dew. Charlotte’s web is “a thing of beauty,” and each strand shines with beads of water. When... (full context)
The Natural World  Theme Icon
...look at the spider. Edith and Homer go down to the barn and look at Charlotte, who sits completely still as she feels them observing her. (full context)
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...for the coming of wonders.” As Fern sits in church listening, she feels happy and relieved—Charlotte’s plan is working. At the same time, she feels wistful, and misses when the Zuckermans’... (full context)
Chapter 12: A Meeting
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
One evening, Charlotte calls a meeting of all the barn animals. She takes a roll call and finds... (full context)
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
...some newspaper or magazine clippings the next time he goes to the dump so that Charlotte can get more ideas—and the correct spelling—for new words. Templeton says he doesn’t want to... (full context)
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Charlotte adjourns the meeting and starts working on the web. Wilbur worries aloud, once again, that... (full context)
Chapter 13: Good Progress
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Charlotte works hard on her web all through the night while the other barn animals sleep... (full context)
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Templeton returns from the dump with some advertisements for Charlotte to look at. The words on the ads include “crunchy”—an unsuitable word that Charlotte worries... (full context)
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
As Wilbur settles in to sleep, he asks Charlotte to tell him a story. She begins telling him about a cousin of hers who... (full context)
Chapter 14: Dr. Dorian
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...day, Fern is helping her mother with the dishes. She tells Mrs. Arable all about Charlotte and Wilbur—the beautiful friendship they have, and the stories Charlotte often shares. Mrs. Arable tells... (full context)
Chapter 15: The Crickets
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
One evening, Wilbur asks Charlotte if she’ll be coming along to the fair, but she’s unable to give him a... (full context)
Chapter 16: Off to the Fair
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
...getting ready while the animals discuss who’s going to the fair and who’s staying behind. Charlotte, surprisingly, announces her intention to go along. Templeton says he has no interest in the... (full context)
Chapter 17: Uncle
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
Charlotte drops into the pig’s pen and engages him in conversation. He says he has no... (full context)
Chapter 18: The Cool of the Evening
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...and shadowy, Templeton creeps out of Wilbur’s crate and begins exploring. As he sets out, Charlotte, who has started weaving a new web, calls out to him to “bring [her] back... (full context)
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Templeton raids the fairgrounds for scraps of food, and then brings Charlotte a piece of newspaper. The word on it is “humble,” and Charlotte determines that it... (full context)
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Charlotte gets back to work and finishes her web, but in the dark of the night,... (full context)
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Wilbur asks Charlotte what she’s doing, and she says only that she’s “making something.” When Wilbur asks if... (full context)
Chapter 19: The Egg Sac
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Charlotte explains to Wilbur that she is “slowing up” and “feeling her age”—but she doesn’t want... (full context)
Chapter 20: The Hour of Triumph
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Back at the pen, Charlotte listens to the loudspeaker calmly and happily, determined to enjoy her “hour of triumph.” She... (full context)
Chapter 21: Last Day
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
After returning Wilbur to his pen, everyone goes off to find Fern, and Charlotte and Wilbur are left alone. Wilbur is happy and proud of the medal around his... (full context)
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
At Charlotte’s beautiful description of the seasons and their changing, Wilbur becomes tearful and emotional. He asks... (full context)
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
...wonderful it will be for them to all return home to the farm together, but Charlotte announces that she will not be going back to the barn—in just a day or... (full context)
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Wilbur is struck by an idea—if Charlotte can’t bring her egg sac back to the barn, he will do it for her.... (full context)
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
...top of his tongue. As he is loaded into the crate, he looks up at Charlotte and gives her a wink—the only goodbye he can manage. Summoning the last of her... (full context)
Chapter 22: A Warm Wind
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
...come back to life, the goose lays nine new eggs and the last threads of Charlotte’s web float away. (full context)
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...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... (full context)