Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.


Friendship marks Wilbur from the beginning of the novel when Fern saves him and they become young companions. Friendship continues to be an important thing to pursue for all of the characters, and its importance is even discussed explicitly. Wilbur deals with change by finding a friend to get through it with and is ultimately saved by friendship. Charlotte even tells Wilbur that she does what she does to save his life because she is his friend.

Fern’s mother explicitly discusses how Fern is shaped by friends. She worries that Fern’s friends are animals and not people, and even asks a doctor if something is wrong with her for wanting to spend her time with animals.


Throughout the story, repetition is used to provide comfort for characters. When Wilbur is anxious about potentially being slaughtered, Wilbur repeatedly calls out “goodnight” to Charlotte to reassure himself that he is not alone. This is a relatable reaction to being afraid and effectively shows Wilbur’s childishness. When the goose speaks, she repeats herself to make sure she is heard. Not only does this way of speaking remind the reader of the way a goose sounds, but it also comforts the goose that it is heard. Similar to Wilbur calling out at night, the goose repeats herself to establish who she is. Charlotte often repeats herself to Wilbur as well to comfort him in his distress. She patiently teaches Wilbur with repetition and repeats stories to comfort him.

Charlotte’s Web

Charlotte repeatedly spins words in her web that both propel the plot and shape Wilbur’s identity. The words in the web serve to grab the attention of the humans and lead them to believe that Wilbur is special and should not be slaughtered. This not only gets the attention of Mr. Zuckerman, but also people throughout the town, ultimately leading to Wilbur winning a prize at the fair and not being slaughtered. Charlotte’s web is also used to shape Wilbur’s character. Whereas Charlotte believes the words she uses in her web are fitting for Wilbur, Wilbur believes that he has to live up to them. The words in the web thus propel his character growth.