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Charlotte's Web by E.B. White


It was lovely. It looked simple, but it was also so much more. I finished Charlotte's Web a couple of weeks back and I couldn't believe that my eyes actually welled up a bit. (Its amusing how little things can help you deconstruct your true self !)

The story began with Wilbur the piglet -  who reminded me of Babe - and Fern, the kind, little girl who first saved Wilbur's life.  Wilbur moves from Fern's care to the Zuckerman farm and finds friends in the pragmatic sheep, the stammering geese, the cows, the horses and a sneaky rat. His best friend however, turns out to be a smart, grey spider by the name of Charlotte. The story then literally weaves its way through the highs and lows in the lives of Wilbur and Charlotte and ends in a strangely un-childish way. There are evident parallels to commonly encountered human characteristics and life in general, which, E.B. White would have us believe, is the same for all creatures. 

The light and observative story-telling style of the prose is what makes the story very appealing. Of course, this is a children's book after all, but at my age, the precinct of the story reveals a myriad of deeper thoughts, well beyond the implied simplicity of the plot and the language. There is a moral or two in it, but most of it appears latent and one wouldn't really want to bother about it. There is very little sugar-coating and matters of death, loneliness and fear are explored in the same vein as love, friendships and hope. The point to be noted is that it deals with only the basal emotions; there is no retribution, very little cunning. It is all about good souls fighting an uphill battle. 

The book is not made of a single hero. Of course, Charlotte deserves the cream, but I also found Fern's character beautiful and the summation of her gradual growing-up both wistful and welcome. Charlotte's character is perhaps the most unlikely (or so my cynical self tells me) in her selfless determination with respect to Wilbur. But it is inspiring and educational at multiple levels (strength of friendship, gauging and manipulating expectations, deceiving appearances) and I can see how her wily, spidery form can act as a suitable template for a rational thought process for all ages.  

I don't wish to complicate matters by over-analyzing the book. It is a simple but highly relevant piece of work, especially for kids, though as an adult too, it is hard to miss the sweetness.      


Image courtesy http://pilalire.blogspot.in/

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