Tuesday, June 28, 2022

E.B. White - Charlotte's Web

Some Pig. Humble. Radiant. These are the words in Charlotte's Web, high up in Zuckerman's barn. Charlotte's spiderweb tells of her feelings for a little pig named Wilbur, who simply wants a friend. They also express the love of a girl named Fern, who saved Wilbur's life when he was born the runt of his litter.
E. B. White's Newbery Honor Book is a tender novel of friendship, love, life, and death that will continue to be enjoyed by generations to come. This edition contains newly color illustrations by Garth Williams, the acclaimed illustrator of E. B. White's Stuart Little and Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series, among many other books.

Comment: One more classic book, which I had not read before, and a challenge prompt was key to make me decide on finally get to it.

This children's classic is well known by many and its story already on TV cartoons or movies. Wilbur, the pig, is rescued by Fern, a young girl, from being killed only because he is the runt and then he is taken to her uncle's farm. There, Fern watches over the animals, hears their conversations and agrees with many of the plans they come up with. Charlotte, the spider, imagines a wonderful way for the humans to realize Wilbur is a special pig and should not be turned into bacon, but will they succeed in making it so? How can the farm animals join forces to help Wilbur?

I don't think it is necessary to say much about this book, that others haven't done before, or that I could say better than some of those did. This is a cute book, cute characters and a simple message which can captivate children and adults alike, even if by different reasons.

What comes to mind after reading this story is how I also imagined lives for my dolls and for the animals on my grandfather's house, where I'd spend so many afternoons. My parents worked and as a child I stayed with my paternal grandparents and, later on as a teenager, I liked going there and read my uncle's books or eat toast while listening to soccer on the radio. What memories! I think this is the most obvious consequence of reading this book, how the innocence of prose and content makes us travel back to our childhood...

Wilbur the pig is saved. He is promised a life of luxury, eating his favorite foods and playing around in his pen, and his established friendships with the other animals. If one reads this as a metaphor for our own existence, Wilbur has a very simple but steady life, but at the end of the road there is one certain thing: death comes to us all, and Wilbur might have his come sooner than later. However, while we are here, we should cherish those we care about, who care about us too and there is nothing more precious than a true friend.

At some point, Wilbur is able to run from his pen and the other animals tell him it's better to have little time free than a quiet but never ending lifetime enclosed. I found this passage important, because how many of us, with the possibility of choice a given, unlike animals, and we choose to be locked in to a place, to an idea, to a person? In comes Charlotte, a spider, who teaches Wilbur something, makes his innocence and curiosity something positive and not the naivete others would mock him for.

Charlotte helps Wilbur, devises a very clever plan and somehow, Wilbur's life might be saved. How wonderful we could have others around us to advice, to help, but only if we want to be helped in the first place anyway... this has a price, but aren't we all doomed to pay it at some point of out lives? I think the dynamics between these fantasy characters are kept simple but they do teach us a lesson: real friends are important and being a good person too, because if we do our best and don't cause harm to others, all little things feel so much better too.

Despite all this, and perhaps because I watched the movie years ago, I admit I didn't feel as charmed as I expected not as seduced by the simplicity of this. I kind of imagined I would feel more emotional while reading, but at the same time, my grown up brain still recognizes the beauty and the magic in a story like this so... never a wasted opportunity to read a classic for the memories it evokes.
Grade: 8/10

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