Sunday, November 27, 2011

Charlotte's Web - White

As noted in previous postings, despite being an avid child reader, I somehow managed to miss reading many really well known and loved children's books.  I don't know how, or why, I never read these books but many are now classics.  I've been wondering lately if I missed out on something good, so I'm making a effort to go back and read what I missed....

Charlotte's Web by E. B. White was one of those books.

Of course, reading these books as an adult is a whole different experience.

The story of Wilbur, a pig, who is headed for the breakfast plate if his friends do not help him and Charlotte, a spider, who uses her web building skills to convince his owner and the townsfolk of what an exceptional pig Wilbur is, is cute. As a child I would have liked it, though I seriously doubt it would have changed my outlook on spiders...ick!

As an adult, it was all a bit too...obvious.  The author uses dialog to introduce and explain vocabulary to the readers, which seemed a bit lazy to me. There are so many ways to introduce vocabulary to readers. I have to remember he was catering to children, but I was a smart kid.  I can't help but think I would have felt condescended too.  But, alright, I'll give him a pass on this one.

However, I really disliked how everyone seemed just so stupid!  Of course, maybe the author was pointing out just that, the stupidity of some people and the silliness that some folks focus on (if I were a farmer I might be insulted).  

The only one with any intelligence seems to be the farmer's wife, who points out that it is not perhaps Wilbur who is the exceptional one, but Charlotte - a spider, who can understand and write English - but no one pays attention to her!  Also, the little girl who originally loves Wilbur more than anything and raises him, apparently becomes an airheaded teenager interested only in boys.  I mean, seriously? Ok, he's a pig and all...but pigs are cute and its just not likely.

I mean, can anyone say:  Misogyny?!

The saving grace of this books seems to be Charlotte's death (not because I hate spiders) because this book seems to lend itself to helping children understand the passing of time and how death must eventually come. For that reason alone, I can see why this book might have been a hit, in the 1950's. And can almost understand why its continued to be a classic for many years since. But just "almost"...

2/5- Just okay.  Choose with extreme prejudice.

More opinions at:
Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Site


Jeane said...

I can't read this book with anything but fond nostalgia, since it was introduced to me as a child. Reading it to my own daughter, it had lost none of its charm for me. I don't think I can separate those childhood memories to see it objectively as you do. I do remember reading it as an adult that I noticed with appreciation all the descriptions of seasons and weather, which did nothing for me as a kid.