Summary: Chapter IX. Wilbur’s Boast

Fern watches Charlotte repair her web. Charlotte describes to Wilbur how her legs help her spin. Wilbur brags that he could spin a web too. Smiling, Charlotte agrees to coach Wilbur on how to spin. To begin, Wilbur leaps from the top of the manure pile but crashes to the ground because his body can’t produce a line of thread to suspend him. He asks Templeton to tie a string to his tail and leaps once more, only to crash again because the string isn’t attached to anything else. Charlotte finally tells Wilbur that he can’t spin a web like a spider and neither can men. As twilight settles, Wilbur feels comfortable in his pen but then remembers what the sheep had told him about the Zuckermans’ plan to slaughter him. He tells Charlotte he doesn’t want to die and asks if she was serious about saving him. Charlotte assures Wilbur that she is thinking of a plan.

Summary: Chapter X. An Explosion

Charlotte has finally come up with a plan—she will save Wilbur by playing a trick on Mr. Zuckerman. Fern and Avery come to play on the Zuckermans’ farm. They swing on an old rope in the barn doorway and pick raspberries in the pasture. Fern then decides to visit Wilbur. As they walk toward the pigpen, Avery notices Charlotte’s web. He announces he’s going to knock the spider down with a stick and capture it in a box. Fern cries out to stop him. As Avery climbs the fence into the pen, he loses his balance and lands on the edge of Wilbur’s trough, tipping it over. 

The rotten egg that Templeton had hidden under the trough breaks, and a horrible stench fills the air. Fern and Avery hold their noses and run away, and Charlotte is saved. When the rest of the animals return to the barn, they complain about the smell. Soon, Lurvy appears with Wilbur’s lunch slop. Smelling the rotten egg and seeing the rat’s nest, he covers everything with dirt. Throughout the rest of the day, the barnyard settles down. As Wilbur and the other animals sleep, Charlotte tears a hole in her web and begins to spin.

Analysis: Chapters IX–X

Wilbur’s own pride teaches him humility when he compares himself to Charlotte and tries to spin a web like hers. With youthful zeal, Wilbur boasts about making a web, which he has never attempted before. While he boldly jumps from the manure pile and gets creative by asking Templeton for string, he ultimately fails because he is not a spider. In the end, he learns more about who he is by learning who he is not. He also learns a lesson about comparing himself to others. He ends the experiment humbled and appreciative of Charlotte’s ability.

In contrast to Wilbur discovering who he is, Charlotte has the maturity and awareness to know what her strengths are. She first uses this understanding to teach Wilbur a lesson. Although she knows that Wilbur has no hope of spinning a web of his own, she patiently teaches him anyway and lets him discover that for himself. After the lesson, Charlotte reminds Wilbur that they are different and that is good. Charlotte then uses the knowledge of her unique strengths and abilities to come up with a way to help Wilbur.

Charlotte’s friendship with Wilbur continues to be a source of comfort and hope. Not only does Charlotte help Wilbur escape boredom with things like teaching him how to spin a web, but she also reminds him that he is not alone even in the midst of fear. She tells him that she is thinking of a plan to save him and is patiently present with him in his anxiety. When Wilbur, clearly anxious from thinking about the Zuckermans killing him, repeatedly calls “good night” to Charlotte in the dark, she calmly responds to him. Although Charlotte knows her own lifespan is short, she is determined to make the most of the time she has left by saving Wilbur. She proves to be a steadfast friend in the fun and in the hard times.

Fern’s friendship and compassion are also displayed as she protects Charlotte from her brother, Avery. While Fern appreciates the natural world, Avery wants to possess it. When Avery tries to catch Charlotte, Fern shows a loyalty to her animal friends by actively trying to stop him. Nature actually comes to the rescue when Templeton’s rotten egg explodes, and Avery runs away. Later, Charlotte, who survived her own possible brush with death, begins to work on her plan to save Wilbur.