Templeton is the rat that lives under Wilbur's trough. Before Wilbur meets Charlotte, he passes his time talking to Templeton and although it is 'not the most interesting occupation in the world it [is] better than nothing.'
Templeton describes himself as 'a glutton but not a merrymaker'. Crafty and selfish, he collects and stores bizarre odds and ends and is happy to dig a tunnel to Wilbur's trough and eat his food but never offers to give anything in return.
Asked to go to the dump to look for new words that Charlotte can write in her web, Templeton responds "Let him die...I should worry." He is completely selfish and cares not a bit for Wilbur's well-being - sadly for him, he has no idea about friendship. He is persuaded to find words only with the promise of food - he is reminded by the sheep that if Wilbur dies, there will be no slops for him to steal. Similarly at the fair, he is persuaded to retrieve Charlotte's egg sac on the promise that he will be given first choice of the slops forever after.
Nevertheless, Templeton plays a crucial role in the story by finding the words and retrieving the egg sac. Although he does so reluctantly, he has a large impact on what happens to Wilbur in the end.
The young and insensitive lamb refuses to play with Wilbur when he's lonely saying "Certainly not...In the first place, I cannot get into your pen, as I am not old enough to jump over the fence. In the second place, I am not interested in pigs. Pigs mean less than nothing to me."
Completely sure of himself, the lamb thinks he knows better than Wilbur and attempts to humiliate him by telling him how little he thinks of him. Little does he realize how this betrays his immaturity because his comment doesn't really make much sense - as Wilbur points out, nothing can be less than nothing otherwise nothing would be something.
This stuttering goose likes giving instructions and is a bit of a trouble maker. The goose encourages Wilbur to escape and then gives him directions to run when Lurvy, Mr Zuckerman and the spaniel try to catch him.
She is an attentive mother however and is keen to protect her eggs from the harsh weather. She is suspicious of Templeton and worried that he will try and harm her young but she allows him to take her dud egg to keep among his collection of junk.
Lurvy is the Zuckerman's hired man who works very hard and is completely hands on. He feeds Wilbur and helps to catch him when he escapes. Lurvy is the first person to see the words in Charlotte's web and when Wilbur becomes famous, he obediently shifts his focus from the usual garden chores to looking after Wilbur. Additionally, Lurvy is sensitive to Wilbur and tells Mr Zuckerman when Wilbur doesn't eat his food. He then feeds Wilbur his medicine when Mr Zuckerman instructs him to. As a point of character, Lurvy is also quite clumsy and at the fair accidentally tips the water, meant to rouse Wilbur from his faint, onto Mr Zuckerman and Avery.
Mr Homer Zuckerman
Mr Zuckerman is Avery and Fern's uncle and the owner of a large farm down the road from the Arable's. Mr Zuckerman raises pigs and buys Wilbur for six dollars. He knows how to handle his animals and when Wilbur runs off, he tempts him with slops to catch him. When Mr Zuckerman sees the writing in the web, he is shocked and immediately believes what he reads (that he has got 'some pig' living on his barn), despite his wife's more sensible suggestion that it is actually the spider that is extraordinary. Mr Zuckerman benefits hugely from Wilbur's fame and does everything he can to capitalize on it. He is much more attentive to Wilbur as a result and enters him into a competition at the County Fair. There he wins $25 when Wilbur is awarded with a special prize, the best moment of his life.
Fern's father. Mr Arable's decision to go out and slaughter the runt is what starts the process in motion for the whole story. His disregard for the piglet is what brings Fern to stand up for it and to fight for its life. He does let Fern keep the piglet and is touched by her protestations but is firm when he decides to sell Wilbur at five weeks old.
Moreover, he is a practical man who has lost any sentimental feelings for the animals he keeps but he seems more in touch with his daughter than his wife is: he is not so quick to dismiss Fern's claims that the animals talk. Mr. Arable is ultimately happy to let his children go off by themselves at the fair and gives them money to spend because "the fair only comes once a year."
Fern is completely loving and, at the beginning of the novel, totally innocent. She is a moralist who saves Wilbur's life by arguing with her father that a small piglet has just as much right to live a large piglet. She subsequently looks after him as a mother would and when he is sent to live with her uncle, she still visits him. She has a big heart and a motherly nature.
Fern is enchanted by life at the Zuckerman's barn and enjoys listening to Charlotte's stories and spending time with the animals there.
As we progress through the novel, Fern grows up and starts to move away from the barn and from the exciting world of imaginative possibilities. She becomes far more interested in Henry Fussy than Wilbur and this is treated with obvious distain by the narrator. Dr Dorian says 'I would say, offhand, that spiders and pigs were fully as interesting as Henry Fussy. Yet I predict the day will come when even Henry will drop some chance remark that catches Fern's attention.'
Avery is Fern's elder brother: he is ten years old and he is boisterous and aggressive. When Fern is given the piglet, Avery - late out of bed - demands that he is given one too. His mother describes him to Dr Dorian as a typical out of doors boy - adventurous and carefree.
Avery is destructive and wants to dominate nature and has nothing like the sensitivity his sister has for nature and animals. When he first sees Charlotte he is so impressed by her size that he tries to knock her out of her web and into his box but he slips and falls, breaking the dud egg. The smell is so bad that he is forced to leave.
Even when they go to the fair, Avery wants to go to the stall where he can steer a jet plane and make it bump into another one. He is also a bit of a performer and while everyone is looking at him when he is drenched by Lurvy on the bandstand, he clowns to capitalize on the attention he is getting from the audience. He does work hard though and is "the busiest helper of all" when Mr Zuckerman is trying to lift Wilbur's crate to get him to the bandstand.
Sensitive and vulnerable, Wilbur is born a runt and saved from an untimely death by Fern who subsequently looks after him until he is five weeks old. He is pampered and babied by her and is completely content when he is surrounded by Fern's love: he is wheeled around in her pram and he joins her and Avery when they go swimming and wallows in the nearby mud. When he is then taken from her, he is very lonely until he finds love when he meets Charlotte.
In the barn, Wilbur meets Charlotte. When he first meets her, he worries about the bloodthirsty way in which she catches and eats her prey but he soon realizes that she has no choice but to catch insects for her own survival and that she is really very caring and kind. Wilbur is keen to learn from Charlotte’s knowledge and wisdom and the first time they speak to each other Charlotte teaches him a new word. “Salutations!” she says and, when Wilbur asks what that means, she goes on to tell him: “Salutations are greetings.”
When Wilbur tries to learn how to spin a web he is persistent and tries hard to get the technique right but soon realizes that he is not equipped to build such a thing. Wilbur spends the bulk of the novel worried about his livelihood. For that reason, he is often insecure and relies on Charlotte a lot: at the fair he hopes Charlotte will be able to help him one last time by weaving her web. He is very polite and considerate and apologizes to the other animals for waking them when he is calling out in search of his new friend.
Wilbur experiences a whole range of emotions on his journey through the novel and his life is saved twice by two devoted friends. He is forever grateful to Charlotte’s kindness in particular and does the only thing he can think of to repay her – he looks after her egg sac.
Like his partner, the gander stutters. At the beginning of his children’s' life, he is very protective and worries about Templeton being near them. He is brave and strong and threatens violence if Templeton goes near the goslings.
Charlotte is cool and collected. She is practical, beautiful, skilled and unsentimental. She can't bear Wilbur crying, saying that she can't stand 'hysterics'. She is clever and loyal to her friends - she is the first to comfort Wilbur by assuring him she will save him when he finds out that he is to be killed at Christmastime.
She is the artist of the novel and through her creativity manages to manipulate the events that take place. Her love for Wilbur pushes her to save his life and she manages to produce a miracle – she singlehandedly manages to make the humans see in Wilbur what she sees: a ‘terrific’ and ‘radiant’ ‘humble’ pig.
Throughout the tale she mothers Wilbur and looks after him as if he were her own. She works tirelessly to save him and even though she is dying at the end of the novel, she motivates herself to write the word that will secure his safety.
Mrs Arable is portrayed as rather neurotic. She can't understand how her daughter thinks that animals talk and is so concerned that she speaks to Dr Dorian about it.
She is bound by convention and tries to persuade Fern to spend time with boys and girls of her own age, rather than spending all her time with the animals at the farm. Both her husband and Dr Dorian feel that she is overreacting.
Mrs Edith Zuckerman
Until they journey to the fair, Mrs Zuckerman is mostly depicted as being in the kitchen. She is in the kitchen when she notices Wilbur escape and when Fern and Avery come over to play and she offers them blueberry pie. She is also unusual in thinking that the writing in the web points to a special spider and not a special pig. However, she is quietened by her husband who dismisses her comment outright. Overall, her domestic life encapsulates what life was like for women in the 50s.
The minister is the first person Mr Zuckerman tells about the writing in the web and the minister immediately assumes that Wilbur must be unusual. Despite the fact that, as a religious man, he should be good at interpreting miracles, it is significant that he interprets the message in the web incorrectly. He doesn't even consider that it is the spider that is unusual.
Joy, Aranea and Nellie
These three are Charlotte's children who stay with Wilbur in the barn after their siblings leave to find homes elsewhere. Although Wilbur loves them dearly and they become great friends, no one can replace Charlotte in his heart.
We only ever hear about Henry through other people. Fern's friend to start with, the novel suggests that he may be her first boyfriend by the end of the novel -- a conventional and boring boy who perhaps represents what Fern has in store for her. Specifically, this would be a typical married life, shut off from the joys of imaginative creativity, just like Mrs Zuckerman's life, characterized by the moment when she suggests that it is Charlotte who is the miracle animal and not Wilbur.
Although Dr Dorian appears in only one chapter in the book, he plays a significant role. He is a doctor and therefore carries serious scientific clout and so when he says that Fern may well be right about the animals speaking and that doctors have things they don't understand, he lends credibility to the whole story. Dr Dorian is clearly a sensible man that the Arables trust and when he suggests that there are things in the world that no one could explain, he opens up imaginative possibilities for each reader. Dr Dorian also points out that it is a miracle that spiders know how to build webs in the first place and points out how wondrous nature really is.
Uncle is the large spring pig that lives next to Wilbur at the Fair. He is described by Charlotte as 'too familiar, too noisy' and she tells Wilbur that 'he cracks weak jokes.'
Uncle receives the medal that he deserves because and should win the prize on account of his size; and yet according to Charlotte there is nothing interesting about him. Thus it is no surprise that Wilbur is eventually recognized above him when he is awarded the special prize on the bandstand.
Charlotte’s Web Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Charlotte’s Web is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.