Charlotte's Web

Charlotte's Web Summary and Analysis of Section Eight

The next day is Saturday and as Mrs Arable washes the breakfast dishes, Fern tells her mother about what an amazing storyteller Charlotte is. Mrs Arable gets quite angry, telling her daughter not to make up stories. She tells Fern that she doesn't like her spending all her time alone at the barn but Fern can’t understand why not - after all, some of her best friends are at the barn. So when Fern goes out, Mrs Arable decides to pay a visit to Dr Dorian to ask his advice.

Dr Dorian is enchanted to hear that Fern is spending so much of her time with the animals at the Zuckerman’s. Naturally Dr Dorian has heard about Wilbur and the words that appear in the spider's web. Agitated, Mrs Arable asks him if he understands how it could happen. The doctor replies that he doesn’t understand how the words have appeared but that he doesn’t really understand how spiders spin webs either (which he thinks is the real miracle). Then Mrs Arable asks if he believes that the animals really do talk to Fern. He says he has never heard animals talk but that he was ready to believe what Fern said. Mrs Arable feels reassured and greatly relieved. She thanks the doctor for his help and leaves.

As the crickets sing in the grass the song of summer passing, Wilbur really does look radiant. He is never stuck up though and is still worried about the future. He is, however, very excited about going to the County Fair. He wants Charlotte to go with him but she has to stay at home to lay eggs. Charlotte is worried - she knows she won't be able to help Wilbur for much longer as she needs to build the sack to hold her eggs.


Although Mrs Arable is hugely frustrated by Fern’s stories as she cannot believe that they are real, she is compelled to ask Fern what happens at the end of Charlotte’s supposed tale. She is sucked into the excitement of the story and can’t resist hearing more - her imagination is clearly yearning for some excitement and although her logical brain cannot comprehend it, her imagination is enthralled by Charlotte's story.

The first literary mention of The Dorians – one of the major tribes in ancient Greece – is in The Odyssey and Dr Dorian himself oozes equal reverence and authority in Charlotte’s Web. As a scientific doctor, he is trusted by Mrs Arable and she goes to him to ask why Fern thinks she can speak to the animals. As a scientist, you would expect Dr Dorian to be skeptical about Charlotte’s web; after all, how could you possibly comprehend that a spider had written words in a web? However, Dr Dorian sensibly points out that the web is the real miracle and for that reason it is not too hard to believe that words have appeared in the web. His scientific authority speaks volumes and lends Charlotte’s act genuine credibility.

When Mrs Arable is reassured by the doctor, she feels a lot more relaxed: she trusts him before her own daughter because he is an adult but, as we have already seen in Mr Zuckerman, adults are not necessarily to be trusted and it is the children who are able to appreciate what the adults have often come to take for granted.

Dr Dorian mentions something interesting at the end of the chapter. When he asks Mrs Arable if Fern spends time with boys, Mrs Arable tells him that she likes Henry Fussy. His response is: ‘Hmm. Remarkable. Well, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. Let Fern associate with her friends in the barn 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.’ He is scathing of Henry Fussy but, more importantly, anticipates Fern's future. Dr Dorian clearly thinks Henry is an uninteresting and unimaginative boy who will one day turn into an unimaginative adult, incapable of noting the beauty in the world. Fern’s association with him marks the beginning of her adult journey where she moves away from innocence and imagination and moves towards a conventional future.

Summer is dying but Charlotte is making the sack for her babies – although this year is starting to fade, newness and freshness is preparing itself to take over after the winter. Once again, we observe nature's journey and symbolically we see how harmoniously balanced and constructed nature is - as the winter comes, the preparation for the spring and for new life begins. With this sort of mathematical and rigorous precision, it is no wonder that a spider is so good at building a web.

When Mr Zuckerman reads that Wilbur is ‘SOME PIG’ and is ‘TERRIFIC’, Wilbur becomes terrific in his eyes. This is exactly how propaganda works: Wilbur becomes terrific to those around him and so he is defined as terrific because of the words that say he is so. Wilbur has tried to make himself look ‘radiant’ and ‘terrific’ in order to satisfy his public and we see from this how language can have such a great impact over society.