How E.B. White wove "Charlotte's Web"
How E.B. White wove "Charlotte's Web" Published in 1952, E.B. White's "Charlotte's Web" is still one of the most beloved books of all time. Some 200,000 copies are sold every year and it has been translated into more than 30 languages. It repeatedly tops lists compiled by teachers and librarians as one of the best children's books of all time. (Advertising Archive/Courtesy Everett Collection/Bettman/Corbis)
How E.B. White wove "Charlotte's Web"
Lexile: 930L

Assign to Google Classroom

Not long before E.B. White started writing his classic children's story Charlotte's Web about a spider called Charlotte and a pig named Wilbur, he had an encounter that seems to have deeply affected him. In a 1947 essay for the Atlantic Monthly, he describes several days and nights spent with an ailing pig. It was one he had originally intended to butcher.
"(The pig's) suffering soon became the embodiment of all earthly wretchedness," White wrote. The animal died. But had he recovered, it is doubtful that White would have had the heart to carry out his intentions.
"The loss we felt was not the loss of ham but the loss of pig," he wrote in the essay.
That sentiment became part of the inspiration for Charlotte's Web. It was published in 1952. It remains one of the most beloved books of all time.
A book by Michael Sims focuses on White's lifelong connection to animals and nature. The Story of Charlotte's Web: E.B. White's Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic explores White's encounters with frogs and field mice, rivers and lakes, stars and centipedes. It paints a portrait of the writer as a devoted naturalist.
White once wrote of himself, "This boy felt for animals a kinship he never felt for people." Examining White's regard for nature and animals, Sims unpacked the appeal of Charlotte's Web.
The seeds of White's fascination with nature were planted early, according to Sims' account. The youngest of his seven siblings and painfully shy, Elwyn Brooks White was "miserable when more than two people at a time looked at him."  He suffered from hay fever as a child. That led one doctor to recommend that his parents "douse his head in cold water every morning before breakfast."
In search of fresh country air, his family would travel most summers to a rustic lakeside camp in Maine. Young Elwyn also scoured the nearby woods and barn of his boyhood home in Mount Vernon, New York. He would acquaint himself with farm animals and assorted critters. Gradually, Sims says, Elwyn "became aware that animals were actors themselves, living their own busy lives, not merely background characters in his own little drama."

As an adult, White found communion with only a few select humans. Most worked at The New Yorker magazine. His co-workers included his wife, Katharine Angell, an editor at the magazine. In fact, White's preoccupation with nature and animals became a kind of shield in his adult life.
"He hid behind animals," Sims writes.
During his college years, White tried to woo one of his Cornell classmates by comparing her eyes to those of the most beautiful creature he could summon. That was his dog, Mutt. Years later, when Angell announced she was pregnant with their first child, he was struck speechless. So he wrote a letter to her "from" their pet dog Daisy. The letter described the excitement and anxiety of the dog's owner.
Columns for The New Yorker were White's bread and butter. But he had already written one children's book before Charlotte's Web. That was Stuart Little. It was published in 1945.
Stuart Little is the story of the adventures of a tiny boy who looked like a mouse. White once admitted to having "mice in the subconscious." He had been fascinated by the creatures for decades. He had made them the subject of his childhood writings and stories for family gatherings.
Charlotte's Web is a story of a clever spider who saves a pig. It had obvious appeal to children. Adults heralded it as well. In her review for The New York Times, Eudora Welty wrote that it was "just about perfect, and just about magical in the way it is done."
White lived to the age of 86. But it is Charlotte's Web that keeps his name before the public, generation after generation.

Source URL:

Filed Under:  
Assigned 378 times
How was E.B. White helped by animals?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • khadijan-bur
    2/06/2017 - 12:46 p.m.

    E.B. White was helped by animals by giving the reason to write the famous book Charlotte's Web. This relates to my life because it shows how you don't need materialistic things for you need to do things you want, that all you need is imagination and creativity to do what you want and that helps inspire me to do what i want the skill i already have.

  • connoro-bur
    2/06/2017 - 12:51 p.m.

    He was helped by animals because they told their own story and acted their own movies by the things they did in their every day life. They also interacted with humans. That helped us provide the animal in the movie with characteristics.

  • jacquelineb-pla
    2/06/2017 - 04:44 p.m.

    E.B. White lived a life fascinated by nature. As a boy, White traveled to Maine and saw the wilderness as an escape. Wildlife inspired much of his literature, because of White's childhood connection to nature. This can be seen as civic engagement, because White introduced human-like qualities to animals through literature. In Charlotte's Web especially, personification caused many children to sympathize with animals. These connections between children and animals are very important in teaching respect for animal life, and as a result, respect for the environment.

  • aidanv1-arl
    2/06/2017 - 07:15 p.m.

    E.B. White was helped from animals by getting more attention with people.

  • jamieh-jen
    2/07/2017 - 10:29 a.m.

    He helped by being more social with humans.

  • scarletts-jen
    2/07/2017 - 10:36 a.m.

    He was helped by them by them.

  • alexias1-jen
    2/07/2017 - 10:42 a.m.

    I think E.B. White was helped by animals because he had hay fever and he grew up on a farm and lived there so it was hard to escape all of that hay fever air. Also because the pig was in trouble in charlotte's web and that is why he likes animals so much.

  • nathanm14-ste
    2/10/2017 - 02:08 p.m.

    This story never made much sense to me as a normal little girl would usually just kill the spider. Also, why a spider? mean of all creatures to personify.

  • noemig-bur
    2/13/2017 - 10:59 a.m.

    The Story of Charlotte's Web: E.B. White's Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic explores White's encounters with frogs and field mice, rivers and lakes, stars and centipedes.
    this I very interesting because I have a pig That I lI9ke a lot in Mexico.

  • samirs-bur
    2/13/2017 - 11:08 a.m.

    They basically gave him a story to write. in the passage it said that he was fascinated with animals that he wrote books about them. The animals gave E.B White a scenery to look at he wrote Charlotte's web about a pig who died but in the story the pig didn't die the spider did at the end of the story.

Take the Quiz Leave a comment