Charlotte's Web

Charlotte's Web Summary and Analysis of Section Ten

In the cool of the evening, as Wilbur sleeps, Templeton creeps out of the crate and goes scavenging. Charlotte is building a web and asks Templeton to bring her back a word. When Templeton returns carrying the newspaper clipping, Charlotte has almost finished her web - she has just left a space in the middle for the word. Templeton has fetched the word HUMBLE. Charlotte is very happy and goes back to work. It is getting dark now and by the time the Arables, the Zuckermans and Lurvy return, the web is finished. Nobody notices it in the dark though and everyone is tired. The families leave and Wilbur thinks of how grateful he is to Charlotte for coming - he would have been homesick if he'd been by himself. Charlotte isn't in her web but is up in the back corner of the pen - from there she assures Wilbur he will be safe. She is making something, but this time it is something for her and not for Wilbur.

Next morning Wilbur wakes up and sees Charlotte overhead in a corner at the back of the pen. She is very quiet and next to her Wilbur sees a cocoon that looks like it is made of cotton candy. Wilbur asks if it is a plaything but Charlotte replies that it is her greatest work - a waterproof shell that houses and safeguards five hundred and fourteen eggs. Charlotte sounds down and Wilbur asks why. 'I guess I feel sad because I won't ever see my children' she says. She feels as though she is languishing. The web looks spectacular though and she is proud of it.

Then Templeton comes back, twice his normal size. He has been gorging all night. He also brings news that Uncle has a blue tag attached to his pen which means he has won first prize. When the Arables, the Zuckermans and Lurvy arrive at nine o'clock they are once again dumbfounded to find the writing in the web. They all agree that Wilbur is indeed humble and Lurvy pours a bucket of warm slops for him. When they notice the prize about Uncle, they are all very disappointed but Mr Zuckerman says cheerfully, 'Edith, bring the buttermilk.' It is bath time for Wilbur.

During the day, everyone has good things to say about Wilbur. Suddenly a voice is heard on the loudspeaker. 'Will Mr. Homer Zuckerman bring his famous pig to the judges' booth in front of the grandstand. A special award will be made there in twenty minutes.' They are shocked to silence and then ecstatic - they all hug and kiss each other. Templeton sneaks on to the crate as they are taking Wilbur to the grandstand. Charlotte is feeling tired and old but at least she knows that she has saved Wilbur.


The first chapter in this section is entitled ‘The cool of the evening’ which is appropriate as we approach the end of the story. The children have had their nap and Fern goes off to ride on the Ferris wheel. The enduring image of the fair so far is the turning Ferris wheel and it is symbolic that Fern rides on it with Henry Fussy, and also symbolic that he pays for her ticket. Although scathing of Henry at the time, Dr Dorian did predict that he would one day catch Fern’s attention. Dr Dorian’s attitude towards Henry is not dissimilar to Charlotte’s towards Uncle as he suggests that Henry is quite boring. The fact that Fern rides on the wheel with Henry symbolises her growing into an adult and her future role as wife to a conventional man, far away from the land of fantasy and imagination enjoyed at the barn. When Henry buys her ticket, this solidifies the conventional male, female roles that Fern is about to embark upon.

When Templeton brings the word ‘HUMBLE’ back for Charlotte to write in the web, she is delighted: ‘“Humble” has two meanings. It means “not proud” and it means “near the ground”.’ Although Wilbur is a loveable pig, I think the word more suitably applies to Charlotte and the work she has done to save Wilbur. Unlike Uncle, she is not an outstandingly huge creature and she is not marvellously colored or spectacular to look at. She is a regular lady grey spider with a big heart, a fantastic personality and talent for spinning her web. Surely it is Charlotte and her creative work that is humble: she asks for no prizes, no recognition, only the assurance that her best friend will be spared from the Christmas table. In a world where few people seem connected enough to nature and open to the beauty of the world because they are constantly seeking success, power or wealth, Charlotte represents a truly humble soul who needs nothing more than her feelings to create a miracle. Her love for Wilbur is enough to do that.

Although fame means nothing to Charlotte, she is only too aware of how easily seduced people are by it and that is why she is able to manipulate everyone. As she says: ‘You are a famous pig and you are a good pig. Tomorrow you will probably win a prize. The whole world will hear about you. Zuckerman will be proud and happy to own such a pig. You have nothing to fear Wilbur – nothing to worry about.’ Wilbur meant nothing to anyone except Fern when he was born because he was so small and although his personality has not changed since then – he is now famous and loved by everyone. How fickle love can be when it only comes attached to a material price.

When Wilbur asks Charlotte what her ‘nifty little thing’ is, she responds ‘my magnum opus. Magnus Opus means “a great work” of an artist. Charlotte here acknowledges her skill and despite the success and publicity that has been brought about as a result of her spinning, she resolutely decides that her egg sac is her greatest achievement. It may seem puzzling that Charlotte should rate so highly an activity that any female spider and any female creature can carry out. Yet, once again, Charlotte prizes her success not by other peoples’ standards but by her own and making a sac for her five hundred and fourteen children is her real success story.

Structurally, Charlotte’s sac signals the reverse of the events that take place at the start. To begin with Wilbur is threatened with death but is then saved and the summer comes along. At this stage of the novel and at this time of year, Charlotte has created her sac full of young but the winter months are closing in and she is languishing: the story and the year are coming to a close.

Templeton really is the foil in this chapter who returns having completely gorged himself on food. The difference between his selfishness and Charlotte’s selflessness is obvious. His gross frame compared with Charlotte’s dainty and delicate body does much to undermine the concept that bigger is better and Templeton’s behaviour reminds us that the more we have, the more we want and that this never really makes us happy.

The passersby that see Wilbur after his buttermilk bath say ‘He isn’t as big as that pig next door but he’s cleaner. That’s what I like.’ Another says: ‘He’s humble too.’ This really does highlight the stupidity of man who looks on the surface and can see no deeper. It does, however, suit Charlotte’s purposely perfectly! When Wilbur is summoned to the judges’ booth, there is commotion amongst the Zuckermans and Arables and Mrs Zuckerman asks if her hair looks alright. As Charlotte sits silently above them, weary in her old age, she feels genuine contentment that she has saved a friend. All the others feel is superficial happiness that their pig has been picked out as special and they all clamber to make him look good in the only way they can – by making him look good on the outside.

Fern is not as interested in Wilbur’s success as the others and looks up at the Ferris wheel wishing she was there with Henry – she has well and truly left the barn behind and is thinking of her own future with Henry.