Charlotte’s Web: Terrific and Radiant

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There is something bittersweet about reading children’s literature, when you are an adult. Children’s books are stunningly straightforward, heartwarming, with no trace of pretense. The stories are told in the most charming manner. It’s comforting to escape into such books. They pause the rush, and throw light on some simple, yet fine things of life, which are often… ignored and belittled.

The bitter part though, is the regret that surfaces after reading a brilliant children’s book. I find myself wondering, “How different life could have been if those extraordinary books had been read when you were a child! How more profound could your outlook have become if only you had met such unforgettable characters during your formative years!”

When I meet the gloomy thoughts, I help my spirits soar by reminding, “One is never too old to read children’s literature!”

EB White’s Charlotte’s Web is unmistakably one of the children’s books I wish I had read a long time ago. It’s my first book of EB White, although I have read many excerpts from his books, and a few stories on his love for animals, on one of my favourite websites – Brain Pickings. I can’t say anything about his style. Because you know why! 🙂

IMG_20150309_164835~2Charlotte is a spider. But she is not one of those that makes you squirm. She is wise, thoughtful, loyal… and also a great writer. 🙂 When the piglet, Wilbur’s life is at stake, she employs her skills to try protecting her best friend. Wilbur is touchy; Charlotte is commendably clear-headed. Their friendship is among the greatest that literature has ever seen.

“You’re terrific as far as I’m concerned,” replied Charlotte, sweetly, “and that’s what counts. You’re my best friend, and I think you’re sensational. Now stop arguing and go get some sleep.”

“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die.”

Charlotte’s Web is also melancholic. If you have to travel thousands of miles to breath some fresh air, or get to the woods or at least a farm, perhaps the book is going to make you yearn more for the touch of nature. EB White’s description of Wilbur’s barn fills my heart with inexplicable happiness. On the other hand, it also makes me feel empty when I think of the futility of living in a city that’s far removed from being green.

The barn was very large. It was very old. It smelled of hay and it smelled of manure. It smelled of the perspiration of tired horses and the wonderful sweet breath of patient cows. It often had a sort of peaceful smell – as though nothing bad could happen ever again in the world.

It was the best place to be, thought Wilbur, this warm delicious cellar, with the garrulous geese, the changing seasons, the heat of the sun, the passage of swallows, the nearness of rats, the sameness of sheep, the love of spiders, the smell of manure, and the glory of everything.

IMG_20150309_163931~2While reading Charlotte’s Web, at several junctures, I leaned back on the chair, closing my eyes, meditating about some of the sage dialogues between the animals (quite like Dr Dorian). Sometimes, the kind of contentment and enlightenment I get by reading a few opinions in children’s books, is not offered in adult’s literature too. Maybe, it’s just me. 🙂

I don’t want books to teach me lessons. I expect them to have intimate, illuminating little chats with me. Charlotte’s Web supplies many a chance to reflect on things that are often overlooked. Like adoring animals, slowing down the pace of life, talking less and listening more, and being unoccupied every once in a while to simply witness life pass by. Truly golden! 🙂

Charlotte liked to do her weaving during the late afternoon,and Fern liked to sit nearby and watch.

“It is quite possible that an animal has spoken civilly to me and that I didn’t catch the remark because I wasn’t paying attention. Children pay better attention than grownups… Perhaps if people talked less, animals would talk more. People are incessant talkers – I can give you my word on that.”

In spite of filling this story of mine with numerous quotes, no review of Charlotte’s Web can be published without this line:

It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.

If you have read some of my other reviews, you may doubt my discernment, for I have raved about all that I have read recently. At the cost of being judged again, I confess that Charlotte’s Web is one of the greatest books ever written. Some book, this. Absolutely terrific and radiant! 🙂

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15 thoughts on “Charlotte’s Web: Terrific and Radiant

  1. The bitter part though, is the regret that surfaces after reading a brilliant children’s book. I find myself wondering, “How different life could have been if those extraordinary books had been read when you were a child! How more profound could your outlook have become if only you had met such unforgettable characters during your formative years!”
    @WC: You’re reading and appreciating this book at the most opportune moment possible, for you to have this impression about this book. Had you read it at a younger age, you mightn’t have felt the same about the book. To justify my POV let me point you to The Paradigm of the Seventh Idli. Of course, it may not be an exact fit; you might need to read “between the lines” to see the parallel.

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  2. Beautiful review, Deepika! ‘Charlotte’s Web’ is one of my favourite books. And Charlotte is my favourite spider 🙂 When I first started the book, I thought it was about a girl’s friendship with her pet pig. I loved what you said about the friendship of Charlotte and Wilbur – it is definitely one of the greatest friendships depicted in literature. Thanks for this beautiful, passionate review, Deepika. Makes me want to read the book again 🙂

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  3. Thank you, Vishy. 🙂 What a lovely book! I love EB White’s writing. I just finished reading his ‘Stuart Little’. But, that wasn’t as impressive and heartwarming as ‘Charlotte’s Web’. Will write my review soon. Have you read ‘Stuart Little’?

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  4. I ADORE this piece of art! It’s so beautiful, simple, pure and elegant, everything about it is wondrous. And I loved your review (you can articulate just as well as Charlotte, it seems 🙂 I was wondering, have you read any other books that have the same magic as this one? Thanks!

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      1. Thanks for replying! I just saw your reply now 🙂 Winnie the Pooh is something I’ve never even thought of reading, but I’ve actually stumbled on some quotes recently that touched me- and they were from that book 🙂 So I’ll give it a try!

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