Charlotte’s Web

by

E. B. White

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Fern Arable Character Analysis

The human protagonist of the novel, Fern Arable is an eight-year-old girl with an intense love of nature and animals. She saves Wilbur the pig from being slaughtered shortly after his birth and raises him herself for the first couple months of his life. Even after Wilbur is moved to the Zuckerman farm to live with Fern’s Aunt Edith and Uncle Homer, she continues to visit him each day, and remains invested in the adventures he has there as he adjusts to life on the farm—and confronts the idea that he may once again be in danger of being slaughtered for meat. Fern’s obsession with Wilbur and the other barnyard animals concerns her parents, but by the end of the novel, Fern has begun to show signs of more investment in the human world—including a burgeoning crush on a local boy, Henry Fussy. White uses Fern as a proxy for his audience in many ways, highlighting the allure of the innocent, lush natural world while also pointing out how the human world inevitably draws people in as they grow older, causing them, in many cases, to forget their attachment to the simple joys of the quiet, parallel world of animals and nature.

Fern Arable Quotes in Charlotte’s Web

The Charlotte’s Web quotes below are all either spoken by Fern Arable or refer to Fern Arable. 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 1 Quotes

“Fern,” said Mr. Arable, “I know more about raising a litter of pigs than you do. A weakling makes trouble. Now run along!”

“But it’s unfair,” cried Fern. “The pig couldn’t help being born small, could it? If I had been very small at birth, would you have killed me?”

Mr. Arable smiled. “Certainly not,” he said, looking down at his daughter with love. “But this is different. A little girl is one thing, a little runty pig is another.”

“I see no difference,” replied Fern, still hanging on to the ax. “This is the most terrible case of injustice I ever heard of.”

A queer look came over John Arable’s face. He seemed almost ready to cry himself.

“All right,” he said. “You go back to the house and 1will bring the runt when I come in. I’ll let you start it on a bottle, like a baby. Then you’ll see what trouble a pig can be.”

Related Characters: Fern Arable (speaker), Mr. Arable (speaker), Wilbur
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

Every morning after breakfast, Wilbur walked out to the road with Fern and waited with her till the bus came. She would wave good-bye to him, and he would stand and watch the bus until it vanished around a turn. While Fern was in school, Wilbur was shut up inside his yard. But as soon as she got home in the afternoon, she would take him out and he would follow her around the place. If she went into the house, Wilbur went, too. If she went upstairs, Wilbur would wait at the bottom step until she came down again. If she took her doll for a walk in the doll carriage, Wilbur followed along. Sometimes, on these journeys, Wilbur would get tired, and Fern would pick him up and put him in the carriage alongside the doll. He liked this. And if he was very tired, he would close his eyes and go to sleep under the doll’s blanket. He looked cute when his eyes were closed, because his lashes were so long. The doll would close her eyes, too, and Fern would wheel the carriage very slowly and smoothly so as not to wake her infants.

Related Characters: Wilbur, Fern Arable
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

Now that school was over, Fern visited the barn almost every day, to sit quietly on her stool. The animals treated her as an equal. The sheep lay calmly at her feet.

Related Characters: Fern Arable
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

One afternoon, when Fern was sitting on her stool, the oldest sheep walked into the barn, and stopped to pay a call on Wilbur.

“Hello!” she said. “Seems to me you’re putting on weight.”

“Yes, I guess I am,” replied Wilbur. “At my age it’s a good idea to keep gaining.”

“Just the same, I don’t envy you,” said the old sheep. “You know why they’re fattening you up, don’t you?”

“No,” said Wilbur.

“Well, I don’t like to spread bad news,” said the sheep, “but they’re fattening you up because they’re going to kill you, that’s why.”

“They’re going to what?” screamed Wilbur. Fern grew rigid on her stool.

“Kill you. Turn you into smoked bacon and ham,” continued the old sheep.

Related Characters: Wilbur (speaker), The Old Sheep (speaker), Fern Arable, Homer Zuckerman, Aunt Edith Zuckerman, Lurvy
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

“I worry about Fern,” [Mrs. Arable] said. “Did you hear the way she rambled on about the animals, pretending that they talked?”

Mr. Arable chuckled. “Maybe they do talk,” he said. “I’ve sometimes wondered. At any rate, don’t worry about Fern—she’s just got a lively imagination. Kids think they hear all sorts of things.”

“Just the same, I do worry about her,” replied Mrs. Arable. “I think I shall ask Dr. Dorian about her the next time I see him. He loves Fem almost as much as we do, and I want him to know how queerly she is acting about that pig and everything. I don’t think it’s nor mal. You know perfectly well animals don’t talk.”

Mr. Arable grinned. “Maybe our ears aren’t as sharp as Fern’s,” he said.

Related Characters: Fern Arable (speaker), Mrs. Arable (speaker), Mr. Arable (speaker), Dr. Dorian
Page Number: 54
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

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 14 Quotes

Mrs. Arable fidgeted. “Fern says the animals talk to each other. Dr. Dorian, do you believe animals talk?”

“I never heard one say anything,” he replied. “But that proves nothing. It is quite possible that an animal has spoken civilly to me and that I didn’t catch the remark because I wasn’t paying attention. Children pay better attention than grownups. If Fern says that the animals in Zuckerman’s barn talk, I’m quite ready to believe her. Perhaps if people talked less, animals would talk more. People are incessant talkers—I can give you my word on that.”

[…]

“Do you think she’ll ever start thinking about something besides pigs and sheep and geese and spiders?”

“How old is Fern?”

“She’s eight.”

“Well,” said Dr. Dorian, “I think she will always love animals. But I doubt that she spends her entire life in Homer Zuckerman’s barn cellar. How about boys— does she know any boys?”

“She knows Henry Fussy,” said Mrs. Arable brightly.

Dr. Dorian closed his eyes again and went into deep thought. “Henry Fussy,” he mumbled. “Hmm. Remarkable. Well, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. Let Fern associate with her friends in the bam if she wants to. I would say, offhand, that spiders and pigs were fully as interesting as Henry Fussy. Yet I predict that the day will come when even Henry will drop some chance remark that catches Fern’s attention. It’s amazing how children change from year to year.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Arable (speaker), Dr. Dorian (speaker), Fern Arable, Henry Fussy
Page Number: 110-111
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19 Quotes

The Zuckermans and the Arables stared at the tag. Mrs. Zuckerman began to cry. Nobody said a word. They just stared at the tag. Then they stared at Uncle. Then they stared at the tag again. Lurvy took out an enormous handkerchief and blew his nose very loud— so loud, in fact, that the noise was heard by stableboys over at the horse barn.

“Can I have some money?” asked Fern. “I want to go out on the midway.”

“You stay right where you are!” said her mother. Tears came to Fern’s eyes.

“What’s everybody crying about?” asked Mr. Zuckerman. “Let’s get busy! Edith, bring the buttermilk!”

Mrs. Zuckerman wiped her eyes with her handkerchief. She went to the truck and came back with a gallon jar of buttermilk.

“Bath time!” said Zuckerman, cheerfully.

Related Characters: Fern Arable (speaker), Homer Zuckerman (speaker), Mrs. Arable (speaker), Wilbur, Aunt Edith Zuckerman, Mr. Arable, Lurvy, Uncle
Page Number: 150
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

Fern Arable Character Timeline in Charlotte’s Web

The timeline below shows where the character Fern Arable appears in Charlotte’s Web. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Before Breakfast
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
One morning, as Fern Arable and her mother Mrs. Arable are setting the table for breakfast, Fern’s father Mr.... (full context)
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Fern says she sees no difference between a girl and a pig, and suddenly a strange... (full context)
The Natural World  Theme Icon
The school bus arrives, and Fern and Avery run out to the road to meet it. On the way to school,... (full context)
Chapter 2: Wilbur
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Over the next few weeks, Fern dotes on Wilbur and shows him love, devotion, and attention. She feeds him before she... (full context)
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...feel that Wilbur is becoming a burden to feed and house, and Mrs. Arable suggests Fern sell Wilbur to their neighbors and relatives, the Zuckermans—Fern’s Uncle Homer often raises pigs. Fern... (full context)
Chapter 3: Escape
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
...in the lower part of the barn, directly beneath the cows, in a manure pile. Fern, as promised, visits Wilbur almost every day, and sits on an old milking stool at... (full context)
The Natural World  Theme Icon
One afternoon in June, Fern does not arrive on time for her visit. The bored and confused Wilbur walks out... (full context)
Chapter 6: Summer Days
The Natural World  Theme Icon
...soft.” Flowers bloom, and everywhere, children free from school frolic and play in the fields. Fern visits the barn almost every day to sit quietly on her stool and watch Wilbur—all... (full context)
Chapter 8: A Talk at Home
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
One Sunday morning, Mr. Arable and Mrs. Arable are sitting at the breakfast table with Fern. She tells them excitedly about the goings-on over at the Zuckermans’ farm, and relays the... (full context)
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
When Fern goes up to her room to get ready for Sunday school, Mrs. Arable expresses her... (full context)
Chapter 9: Wilbur’s Boast
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...he could spin a web, too. Charlotte amusedly begins instructing Wilbur in the steps while Fern chuckles along. Wilbur jumps around the barn with a piece of string borrowed from Templeton... (full context)
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
As twilight settles over the barn, Fern knows it is getting near time to leave, but can hardly “bear” leaving her friends.... (full context)
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...to his trough to eat some scraps, Wilbur bids Charlotte goodnight—still nervous about his fate. Fern heads for home as Wilbur settles in for the evening, “her mind full of everything... (full context)
Chapter 10: An Explosion
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Later that morning, Fern and Avery come to the Zuckermans’ and go up to the house to join Edith... (full context)
Chapter 11: The Miracle
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...instructs his parishioners to “always be on the watch for the coming of wonders.” As Fern sits in church listening, she feels happy and relieved—Charlotte’s plan is working. At the same... (full context)
Chapter 14: Dr. Dorian
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
The next day, Fern is helping her mother with the dishes. She tells Mrs. Arable all about Charlotte and... (full context)
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
At Dr. Dorian’s office, the doctor listens as Mrs. Arable airs her fears about Fern’s abnormal involvement with the animals at the Zuckerman farm. Dr. Dorian is not concerned, though—he... (full context)
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Dr. Dorian assures Mrs. Arable that as long as Fern is happy, healthy, and feeling well, she is more than fine. Dr. Dorian tells Mrs.... (full context)
Chapter 15: The Crickets
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
...frosts will arrive, and are sad summer has come to a close. Even humans, like Fern and Avery and Lurvy, hear the crickets’ song, and know the heady, hazy days of... (full context)
Chapter 16: Off to the Fair
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
...and have a restless evening in the barn. In the morning, everyone starts getting ready. Fern and Avery take baths and put on their best clothes, as do their parents. Lurvy... (full context)
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
...to go with the Zuckermans to the fair, and everyone admires Wilbur’s shiny new appearance—especially Fern, who thinks fondly of the day he was born. As Mr. Arable studies Wilbur, he... (full context)
Chapter 17: Uncle
Growing Up Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Mortality and Rebirth Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
...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.... (full context)
Chapter 18: The Cool of the Evening
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...cool of the evening is welcome, and as the Ferris wheel’s lights illuminate the night, Fern meets up with her friend Henry Fussy and rides it alongside him. As Mrs. Arable... (full context)
Chapter 19: The Egg Sac
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 20: The Hour of Triumph
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...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... (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... (full context)
Chapter 22: A Warm Wind
Friendship and Sacrifice Theme Icon
The Natural World  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
...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... (full context)