In reading Charlotte’s Web, I have noticed a repetitive theme of acceptance and understanding of others’ differences. The first sign of this is from the very beginning of the novel when Fern saves Wilbur, the runt, from being killed, “‘But this is different. A little girl is one thing, another runty pig is another.’ ‘I see no difference,’ replied Fern, still hanging on to the ax. ‘This is the most terrible case of injustice I ever heard of.'” (p.3) As a young girl, Fern is quick to challenge the death of any living creature. Her parents are quick to dismiss the life of a little runt as pointless, but Fern gives Wilbur a chance.
In the chapter titled “Charlotte”, Wilbur discovers that his new friend eats flies. At first he is very disgusted, and states “It’s cruel” (p.40). But once Charlotte explains the benefits to catching bugs in webs, that if she didn’t catch bugs, “bugs would increase and multiply and get so numerous that they’d destroy the earth,” Wilbur begins to understand: “I wouldn’t want that to happen. Perhaps your web is a good thing after all” (p.40). Here, Wilbur is displaying acceptance for Charlotte’s odd lifestyle, but he is still not quite convinced. He thinks that she is a “fierce, brutal, scheming, bloodthirsty” being (p.41). Wilbur develops a greater understanding of his spider friend throughout the course of the novel. The progress of this odd friendship between a pig and a spider is based on a foundation of acceptance of differences.
There are several instances over the course of the novel that exemplify this theme. First, we find Mrs. Arable quite disturbed by her daughter’s stories from the barn, and she proclaims to Dr. Dorian, “I don’t understand it, and I dont like what I can’t understand” (p.110). While she may never be convinced of Fern’s odd behavior, Mr. Arable and Dr. Dorian attempt to diffuse her worries by stating that perhaps it is possible that Fern has heard these animals talk. Another example of acceptance takes place in the barn. Each animal seems to serve a different personality and important role in the community. Even Templeton is vital to the story, and is appreciated for his ability to leave the barn to fetch clippings for Charlotte. In the end, it is Templeton that brings Charlotte’s egg sac to Wilbur (albeit hesitantly). Every character has a place. No matter how troublesome Templeton can be, he ends up giving important contributions to the community of the barn.
Overall, this theme of acceptance connects many characters in the book and helps the reader develop a greater understanding of complex relationships in life, even though it is conveyed through unconventional ways.