Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White: A Book Review

IMG_20130103_015915Lo and behold, my   young student   lent me – although I abhor to do so-  this in tatters  considering that I am now  finicky about book covers. I prefer pristine books to crispy ones since I would love to build  my own private library someday where in I would definitely hole up reading the books I would like to keep up with. (Stargazing) Yippie! I  can’t wait for it.

I rarely get a chance to meet a young student whose taste for books  is paralleled with mine. It just so happened that my student came up with this book and offered to lend me first , for she knows that I have not bought my own copy yet. Out of idle curiosity I nodded in excitement  since its paperback  picture of a cute  girl  looking up to a spider in its web while holding a pig  had drawn my attention many times   at children books sections in a book store.  Also, I had learned that it is considered as one of the best children books in the world literature.  So I did not want to miss this opportunity as long as books could be at my disposal and gratis .

As a matter of course, literally, I tend to judge a book cover rather than its content, the first ideas of the story  that I deluded myself into were:

( a)  The pig was the main  protagonist of the story.

(b) The girl in the picture was Charlotte.

(c) The pig was Charlotte’s pet .

(d) The story centered around  the pig’s heroism  just the like in  the movie Babe: Pig City by George Miller.

Upon reading it, I have shattered all my illusions with this burning sensation of   shame.

( a)  The pig was the main  protagonist of the story.

Yes, the pig is the main protagonist of the story. His name is Wilbur  but there’s one thing I did not give a fiddle’s fart about- the spider. The spider also has a special role as the all rage to the story. She, not a man if you are unconsciously borne upon this male sexism, is Charlotte A. Cavatica.

(b) The girl in the picture was Charlotte.

Teng! Teng! Teng!  ( X-double –minus ) The spider is Charlotte. The girl’s name is Fern Arable. She saved Wilbur from death when her father found  out that he is a  rant. She begged her father that she pet Wilbur herself.

(c) The pig was Charlotte’s pet.

Nope. When Wilbur was crestfallen because Fern missed visiting him, Charlotte, the spider, comforted him until they hit it off like best friends.

(d.)The story centered around   the pig’s heroism  just the like in  the movie Babe: Pig City by George Miller.

Not at all! The highlights of  the story are:

First: Wilbur knew that he was expected to be killed for ham and bacon before Christmastime.

Second: Charlotte  would make some miracles to save Wilbur.

Third:  The natural life-and-death process of Charlotte. Tear-jerker! T_T

I was close to giving it 4 stars because I  enjoyed reading the first part in which I basked  the philosophical discussion between  Fern and his father about life.

Fern Arable: [John Arable lifts runt from the newborn litter of piglets] Papa! Papa, stop! Don’t kill it! It’s unfair.
Arable: Fern! You will have learn to control yourself!
Fern Arable: [crying] Control myself? This is a matter of life and death, and you talk about controlling myself?
Arable: Now Fern, I know a lot more about raising pigs than you do. A weakling makes trouble, now run along.
Fern Arable: But it’s unfair! If I had been very small, would you have killed me?
Arable: No, certainly not! A little girl is one thing, a… runty pig is another.
Fern Arable: [Sobbing] I don’t see any difference! This is the most terrible case of injustice that I ever heard of!

Then,  I kept turning the next pages  so eager and excited  to know how Fern is  able to  bring Wilbur up. But I was disappointed when I found out that Charlotte turned out to be a spider beyond my great expectations. I guess I had this conception that how a spider , definitely  whose intelligence is lower than the domestic animals in the barn , could  have such a big role, especially in her ability to communicate with  others. Probably I am more used to watching TV anime  or reading fables  which most of  the characters involved are intellectually higher than insects such as spiders . Or You’ d rather I said social interaction among animals with different intellectual  classification .  For example, pigs could interact with another domestic animals like horses, sheep, goats, geese, chickens, cats, dogs, or even mice, but with insects such as spiders   and other kind alike is off the center. I have never read  nor seen such kind of interaction yet. If I have as the memory serves, I just know that they just take a cameo part.

I  had expected that the story would go like ,probably , Wilbur would be a Super-Pig doing something heroic granted that the perception of the town people about him was that he is an animal, merely a pig. Uh-oh! I may have gotten this idea   from animation movies which the common scene is  that an animal does something remarkable  such as in Pig City, Beethoven, Dalmatian 101…

I may be a little disappointed at the twists and turns of the story, but I can’t deny the fact that it is worth its salt. You can pick some lessons   from the philosophical discourses among the characters about  LIFE and FRIENDSHIP.No wonder it has received a panoply of  different literary awards.

On life , I liked :

 “Life is always a rich and steady time when you are waiting for something to happen.”

 Who won’t skip Wilbur’s standing-ovation polemic on an arrogant lamb’s snide  that He(Wilbur) is just  less than nothing ?

“What do you mean less than nothing? I don’t think there is any such thing as less than nothing. Nothing is absolutely the limit of nothingness. It’s the lowest you can go. It’s the end of the line. How can something be less than nothing? If there were something that was less than nothing, then nothing would not be nothing, it would be something – even though it’s just a very little bit of something. But if nothing is nothing, then nothing has nothing that is less than it is.”

Howzat? Read it again ! ( laughs)

On friendship, I want to remember Charlotte’s lines by heart :

 “You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. 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.”

Rating: 3/ 5 stars ( I liked it. )

My Korean student who lent me her book. ^^
My Korean student who lent me her book. ^^

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