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Filled with excitement about meeting his new friend, Wilbur has a hard time sleeping. When daylight comes, he searches for his new friend but doesn’t see anyone. He loudly asks who the friend is, but he wakes the other animals, and the oldest sheep shushes him. Lurvy brings Wilbur his slop, which he gobbles up hungrily. As Wilbur lies down for his morning nap, he hears the voice again. The voice greets him and introduces itself as Charlotte, the spider whose web spans the upper corner of the doorway above his pen. Charlotte demonstrates how she catches and wraps a fly that gets caught in her web. She lists all the insects she eats, explaining that she actually just drinks their blood. Upon hearing this, Wilbur feels disturbed. Charlotte explains that she is the way she is and that if she didn’t eat bugs, they would overtake the earth. Hearing their conversation, the goose thinks to herself how innocent Wilbur is and that he doesn’t even know the Zuckermans will slaughter him at Christmas. As Charlotte eats the fly, Wilbur settles down for his nap.
School lets out for the summer, and Fern visits Wilbur almost every day. The goose’s eggs hatch, and Charlotte announces the goslings’ arrival to the barnyard animals. One egg does not hatch, however. The goose gives it to Templeton, while the gander warns Templeton that he had better stay away from the goslings. Charlotte warns everyone that if the unhatched egg ever breaks, the stink from the rotten egg will fill the whole barn.
Charlotte’s introduction to Wilbur also introduces Wilbur to the harsh realities of the world. The identity of Wilbur’s would-be friend surprises him since he is not familiar with spiders. Wilbur feels disturbed by Charlotte’s nature as a spider, as it contrasts with the world he knows so far. Where he receives his food from others on a schedule every day, Charlotte earns her food by making her webs and catching her dinner. Even as Charlotte explains the practicality of her diet, Wilbur focuses, at first, on her bloodthirsty nature. However, Charlotte shows Wilbur that death is often necessary. As the goose listens to their conversation and thinks about the Zuckermans’ plan to slaughter Wilbur at Christmas, the sometimes unpleasant nature of the world that is just part of life for animals is noted, but it is also a reminder to the reader of Wilbur’s potential fate.
Friendship remains central to the story, especially as Wilbur gains new friendship with Charlotte and his old friend Fern visits more often because she is no longer in school. Even among the other animals, Wilbur experiences the comradery that comes from living with others. Wilbur’s growing relationships are shown by his joy at the hatching of the goslings, both in his pride for the goose and the enjoyment of the new babies. His comradery is also shown in his understanding of Templeton, knowing not only where he lives but the things he stores and values.
Wilbur’s youth is contrasted by the wisdom and knowledge of the older animals in the barn. When he speaks loudly in the morning to learn the identity of his new friend, the oldest sheep shushes him and scolds him for being inconsiderate to the sleeping animals. When he is critical of Charlotte’s diet, she teaches him that they are different and thus have different responsibilities and needs. When Templeton takes the one unhatched goose egg, Charlotte speaks a word of wisdom to the barn animals about the potential stench if the egg were to break. While Wilbur knows very little compared to other animals in the barn, his innocence and willingness to learn is shown as a positive quality.