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Charlotte's Web

Charlotte's Web Summary


Here you will find a Charlotte's Web summary (E. B White's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

Charlotte's Web Summary Overview

An eight-year-old farm girl named Fern rescues a runt pig from being killed by her father, due to its puny size. She names the pig Wilbur, and they quickly form a close bond. However, her father insists that Wilbur should be sold when he reaches five weeks old. Wilbur is then sold to Fern's aunt and uncle, the Zuckermans. In his new home, Wilbur befriends Charlotte, a spider who resides in his pen. Despite their friendship, Wilbur is distraught by Charlotte's carnivorous nature. It soon dawns on him that his fate lies in becoming a meal for the Zuckermans, a realization that horrifies him. As the warm season arrives, Fern becomes a regular visitor at the Zuckermans' farm. The truth about his impending doom is revealed to Wilbur by one of the older sheep in the barn, prompting him to seek help from Charlotte. She pledges to devise a plan to save him. After several days, she resolves to trick Mr. Zuckerman by weaving words into her web, starting with "SOME PIG!" The discovery of this extraordinary web becomes a sensation, attracting people from all over to witness the miracle pig. A goose and a rat assist Charlotte in coming up with new words to weave, causing the fame of the pig to grow even more. By the end of summer, the word "RADIANT" is spun into Charlotte's web, and the remarkable pig is taken to the county fair. Here, Charlotte and the rat, Templeton, hitch a ride in the crate carrying Wilbur. At the fair, a word "HUMBLE" is woven into the web, leading to Wilbur receiving a special award. However, the joy is short-lived as Charlotte reveals that she is dying and won't return to the farm. Wilbur, in his heartbreak, vows to take care of her egg sac. After Charlotte's death, Wilbur returns to the farm where he nurtures the egg sac. When spring arrives, hundreds of tiny spiders emerge, most of whom leave, but a few decide to stay with Wilbur. Throughout his life, Wilbur cherishes the memory of Charlotte, his first true friend.

chapter 1

Eight-year-old Fern Arable is alarmed when she sees her father with an ax. Her mother tells her that a weak, runty pig was born and her father plans to kill it. This news distresses Fern, who rushes outside to plead for the pig's life. Her father, touched by her argument, changes his decision and allows Fern to care for the pig. He brings the piglet to the kitchen in a box, and Fern is overjoyed. After sharing a tender moment with her parents, she picks up the piglet and lovingly holds it. Her brother Avery enters the scene with his toy arsenal, trying to get a pig of his own, but their father dismisses him for not waking up early. As Fern bottle-feeds the piglet, she and Avery are summoned by the school bus honk. During the ride, Fern decides to name her new pet pig Wilbur.

chapter 2

Fern adores Wilbur, caring for him devotedly. Mornings consist of feeding him warm milk, a routine she repeats after school, at dinnertime, and right before bed. Mrs. Arable assists, tending to Wilbur midday while Fern attends school. Initially, Wilbur resides in a kitchen box, but soon transitions into a larger one located in the woodshed. At two weeks, Mr. Arable arranges a commodious straw-filled box for Wilbur beneath an apple tree. Fern finds comfort in knowing Wilbur snuggles into the straw for warmth as he sleeps. Fern is Wilbur's constant companion, even pushing him in her doll carriage. When Fern and Avery swim, Wilbur partakes in muddy frolics on the shore. However, upon reaching five weeks, Mr. Arable declares Wilbur needs to be sold. Despite Fern's distraught protests, her father remains firm. She contacts her Aunt and Uncle Zuckerman, who agree to purchase Wilbur for six dollars, thus shifting Wilbur's residence to their farm.

chapter 3

Wilbur stays in a cozy pigpen in the Zuckermans' barn cellar. Fern's regular visits make the farm animals trust her. Yet, Wilbur feels unfulfilled; his world is confined to his pen and the small yard outside. A goose reveals to him that he can escape by pushing a loose board. Wilbur does so but is unsure of where to go. Encouraged by the goose, Wilbur explores, but when Mrs. Zuckerman sees him in the orchard, she calls for her husband and their farmhand, Lurvy, to catch him. The livestock suggest different escape routes, causing him to panic. Mr. Zuckerman tempts him back into his pen with food. While Wilbur indulges, Lurvy repairs the fence. Afterwards, they praise Wilbur, who feels satisfied and drowsy.

chapter 4

Wilbur's day is spoiled by rain and he seeks company from Templeton, the rat who stays under his feeding trough. However, Templeton is nowhere to be found and Wilbur ends up feeling alone and unloved. He declines to eat the grub that Lurvy, the farmhand, provides. An attempt to engage the goose ends in disappointment as she needs to attend to her eggs. Similarly, the lamb rebuffs him due to his pig status. When Templeton eventually shows up, all he's interested in is Wilbur's food. Lurvy senses Wilbur's distress and reports to Mr. Zuckerman, the owner, who prescribes medicine for the pig. Lurvy administers the medicine forcefully. As night falls, Wilbur hears a small, reassuring voice promising friendship. The mysterious voice advises him to rest and anticipates their meeting in the daylight.

chapter 5

Wilbur, unable to sleep because of the anticipation of meeting his new friend, eagerly looks for them at dawn but finds no one. He calls out loudly, only to be silenced by the oldest sheep and to wake the other animals. After chomping down the food Lurvy brings him, Wilbur hears the voice once more as he prepares for his nap. The voice belongs to Charlotte, a spider with her web in the doorway above his pen. She shows Wilbur her method of catching and wrapping a fly in her web, while explaining she survives by drinking the blood of insects. This revelation unsettles Wilbur. Charlotte justifies herself by stating she needs to eat bugs to prevent their numbers from overtaking the earth. Overhearing them, the goose ponders on Wilbur's innocence and his ignorance of the fate that awaits him at the Zuckermans' hands on Christmas. As Charlotte enjoys her fly meal, Wilbur drifts off to sleep.

chapter 6

Summer break begins, with Fern spending time with Wilbur nearly daily. Charlotte informs the farm animals about the newly hatched goslings. Yet, one egg remains unhatched. This egg is given to Templeton by the goose, even as the gander cautions him to avoid the goslings. Additionally, Charlotte alerts everyone about the likelihood of a foul stench spreading throughout the barn if the unhatched egg ever breaks.

chapter 7

Wilbur's fondness for Charlotte intensifies with each passing day, as does his physical size. The most ancient sheep brings to light a chilling revelation: the Zuckermans are intent on slaughtering Wilbur come Christmas, with plans to convert him into ham and bacon. Stunned and gripped by fear, Wilbur desperately appeals for salvation. Charlotte promises to rescue him, but on the condition that he ceases his crying and immature conduct.

chapter 8

Fern shares with her mom and dad the dialogues she hears among the animals in the Zuckermans' barn. While her father isn't too perturbed about it, Fern's mother is anxious and decides to consult their family physician, Dr. Dorian, regarding Fern's actions.

chapter 9

Fern observes as Charlotte mends her web, explaining to Wilbur the role her legs play in spinning. Overconfident, Wilbur claims he can do it too. Patiently, Charlotte agrees to guide him through the process. On starting, Wilbur jumps off the manure pile but falls flat as his body lacks the ability to produce a suspending thread. He resorts to getting Templeton to attach a string to his tail and takes another leap, but fails again as the string isn't tied to anything else. Eventually, Charlotte makes it clear to Wilbur that he, or any human, can't spin a web like a spider. As night falls, Wilbur, despite enjoying the comfort of his pen, recalls the sheep's warning about his impending slaughter by the Zuckermans. Fearful of death, he questions Charlotte about the seriousness of her promise to save him. Charlotte reassures him, stating she is contemplating a plan.

chapter 10

Charlotte devises a scheme to rescue Wilbur by fooling Mr. Zuckerman. Fern and Avery spend their time playing at the Zuckermans’ farm, swinging on an old rope at the barn's entrance and picking raspberries in the field. Fern chooses to go see Wilbur. They head toward the pigpen and Avery spots Charlotte’s web. He proclaims his intention to dislodge the spider with a stick and trap it in a box. Fern screams to stop him. As Avery ascends the fence into the pen, he stumbles and falls on the rim of Wilbur’s feeding trough, causing it to flip over. Templeton's hidden rotten egg under the trough smashes, emitting a terrible odor. Fern and Avery pinch their noses and escape, saving Charlotte in the process. When the other animals come back to the barn, they gripe about the foul smell. Lurvy soon shows up with Wilbur's food and, noticing the rotten egg and rat's nest, buries it all under dirt. The rest of the day, the farm quiets down. While Wilbur and his fellow animals rest, Charlotte creates an opening in her web and starts to weave.

chapter 11

Mist shrouds the morning, depositing droplets on Charlotte's web, causing it to sparkle. Wilbur's caretaker, Lurvy, observes the web's splendor and the phrase spelled out within it: SOME PIG! Stunned, he brings Mr. Zuckerman to marvel at the spectacle. Both gentlemen are taken aback. Their gaze shifts between Wilbur and Charlotte. Mr. Zuckerman reports to his wife about the extraordinary occurrence: A cryptic message on a spider web indicating their pig is extraordinary. Mrs. Zuckerman proposes that the spider might be the remarkable one, but her husband firmly believes it's the pig. The Zuckermans, along with Lurvy, return to the pigpen, awestruck by Wilbur. Both Mr. Zuckerman and Lurvy concur that Wilbur is indeed exceptional. Dressed in his finest attire, Mr. Zuckerman informs the local minister about the miracle on his property. Word spreads, drawing people from the entire region to witness Wilbur. The farm becomes neglected as the Zuckermans are engulfed in entertaining the guests and caring for Wilbur.

chapter 12

Charlotte gathers the farm animals for a brainstorming session. She's looking for more words to weave into her web, compliments to describe Wilbur. The goose proposes the word 'terrific', which Charlotte embraces. The eldest sheep recommends that Templeton the rat, fetch glossy ads from the garbage dump for more word suggestions. Initially, Templeton declines, but the sheep reminds him that he feeds off Wilbur's scraps. Without Wilbur, Templeton would starve. With this reminder, Templeton commits to the task of finding a magazine from the dump. With the ideas gathered, Charlotte halts the gathering as she needs to begin weaving 'terrific' into her web. Wilbur doubts his worthiness of such a word, but Charlotte reassures him, in her eyes, he is indeed terrific.

chapter 13

Charlotte dedicates her night to weaving the word 'TERRIFIC' in her web. Upon noticing this in the morning, Lurvy rushes to inform Mr. Zuckerman, who in turn, hurries to share the news with his wife and the Arables. The word quickly catches everyone's attention and visitors flow in to marvel at the 'terrific' pig. Consequently, Mr. Zuckerman plans to showcase Wilbur at the county fair in September. In the meantime, Templeton helps Charlotte by scavenging for word ideas in the trash. The first two words he finds, 'crunchy' and 'pre-shrunk', are immediately rejected by Charlotte. However, when Templeton presents her with a soap advert featuring 'With New Radiant Action', she requests to see Wilbur perform. Finding his actions satisfactory, she chooses 'radiant' as the next word. Fern visits during this time and Wilbur, feeling exhausted, requests Charlotte to narrate a story. She recounts tales of her cousins - one who trapped a fish in her web and another who spun a balloon that carried her away with the wind. Listening to Charlotte's lullaby, Wilbur drifts off to sleep and Fern departs.

chapter 14

While assisting with the dishes, Fern shares with Mrs. Arable tales from Charlotte that she had told Wilbur, which angers her mother who thinks Fern is fabricating stories. When Mrs. Arable suggests outdoor play with friends instead of solitary time in the barn, Fern insists that her closest friends are at the barn and leaves for the Zuckermans' place. Disturbed by Fern's peculiar behavior, Mrs. Arable consults Dr. Dorian in town. After listening to her, Dr. Dorian doesn't express any concern about Fern. He mentions the special pig at the Zuckermans' and the miraculous nature of a spider's web, agreeing it's plausible that animals communicate among themselves. Dr. Dorian reassures Mrs. Arable that Fern's interest will shift from the animals to Henry Fussy, a boy she knows. Mrs. Arable departs from the doctor's office feeling reassured.

chapter 15

As the crickets start their song indicating the nearing end of summer, spectators continue to flock to see Wilbur, the pig, with Charlotte's web proclaiming him as 'RADIANT.' Wilbur remains humble despite the attention and occasionally experiences nightmares about men coming to harm him. With the county fair around the corner, Wilbur aspires to win a cash prize, hoping it will ensure his stay with Mr. Zuckerman. He invites Charlotte to join him at the fair, but the spider might be unable to go, as it's time for her to make and fill an egg sac. Despite this, she pledges to accompany Wilbur to the fair, if she can.

chapter 16

The night preceding the fair, everyone retires early, dreaming about the forthcoming event. They all dress up in their finest attire the following day. Mr. Arable spiffs up his truck while Lurvy preps a special crate for Wilbur, labeled ZUCKERMAN’S FAMOUS PIG. Mrs. Zuckerman bathes Wilbur in buttermilk, preparing him for the fair. Charlotte, deciding to attend the fair, enlists Templeton's assistance. The old sheep convinces Templeton to tag along with the promise of leftover food at the fair. Charlotte secures a hiding place in Wilbur’s crate while Templeton conceals himself under straw. Mr. Arable comments on the quality of ham and bacon Wilbur will yield while loading him onto the truck, causing Wilbur to panic and collapse. Avery's playful antics cause the truck to roll away, but Mr. Arable manages to halt it. Amidst the pandemonium, Wilbur faints and is later revived by Lurvy with cold water. The men succeed in getting Wilbur into his crate and onto the truck. The group then departs for the fair.

chapter 17

At the carnival, Fern and Avery get money from the Arables to enjoy themselves separately. As Wilbur arrives, he attracts a crowd. Charlotte climbs a tall post and spots a massive hog nearby who introduces himself as Uncle and attempts a joke, which Charlotte doesn't find amusing. She tells Wilbur that Uncle might be a tough competitor for a prize due to his hefty size. Fatigued, Charlotte, looking slightly bloated, decides to rest, while visitors flock to see Wilbur. Wilbur becomes anxious upon hearing people express admiration for Uncle.

chapter 18

Templeton sneaks out of Wilbur's box to explore the fair, with Charlotte requesting a word from him for her final web message. Fern encounters Henry Fussy, who purchases a Ferris wheel ride ticket for them both. Templeton dines on leftover food, finds the word 'humble' in a discarded newspaper, and delivers it to Charlotte before indulging in more food. Charlotte weaves the word into her web. However, the Arables, Zuckermans, and Lurvy don't notice the new addition as they return late from the fair. Exhausted, they head home after their full day. Wilbur requests a song from Charlotte, but she's too fatigued. She informs him she's working on a masterpiece to reveal the next day. At the Arable household, Fern shares with her mother that her fair experience was the most enjoyable time she's ever had.

chapter 19

Wilbur wakes up to find Charlotte smaller and weakened, residing next to a cocoon-like sac. She informs him that she's laid 514 eggs in a durable, waterproof sac, but fears she may not survive to see her offspring. Templeton, full after feasting on leftovers, reveals that Uncle the pig has won first prize at the fair. At the fair, the Arables, Zuckermans, and Lurvy see the word HUMBLE in Charlotte's web and cheer, only to be disappointed to find Uncle has already won. Their spirits dampen, Mrs. Zuckerman breaks into tears, but Mr. Zuckerman maintains positivity, deciding to bathe Wilbur in buttermilk. Onlookers admire Wilbur’s cleanliness and humility. A surprise announcement comes over the loudspeaker, stating a special award will be granted and requests Mr. Zuckerman to bring his pig to the judging area. They all rejoice and a contented Charlotte knows she has saved Wilbur’s life. As they escort Wilbur to the judges, Fern gazes at the Ferris wheel, pining to be on it with Henry.

chapter 20

Wilbur's transportation truck pulls up to the judges' station, drawing a crowd. Avery assists in lifting Wilbur's crate from the vehicle. After getting money from Mrs. Arable, Fern runs off to enjoy a Ferris wheel ride with Henry. The announcer introduces Wilbur and brings up the enigmatic spider web writings, crediting it to otherworldly powers since spiders can't write. The judges reward Mr. Zuckerman with a cash prize and a medal, causing Wilbur to faint from the thrill. Mr. Zuckerman rushes to cool down Wilbur, hollering for Lurvy to bring water. As Templeton, hiding in the crate, nips at Wilbur's tail, the pig is startled awake and the spectators cheer. After Mr. Zuckerman accepts his prize, a photographer snaps a shot of Wilbur. Lurvy dashes over with a water bucket for the pig but ends up soaking Mr. Zuckerman and Avery, leading to laughter from the crowd. Avery hams it up while Wilbur is moved back onto the truck to return to his enclosure.

chapter 21

While everyone searches for Fern, Charlotte assures Wilbur of his safety. She admits she helped him out of friendship and reveals she's dying and can't return to the farm. Hearing this, a tearful Wilbur expresses his wish to stay with her at the fair, but she points out no one would feed him there. This sparks an idea in Wilbur. When the Arables and Zuckermans come to fetch him, Wilbur urges Templeton to retrieve Charlotte's egg sac, explaining her impending death. Templeton grumbles about being underappreciated but upon Wilbur's promise of permanent first dibs at his food, he consents. He scales up, releases the egg sac from spider threads and hands it back to Wilbur as the families show up. Wilbur hides the egg sac in his mouth and as he is forced into his crate, he shares a final, silent farewell with Charlotte, who weakly waves back, comforted in the knowledge her offspring would be safe. Charlotte passes away the following day.

chapter 22

Wilbur safely stores Charlotte's egg sac at home, while Mr. Zuckerman proudly displays his medal. The seasons advance, with Fern's thoughts often returning to her Ferris wheel ride with Henry. Wilbur expands in size, frequently reminiscing about Charlotte, while Templeton grows plump from the food Wilbur generously shares. All winter, Wilbur carefully nurtures the egg sac, warming it with his own breath. With the arrival of spring, the egg sac releases a surge of tiny spiders. Wilbur greets them warmly. Over the following days, the tiny spiders grow and examine their new world. One day, they spin silk balloons and are carried away by the breeze, leaving a distraught Wilbur who falls asleep in tears. On waking, he's joyfully greeted by three of Charlotte's daughters who've chosen to remain. After helping them choose names - Joy, Aranea, and Nellie, they pledge their friendship to him. As time passes, Fern grows up and visits less often, but each spring brings more spider offspring. While most depart, some always remain, keeping Wilbur company. Mr. Zuckerman continues to take excellent care of Wilbur. Life is good for Wilbur, even though he always remembers his dear friend Charlotte.

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