Summary: Chapter XXI. Last Day

While the families look for Fern, Charlotte tells Wilbur that he will be safe now. When Wilbur asks why she helped him, Charlotte responds that she helped because he is her friend. She then explains that she won’t be returning to the farm because she will die soon. Wilbur sobs and insists that he’ll stay at the fair too, but Charlotte reminds him there would be no one there to feed him. Then Wilbur gets an idea. 

As the Arables and Zuckermans come to take him home, Wilbur tells Templeton that Charlotte is dying and asks him to climb up and take the egg sac. Templeton dawdles, complaining that others always ask him for favors yet he’s never appreciated. As people approach, Wilbur becomes desperate. Wilbur promises Templeton that if he retrieves the egg sac, he can always eat from Wilbur’s trough first. Templeton agrees. He climbs up, gnaws through the spider threads holding the sac, and brings it back down to Wilbur just as the families arrive. Wilbur places the egg sac in his mouth. As he’s pushed into his crate, Wilbur winks at Charlotte, who whispers goodbye and weakly waves with one leg. She knows her children will be safe. The next day, Charlotte dies.

Summary: Chapter XXII. A Warm Wind

At home, Wilbur places the egg sac in a safe corner. Mr. Zuckerman hangs his medal where everyone can see it. Fall comes and then winter, but Fern still thinks of riding the Ferris wheel with Henry. Wilbur grows big and thinks often of Charlotte, and Templeton grows fat because Wilbur keeps his promise and shares his food. Through the cold winter, Wilbur guards the egg sac and warms it with his breath. 

One spring day, tiny spiders begin crawling out of the egg sac. Wilbur introduces himself. For several days, the spiders grow and explore their surroundings. One morning, each spins a balloon of fine silk and sails away on a warm draft. Wilbur becomes distraught and cries himself to sleep. When he awakens, however, several tiny voices greet him. Three of Charlotte’s daughters have decided to stay. After Wilbur helps name them—Joy, Aranea, and Nellie—the three spiders pledge their friendship. Over the years, Fern grows up and no longer visits regularly, but every spring new spiders are born. Most fly away, but a few always stay and become Wilbur’s friends. Mr. Zuckerman takes great care of Wilbur. Life for Wilbur is good, though he never forgets his friend Charlotte.

Analysis: Chapters XXI–XXII

Although Charlotte is tired and weak she is happy that she has saved her friend. She always knew her lifespan would be short but she wanted to make sure Wilbur was able to enjoy many seasons to come. When she tells Wilbur that she’s dying, he is sad but it is likely that he is mourning his loss of Charlotte rather than Charlotte’s loss of life. While Wilbur escaped death himself, he is unable to escape the pain of loss. He does, however, figure out a way to replay Charlotte for her kindness and friendship.

Charlotte’s egg sac represents hope for the future. Wilbur longs to take the egg sac back to the barn with him to protect Charlotte’s children, but he cannot reach it. Wilbur has consistently been kind throughout the story but hasn’t had many opportunities to show his compassion or to make a sacrifice like Charlotte has done many times for him. However, Wilbur has grown from his time with Charlotte and follows her example of self-sacrifice in order to take care of her children. He bribes Templeton with the first portion of his food so Templeton will retrieve the sac from Charlotte and Wilbur can carry it home.

Wilbur has to say goodbye to Charlotte at the end of the novel, marking a change of season and a moment of growth for Wilbur. Not only does he say goodbye to Charlotte, but he also says goodbye to Fern as she is no longer as central to his life. Wilbur feels the grief that comes from saying goodbye, but he handles it with maturity. He also looks forward to the future when he will be able to help care for Charlotte’s children.

Charlotte’s friendship with Wilbur changed him. Although he is lonely when he returns to the barn without Charlotte, he is not bored with life like he was at the beginning of the story. Instead, he is filled with purpose as he watches over Charlotte’s egg sac and he takes his job seriously, much the same as he watched the goose do earlier with her clutch of eggs. He values his new friends, Charlotte’s children, as well when they emerge from the sac. Although Wilbur is sad at the prospect of saying goodbye again as many of them choose to take the warm wind and float away, he is filled with joy that three of Charlotte’s daughters decide to stay. While none of them are the same as Charlotte, Wilbur still has friends. Ultimately, not only does Wilbur live a long life, but he gets to live a full life because he has friends.