In this excerpt of Charlotte’s Web Wilbur has just won his prize, and he notices that Charlotte is being very quiet. The two have a short discussion, and then Charlotte tells Wilbur that she is dying and that she will not be returning home. Wilbur is deeply saddened, and he comes up with a plan to bring Charlotte’s eggs home with him. After he convinces Templeton to get the egg sack Wilbur is put into his crate, never to see Charlotte again. Charlotte dies by herself in the abandoned fair grounds. Even though all of the other eggs hatch and generations of spiders follow Charlotte none of them ever replace her in Wilbur’s heart. Reading this part of the story in this class really does change the meaning a lot for me.
I have to admit that I still get a lump in my throat every time I have to read about Charlotte dying. It’s so sad and so sweet at the same time. I did look at it a little differently now however, because I tried to place it in the context of this class. I think that helped me to grasp a little more of the deeper meaning behind the words. I used to see this section as just a really sad part in a simple children’s story. Now I see there is much more to it than that. Prior to this I never put much thought into the way Charlotte’s death represents that never ending cycle of life that we all go through. We are born, we live, and we die. When we are gone a new generation replaces us, and the cycle continues. I think this paragraph on the first page of the excerpt is a great representation of what I am talking about:
“’You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte. ‘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.’”
Templeton and Wilbur also play a much bigger role in this discussion than I previously realized. Templeton seems to show no regard for charlotte. He does not care that she is dying, and is only interested in helping Wilbur when he benefits from it. He is extremely selfish and in many ways is the antithesis of Charlotte’s idea of helping one another. I am still trying to pin down what exactly he is supposed to represent, other than pure egocentrism. Wilbur on the other hand is extremely saddened by the loss of Charlotte. He quickly finds a way to ensure that her eggs survive, and that her children make it home with him. I think Wilbur represents how we all look at death, when a person close to us dies or is close to dying. Once we understand that we will no longer have them in our lives we search for a replacement, but in time we find that they can not be fully replaced.