Junior (College 3rd year) ・Psychology ・Harvard ・25 Sources

Children's success is greatly influenced by literature (Seginer 1983, p.14). It is vital that stakeholders in children's education devise strategies to encourage children to acquire a love of reading because it aids in the development of their critical and creative thinking skills (Nodelman 1996, p.25). Literature is significant because it allows pupils to recognize their own cultural legacy as well as that of others (Russell 1991, p.18). It can help students enhance their emotional intelligence and creativity. Furthermore, it fosters the growth and development of the student's personality (Jones 2009, p.2). It transmits critical literature and themes from generation to the other.

The topic under discussion is friendship in the book Charlotte’s Web. Children are always encountering new information and situations, which affect their malleable minds. Children tend to read books that show characters with the same type of behavior to show them what their action looks like from a different point of view (Kiefer et al. 2007, p.16). Young children expect friendship by acquainting their cognitive development with moral judgment (Bigelow 1977, p.6). Giving children an opportunity to learn about others who behave in the manner they may be displaying, gives them the opportunity to judge whether this is a good trait to have or not (Nikolajeva 2015, p.9).

Friendship, plays a central role in the in the book from just the onset of the story thought out up to the end (Kutnick & Kington 2005, p.16). When the story begins, John Arable must have developed some sense of a soft spot for pigs. The whole story summarizes the friendship of Wilbur the farm pig named Wilbur to two characters Fern, and the spider named Charlotte (page 9). It appears that that the main idea the author wanted the reader to understand was friendship. The main topic of the story justifies the selection for the theme friendship (page 9). This paper seeks to present the subject of friendship in the book in depth linking it various theories that you can consider when choosing the type of literature for young children.

Additionally, it goes deeper into analysis and the demonstration of the theme of friendship in comparison to other children’s book which acts as a source of literature for children. It tries to depict how the theme has been presented in the books and gives certain traits of friendship. That sometimes friendship may occur by default cannot be overlooked in the analysis (Tobin 1958, p.16). This paper further seeks to give a brief history of the author of the book Charlotte's web and what must have inspired him in the authoring of the book. This paper will also present the summary of the story.

Authors’ background

Elwyn Brooks White, popularly known as E.B. White was born on the July 11th of July 1899, in Mount Vernon Elledge (1986). He wrote three books for children, including Stuart Little (1945), Charlotte's Web (1952), and The Trumpet of the Swan (1970). White revised the Elements of Style by the late William Strunk Jr in 1959 which became a standard style manual for writers, Elledge (1986). He also wrote for adults, Here Is New York, published as an essay in 1948. He won a Pulitzer Prize special citation in 1978. He died at his home in North Brooklin, Maine in 1985 aged 86 Hopkins (1986). Being the youngest of his family, he must have experienced most of what he wrote in his childhood. His elder brother called Stan was influential as a child teaching E. B. White to read and explore the natural world. A series of factors like love for animals, ranches, seasons, and weather formats influenced him on the choice of character he uses in Charlotte’s Web. Kate DiCamillo quotes White as saying, ""All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world, Hopkins (1986).

Summary of the story

The book was about a young farm piglet reared by farmer known as John Arable whose life was saved by the farmer’s daughter named Fern and a spider named Charlotte. Fern loved the pig so much, and she named it Wilbur. She brought it food every evening when she came from school. When the pig grew to maturity, Arable sold it to Zuckerman, who was his brother and uncle to fern (Kiefer et al. 2007, p.12). Fern made time to visit Wilbur at Zuckerman’s, as his home was only down the street. At Zuckerman’s, Wilbur found other animals including horse’s, geese, sheep and a rat. Even with the presence of other animals, Wilbur felt lonely and started looking for a companion (Kiefer et al. 2007, p.18). One evening, Wilbur heard a voice seeking friendship with him. He looked around but never saw where the sound was originating. In the morning, he discovered that the sound was coming from a spider.

The spider introduced herself as Charlotte. They became great friends. She reported the events to her mother who dismissed her (Kiefer et al. 2007, p.4). Charlotte tricked Zuckerman by spinning the web with the writings ‘SOME PIG.' Zuckerman got astonished by the writings when he came to feed the animals. He called his wife and neighbors to come and see the writings. Charlotte further continued with this trick two more times after consulting Templeton with the words ‘terrific’ and ‘RADIANT’ on its web. Zuckerman decided not to slaughter Wilbur as he became proud of Wilbur. Soon afterward Wilbur was to attend county fair. Charlotte has spun another word ‘HUMBLE’ which Wilbur’s went with to the show, and he won the best prizes at the fair. Charlotte became of age and made herself a bag of her eggs, which number to 514. Wilbur felt sad. Charlotte failed to return to the barn, but Templeton carried the bag. The sac was finally opened, and 514 baby spiders came out. Wilbur too loved the baby spiders (page 29)

From the story, Fern loved the young piglet so much. After her father spared his life, Charlotte befriends the pig. E.B White in her book says Fern was happy and named the pig Wilbur (Serafini & Moses 2014, p.1). It can, therefore, be deduced that some relationships can be unexpected. Individuals may get friends from the people they least expect to be their friend at unexpected times (Crick & Dodge 1994, p.16). Piaget's “Cognitive Theory of Development” best explains this, Shirk (2013). The theory describes phases of human mental development from birth to adulthood.

Theory of Friendship

Stories that reflect the human stages of development assist the children in full development of the cognitive part of their trait (Martinez & Harmon 2015, p.17). The theme of friendship is being introduced to children at this age as it could teach them empathy and that bond can be formed regardless of differences. This includes realistic stories that involve decision-making and emotion (Martinez & Harmon 2015, p.31). These types of books will, in theory, help children to understand further various relationships and how to approach them realistically (Kehily 2004, p.5). The theory as such plays an important role when choosing children’s literature. A focus on content and theme dominate the contexts of the production and dissemination of the children’s literature (Kehily 2004, p.5). The language of the literature receives thus little explicit attention. The language of fiction is used in the writing of the literature for the children (Huck 1982, 16). Ordinarily, it’s not true that a human being can make such great friends with an animal known to like playing in the mud.

Another unexpected friendship occurred when Wilbur was transferred to another barn on a different farm (Kehily 2004, p.23). Wilbur had lost a reliable friend in Fern. Here he became lonely and started looking for friends from other animals on the farm, but they declined his friendship (Martinez & Harmon 2015, p.16). Circumstances force Wilbur and the other animal's friendship on the farm they find themselves in, when he tried begging for their friendship, each one of them said no, except for Charlotte. “He requested the geese to play, and they offered a negative response (page 7). He asked the horse to play, and he said ""no."" He asked Tempelton, the rat, to play, and he said ""no."" Wilbur looked for friendship in every animal in the barn, yet was only replying with kindness from Charlotte, the spider.

The least expected, in fact, he didn’t realize the presence of Charlotte, the spider in that barn for all the days he was there until the spider herself came out offering him friendship (Kehily 2004, p.26). Spiders are to be bloody suckers, so how a spider can befriend a mammal when put in the class of a dangerous parasite, demonstrate that friendship can be formed with wonderful characters. It teaches children not to judge one's character by associating their looks.

The contents and themes of fiction that are representations of social situations and values, and such social processes are inextricable from the linguistic processes which give them expression (Huck 1982, p.6). The choice between fantasy and realism is among a range of any generic option on offer by fiction. Such fantasy and realism have distinct differences within them, such as that between time-slip fantasy grounded in the visible world, or fantasy set in an imaginary universe (Huck 1982, p.7). To make such a choice involves entering into a discourse, a compound of story types and structures, social forms and philological practices (DeMarco 1979, p.19).

There is also use of third-person narration in the presentation of the theme (DeMarco 1979, p.5). From the onset of the story, it's indirect speech. However, this has been mixed with direct statements from several characters in the story. Wilbur is quoted asking the other animals to play with him. He also says he felt lonely. ""I am so secluded; one day is just like the other,” (page 6). Zuckerman is also quoted saying that Wilbur has fattened and would slaughter him. In the reported narration, sheep tells Wilbur the owners are fattening him to kill him during Christmas. Writer implicitly, and powerfully, control how readers understand the text through the use of narration facet (DeMarco 1979, p.4).

Readers surrender themselves to the flow of the discourse, especially by focusing attention on the story or content. Moreover, they are susceptible to the inherent power of point of view. A narrative voice which is present interprets the scene for the benefit of readers. It is an aspect of texts. We see this in the presentation of scene and incident that happen through the representation of speech and thought, and the strategy of the vocalization. The manner in which these stylistic descriptions have been used provokes humor (Kehily 2004, p.24).

There are different types shown in the book besides the friendship of Fern and Wilbur's. The friendship between Templeton and Wilbur was a kind of friendship where one party benefits. Templeton’s only worries if Wilbur was killed and that Zuckerman would stop bringing food to the barn and Templeton will have to steal food (Serafini & Moses 2014, p.16). Templeton cares less about Wilbur's life and cares more of his gains from Wilbur. Complementary or mutually beneficial friendship between Wilbur and Templeton presents a folk and fairy tale. However, a different side of Templeton was shown in the book where he assisted Wilbur in carrying the sack for Charlotte’s eggs during her final moments (page 29).

Friendship and loyalty go hand in hand ‘’Wilbur requested Tempelton to bring her the egg sac. They carried it back to the barn with them’’ (pg. 29). Fern remains loyal even after the sale of Wilbur; she still found time to visit him. When Avery slide and fell due to the foul smell in the barn, Fern stayed there for some time. Charlotte also remains loyal to Wilbur through thick and thin. When Charlotte died, Wilbur loved her baby spiders and remained loyal to them. Friendship lasts beyond a generation. Wilbur and Charlotte have been good friends for years; the bond continued even after Charlotte was left in the barn.

The above presents critical lessons to learners, as they may wish to apply later on in life. Allowing them to behave to hear about others who act in the manner they may be displaying, gives them the opportunity to judge whether this is a good trait to have or not. It further allows children to understand the beauty of a real friendship and how to care or love something more compassionately and not possessively. Honor works to maintain friendship in certain circumstances. Wilbur did not like the idea of Charlotte eating bugs; he thought Charlotte was mean. “Then Wilbur watched her eat bugs in her spider web. He was sad. He did not like her eating bugs. He thought she was mean”, (page 9).

Friendships between Charlotte and Wilbur shows the reliable support they give each other. Charlotte wins the Wilbur’s friendship and loyalty more through the spinning of the web that spares and saves Wilbur’s life. Charlotte’s actions are an impression that individuals can do anything possible within their reach to go the extra mile for a friend. Wilbur extends the same level of friendship when he refuses to give up on Charlotte when she was physically weak to return to the barn (pg. 29). True friendship is about providing encouragement and making one happy when under distress situation. Charlotte encourages Wilbur by assuring him that all will be well and he was going to save his life (Collins 2011, p.12). Another characteristic of friendship show in the book was the acceptance and willingness to embrace one's character in any situation. Although Wilbur did not like the idea of Charlotte eating bugs, he remained friends with her “But he also thought she was smart and pretty. Wilbur had a new friend” (pg. 9).

True friendship also comes with continuity of love and care for one's family members even after death. Wilbur loved Charlotte and her babies.” When Charlotte’s sac opens up, and 514 offspring comes up, Wilbur is excited and loves them. They become good friends just like his friendship with their mother. “In the next Spring, the bag unlocked, and over 500 baby spiders came out (pg 29). Wilbur was so happy that he had Charlotte's children as friends. Wilbur showed love to Charlotte and her babies.

Putting others interest first before your own is another trait of true friendship. Charlotte needed to lay her eggs on the day that Wilbur was required to attend the county fair. When Wilbur requests her to give him company to the show, she gladly accepted. “Charlotte said she might not be able to; Charlotte needed to lay eggs. She promised to try” (page 22). Love and care are also true characteristics of real friendship. Charlotte and Wilbur loved each other’s friendship dearly. It is due to the love and attention that Charlotte had over Wilbur that he agreed to save his life twice and accompany him to the fair. The same love is also displayed between Fern and Wilbur, where Fern doesn’t give up on Wilbur despite the pressure from her family wanting to kill Wilbur.

Cover of the Book

The style of the illustrations on the cover of a page plays a significant role in motivating children to read the book. The kind of design of the pictures on the front cover of the book should be chosen carefully. Children get inspired and motivated to read the books due to the attraction of the colors and design on the cover. The colors and design also have a lasting effect on the memory of the children. Young children will be attracted to the picture of the book where a young girl is holding a piglet, and they will store this in their memory. According to Nodelman (1988), the picture-book genre is a paradox. On the one hand, we see children’s literature as one truly original contribution to literature in general, a ‘polyphonic’ form which absorbs and uses many codes, styles, and textual devices, and which frequently pushes at the borders of the convention (Nodelman 1988, p.16). On the other, it’s seen as the province of the young child and is therefore beneath serious critical notice. There is much to say about a picture and also much to learn and understand through picture readings. This statement implies that one can give different interpretations for a single picture in a book. Pictures speak so much yet they are silent.

Different people can also provide many different interpretations of the same image. Therefore, to assist children with their understanding of a story, picture books may be recommended as it gives children room for their thoughts. Picture books, therefore, do play a significant role in integrating young children into cultural ideologies of adults (Martinez 2015, p.16). They also assist the children with learning with the iconicity of the pictures and a presence of manipulative images (Tare et al., 2010). Page 23 of the book shows different faces a crying face, a smiling face and a tired face. Charlotte's web challenge and engages the reader in numerous ways. The book uses weave words which are mixed with pictures in the narration of the story. For learners who may appear disinterested, this proves highly efficient and engaging students are reading the book. The combination of pictures and texts requires readers of the book to draw on existing knowledge. The pictures in the book try to illustrate the texts that they show with each page having pictures coming before the text; readers will be eager to go through the texts as they refer to the pictures. According to Nodelman (1988, p.13), readers get motivated when looking at the pictures and are psyched to read to understand the meaning of those pictures.

Charlotte's web makes use of short formats like on (page 11) a caricature of a human being is seen piercing a nice to another curriculum which also appears to be another person. The readers will grasp a concept within a short period because they will have an idea that at least there is a subtheme of slaughter in the text. They can now read with a certain expectation of getting to know the explanation that is assigned to such a picture. Wordy books may appear threatening to the young children as they are not engaging at all. Charlotte's web appears less being less threatening for the young readers of the use of images in all the pages including the pictures between texts gives the young readers contextual clues of what to expect in the course of their reading. Images such as that of a young girl, Fern, will make young readers try to imagine themselves being that girl and linking what she appears to do with their daily activities. “Sharing picture books with children leads to amazing conversations. In the best picture books, there is a gap between the pictures and the words, a gap that is filled by the child's imagination.""

Charlotte's web is full of fun. Young readers get attracted to stories which are full of fun. As they read the amusing escapades, they get carried away by the stories that they read leading to more concentration expecting more inclusive stories in the book. Charlotte's web also uses an interesting plot that captures the attention of the reader. From narration in the burn at Arables to the events at the county fair captures the attention of the readers making them develop more and more interests in the reading of the book. A book that does not capture the reader's attention is less attractive and even if it’s read in class in front of the young students, they will lose their focus attention and start to concentrate on their things.

The use of humor in the book will capture the attention of the reader. Sheep telling Wilbur they are fattening him to slaughter him is a humorous statement. This also appears to capture the attention of the readers as they look for more humor and home in the story. Incidentally, humor is one of the excellent characteristics of picture books for children. Charlotte's web story teaches a concept or value. The concepts of friendship, kindness teaches good morals to the young readers. This makes them ask themselves critical questions within their minds whether certain actions done by the characters in particular even is good or bad. They then try to imagine if they were the ones in such situation, what they would have done.

Charlotte's web embraces the use of strong characters that are identifiable and evoke emotion. Characters like a fern in their heroic acts of saving Wilbur is a strong character. Other charters like Wilbur, who gains the courage of saving Wilbur despite her small size evokes emotions. Though allowing the observation and to interpretation by readers, Charlotte's web play a role encouraging readers to absorb all the codes and conventions. Furthermore, the reader absorbs the signs that make them meaningful; they give us the freedom of uninvolved, egocentric observation only to pin users in some form of cultural constraints working to control self-centeredness (Mitchell 2013, p.15).

The readers of this book are active explorers; They will try to explore the next plot in the story as they get motivated by the strong characters in the story. Reading against the grain (author leaves some things unsaid for us to imagine, e.g., Charlotte's web book), an example is whether Wilbur was finally slaughtered or not as the story ends where the sac opens, and the young spiders come out. Watson (1992) reminds us that ‘good books have no hallmark – and, if they had one, children would probably disregard it’ (Page1). He suggests that books do not have a particular standard and that children are not allowed to make choices. It is their instructors that make such decisions for them. If children’s literature is more complicated than it seems, even more complex, perhaps, is the position it finds itself in between adult writers, readers, critics and practitioners, and the child readers. Children’s literature is an obvious point at which theory encounters real life, where we are forced to ask: what can we say about a book, why should we say it, how can we say it, and what effect will we have after saying? We are also forced to confront our preconceptions

Hollindale (1988) differentiates between various levels of ideology he sees at work in the literature published for children. According to him the clearest and most obvious level of ideology is the texts intended surface ideology, the didacticism of the text-explicit social, political or moral beliefs of the individual writer and his wish to recommend them to children through the story (page 10). Holland claims that this is the most conspicuous elements in the ideology of children's books and the easiest to detect page 11and in examining the intended ideology he observes that the study of ideology in children's literature has often been restricted to these surfaces reflecting a narrow view of how a books ideology is conveyed. He labels passive ideology of the author and general ideology of the times. These ideologies are less prominent and are reflected in the writer's unexamined assumptions-the value taken for granted by the write and the audience and that reflect the writer's integration into society that unconsciously accepts them as natural or normal.

The image and the cover on the book provide children with an excellent and a better understanding of the book. When the cover appears appealing to the readers, it helps create an urge to know its contents. They remember the books more based on the images and the cover. There will always be a mismatch between the version of childhood that is being presented by one who has moved beyond childhood and the one that is currently being experienced which will inevitably be affecting how a text is being received and interpreted by the child.


Children’s literature plays a significant role in the cognitive development children. Charlotte's web is one such picture book that helps with the intuitive development children. It helps children understand their environment and the environment of others. Charlotte's web presents friendship theme which is a value relevant for young children to learn. In choice for literature for children, there are theories to be given consideration. From the above literature analyzed, children ought to learn about the relationships of people. Also, they ought to learn about judgment, guilt, and understanding others’ feelings, as well as their own, This learning, however, will only come with the correct choice of the literature based on some factors as has been seen in the analysis. Also of importance is the kind of theme to be presented in the literature, it should not be a theme that will appear complicated for children to understand. Themes less involved include topics like friendship, love, and care.


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