Charlotte's Web: Webbing Characters With Words

1873 words - 8 pages

What defines a person? Is it his actions, his intention, or his reputation? No matter what the answer is, people associate who they are with the words used to describe them. The novel Charlotte’s Web is no exception, for within it, words are used as the basis for transforming perspectives. In the novel, the individual words weaved into Charlotte’s web transform the other characters’ perspectives of Wilbur. After realizing the impact and influence of words by witnessing the change in perspective of the other characters, Wilbur begins to change his perception of himself. Charlotte, on the other hand, uses words as a way to form a moral for Wilbur. This awareness of words reveals Wilbur’s and Charlotte’s relationship with words as a mechanism for transformation and consequently reflects the child-parent relationship Wilbur and Charlotte possess. In this relationship, Wilbur fulfills the role of a child and Charlotte fulfills the role of the parent and demonstrates why and when words are appropriate to use.
Other characters’ opinions of Wilbur are influenced by the words written on Charlotte’s web. At first, Wilbur was only considered pork – something to be eaten for winter (49). However, as soon as the words appeared on Charlotte’s web, Mr. Zuckerman stopped thinking of Wilbur as food. When the word ‘terrific’ appears on the web, Mr. Zuckerman states that “there isn’t a pig in the whole state that is terrific as our pig” (96). When the word ‘radiant’ appears on Charlotte’s web, Mr. Zuckerman says, “that pig is radiant” (115). In other words, Mr. Zuckerman’s opinion of Wilbur changes as soon as he reads the words in Charlotte’s web. Mr. Zuckerman’s change of perspective is obviously displayed in his usage of description words from Charlotte’s web. Mr. Zuckerman’s reaction to the words shows that words can compel the reader to think in a new perspective; people are influenced by words.
The characters’ perspectives change once they read the words on the web, thus showing that the context in which words appear can also change a reader’s perspective. Fern is aware of Charlotte’s qualities right from the beginning, even stating that Charlotte is “terribly clever” to her parents; however, her mother just brushes off the comment (53).Fern’s mother’s dismissal of Fern’s speech shows that people tend to ignore words that are spoken aloud, as if spoken words have no power behind them. However, when Lurvy, the farmer’s helper, first sees the words on Charlotte’s web, he only notices it because “it was foggy…a spider’s web looks very distinct in a fog” (80). In essence, the words on the web are only visible because of how they are presented. If Lurvy did not go out into the barn when it was foggy outside, no one would have seen the words “some pig” (80) written on the web. This shows that timing, location, and manner of articulation are everything when presenting words. In this novel, writing is the strongest manner of articulation because, as Charlotte puts...

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