Charlotte's Web

Didacticism and Teaching in Animal Literature and Charlotte’s Web College

Since the birth of Aesop’s Fables, originating over two thousand years ago, “animal literature” has been used as a teaching tool. That is, when a certain piece of literature centers on an animal, there is usually a certain moral, emotional, or ethical lesson to be learned. The method varies, as sometimes the animal exists realistically and other times the animal is anthropomorphic and teaches directly through words. Using animals as a teaching tool is necessary in many regards, because they act as symbols and totems for our real life morals and teach these in such a way that human characters could not.

In Charlotte’s Web, the titular Charlotte is a spider who uses her worldly knowledge to help Wilbur the pig through his life (and at times, save it). Her position as a motherly, knowledgeable figure is unlike many other animal stories, though - she does not teach through her experiences in the novel but rather directly through words. She already has the knowledge necessary to aide Wilbur and speak of the complexities of life. She acts as his first real companion and teaches him about life and the nature of spiders, as only a spider could do, in addition to establishing her credibility and intelligence. She...

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