In Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, readers can identify with humanized animals. A reader can relate their feelings of fear and uncertainty with those of Wilbur. Children also learn a friendship can be a very fulfilling and essential part of life.
Wilbur faces the possibility of death twice in the novel. Despite Wilbur coming close to death, he is saved each time. Without Fern’s love he would have been killed as a runt, and without Charlotte’s love he would be killed for Christmas dinner. Throughout the book, Fern and Charlotte develop a friendship with Wilbur.
The first example of friendship is that of Wilbur and Fern. This friendship begins more of a mother and child relationship. Fern shows loyalty to Wilbur until the end of the book. At the end, Fern seems to lose interest in Wilbur and takes up an interest in a boy. The mother and child relationship reappears with Wilbur and Charlotte because Charlotte is also quite motherly towards Wilbur several times during the book. For example, “May I go out to my trough and see if I left any of my supper,” says Wilbur and then Charlotte says, “Very well, but I want you in bed again without delay” (64). Even though the mother and child relationship reappears the overall level of friendship is quite different.
Charlotte and Wilbur’s friendship exceeds Wilbur’s friendship with Fern. Even when Charlotte is tired and near the end of her life, she is still thinking of ways to help Wilbur. Charlotte remains completely loyal until death. Even though Charlotte died in the end, she sees the importance given to her life from helping Wilbur. “By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that” (164). The effort she puts forth to save Wilbur makes her feel content and she thinks it has given her life a purpose. Therefore, readers learn that by helping someone else, they are gaining from it too.
Wilbur learns that his friendship with Charlotte is an everlasting friendship. After her death, Wilbur takes care of her children. “Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both” (184). Wilbur knows true friendship is special and long-lasting.