Summary: Chapter XV. The Crickets 

The crickets begin to sing, a sign that summer’s end approaches. Charlotte has written RADIANT in her web, and crowds keep coming to see Wilbur. The pig shows off for them, but despite the other animals’ fears, he doesn’t become stuck up. He does sometimes have bad dreams about men coming for him with knives and guns. The county fair is approaching, and Wilbur hopes he will win prize money there so Mr. Zuckerman will keep him. Wilbur asks Charlotte to come to the fair with him, but she tells him she may not be able to because it’s time for her to make an egg sac and fill it with eggs. She promises that she will go to the fair with Wilbur if she can.

Summary: Chapter XVI. Off to the Fair

Everybody goes to bed early the night before the fair and dreams about what will happen there. The next morning, they all put on their best clothes. Mr. Arable polishes his truck. Lurvy puts straw into the special green-and-gold crate he built for Wilbur that’s labeled ZUCKERMAN’S FAMOUS PIG. Mrs. Zuckerman gives Wilbur a buttermilk bath. Charlotte decides to go to the fair and wants Templeton to go too to help her. The old sheep persuades Templeton to go by telling him of all the leftover food he will find at the fair. Charlotte hides in a knothole in Wilbur’s crate, and Templeton buries himself under the straw. 

When Mr. Arable backs his truck up to the pigpen to load Wilbur onto it, he comments how Mr. Zuckerman will get extra good ham and bacon out of Wilbur. Wilbur sinks to his knees, alarmed. Clowning around, Avery climbs into Wilbur’s crate, and the truck begins to roll away, but Mr. Arable manages to stop it. Amid the chaos, Wilbur faints. Fern kneels by his side, and Lurvy rouses the pig with cold water. The men manage to push Wilbur into his crate and onto the truck. Everybody climbs in, and they take off for the fair.

Analysis: Chapters XV–XVI

Charlotte’s words have challenged and shaped Wilbur in addition to describing him. Wilbur reflects on how he has tried to live up to Charlotte’s descriptions, from trying to be “SOME PIG!” and then “TERRIFIC” and now “RADIANT.” In his attempt to live up to this latest descriptor, Wilbur tries new things and even learns to jump and flip. Although the other animals worry that all of the attention will make Wilbur too proud, he remains humble. He still has some fears about his fate but the support and friendship of his barnyard friends has strengthened him.

The singing of the crickets marks the end of summer and shows that the climax, the decision whether Wilbur will be saved or not, is drawing close. The unstoppable progression of the seasons reminds the reader that change is coming and no one know what the season will eventually bring. Charlotte reveals that a change is coming for her too. Preparing her egg sac suggests that new life is coming. However, she reflects that she knows that she will not be able to help Wilbur much longer, which seems to suggest a more permanent change is coming.

Despite Charlotte knowing that the time to make her egg sac is getting close, she decides to go to the fair with Wilbur to keep trying to save him. Charlotte’s sacrifice for her friend is a repeated occurrence and showcases the depths of a meaningful friendship. However, thus far, Wilbur has been unable to offer much to Charlotte in return for her kindness. Charlotte’s kindness also contrasts with Templeton’s selfishness. He continues to act like a stereotypical rat and appears to be motivated to participate with the other animals only when there’s something in it for him. For example, rather than go to the fair with the intent to help Wilbur, Templeton goes because he heard there were large amounts of food there. While Wilbur needs both of them to help him, the difference in Templeton’s and Charlotte’s motivations are stark.