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Of all the children’s books I have ever read, Charlotte’s Web is one of the best.
It teaches about death and birth. friendship, loyalty and doing the right thing. There are talking animals and carnivals with candy floss and caramel apples and Ferris wheels. It is elegantly simple, well written and heart breaking in both it’s happiness and sadness.
Of all the characters I have ever read, Charlotte is the best.
She is smart, artistic, brave, self-sacrificing and has a take-charge sort of spirit. She’s a good, loyal friend and ultimately a hero. She also taught a generation of children not to fear spiders, but to respect them and admire them for their inherent wisdom, patience and perseverance.
So what makes a Charlotte a good character? Not just a good character, but the kind of character that stays with you throughout the years, long after you’ve put down the book?
Voice: Charlotte’s voice is strong and unique. It’s the first thing Wilbur hears when he’s alone in the dark and it immediately jumps out at you as a well defined character. She’s all there from the very first word: Salutations.
Wit & Wisdom: Although not essential to good character building, Charlotte’s quick wit and thoughtful wisdom make her stand out. I’m not sure how much sitting around and thinking I did when I was a kid, so the concept was foreign to me. But when Charlotte went into her deep reverie and came out with a solution to save Wilbur, I was inspired. Now sitting around and thinking is one of my favorite pursuits.
Serious Charm: Charlotte was a serious lady. She didn’t fuck around. She loved Wilbur deeply, but didn’t coddle him and that was fascinating to me. As a kid, surrounded by people talking in baby voices to me and telling me I was cute, the fact that Charlotte took Wilbur so seriously and talked to him like an adult was a revelation. She had a serious charm about her that has stayed with me. To this day I try to avoid talking to kids in the baby voice, because I know how mind blowing it can be to be spoken to like an adult. With dogs though, all bets are off.
Death: (Spoiler alert) Charlotte dies. It still makes me cry when I read it. She sacrificed so much for Wilbur and she died far away from home. It’s sad as hell, but her death makes her memorable. Like all the great artists who rise to fame after they die, it’s a strange effect death has on us as humans. The impact of life becomes greater when it’s gone and for Charlotte it was no different.
New Life: Charlotte leaves behind babies who, in some small way remind us of her. Their voices are all unique and different, but they still sound like her, occupy a space in our hearts near where her memory lingers. Death sucks, but Charlotte’s voice lives on in her children and in a way, that’s a small consolation. I’m not one for having kids, but I can see the appeal of a certain type of immortality through procreation.
Charlotte’s my favorite.