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Charlottes Web

In: English and Literature

Submitted By melivsam
Words 859
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| Assignment #1 | Examining Characters in “Charlotte’s Web” | | Ashley Faulkner Student # c0160372Lambton College | 2/16/2012Word Count: 897 |


Every character in literature has a purpose or a reason why he or she is in the story. Often, characters are given the task of teaching a lesson or being symbolic of something. Two characters in “Charlotte’s Web”, Fern “Arable” and Mrs. Arable are two characters who are symbolic of their own themes: Inequality & Injustice vs. Power & Control, respectively.
Fern “Arable” is the little girl who is introduced in the first few pages. Fern is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Arable, and the sister of Avery “Arable”. The last names of the children are in parenthesis because Fern and Avery are not given proper last names in their introductions, unlike their parents.
Fern’s purpose in the story “Charlotte’s Web” is to illustrate two important themes: Inequality and Injustice. Within her character development, Fern is shown as someone who feels that the world is unjust and unfair. She is also shown as someone who is not an equal being within her family, which is inferred when she isn’t given the proper title of a last name, whereas her mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. Arable, are given that respect. Fern isn’t presented as “Fern Arable”, she is merely Fern; a little girl.
There are many examples in just the first few pages of “Charlotte’s Web” that show how Fern represents the themes of Inequality and Injustice. The illustrations by Garth Williams on page 2 show Fern pleading desperately with her father to spare the life of the runt piglet. Sometimes, pictures do speak louder than words, and Williams’s illustration shouts volumes of the power struggle Fern faces while trying to make the world a fair place.
Furthermore, the language that is used on page 2 to set the scene as Fern went running after her father is that of innocence and rebirth. As Fern ran after her father to stop him from killing the piglet, “the grass was wet and the earth smelled of springtime” (White 2). This language presents the concept of childhood to be a time of innocence, and Fern was surrounded by it. This innocence could blind her from seeing that sometimes, the world isn’t fair.
When Fern catches up to her father, she begs him while sobbing, “Please don’t kill it! It’s unfair!”. (White 2). Fern also presents a moving argument to Mr. Arable while solidifying her themes when she says, “But it’s unfair! The pig couldn’t help being born small, could it? If I had been born very small at birth, would you have killed me?” (White 3).
These examples make Fern’s themes of inequality and injustice very apparent.
The second character to examine for the themes of Power and Control is Mrs. Arable who is the mother of Fern and Avery and the wife of Mr. Arable. In the development of her character, Mrs. Arable is immediately shown as a strong woman who has an abrasive personality. She is also a woman who is not tactful with the language she uses, especially with her daughter Fern. Mrs. Arable exhibits power and control over her daughter and paints a vivid picture of how she views the world.
With children, adults usually use euphemistically charged language in order to explain things that may be harder for a child to understand. Mrs. Arable doesn’t choose her words so carefully, explaining that the pig would have “died anyway” (White 1). When Fern asks her mother what Mr. Arable is going to do with the axe he was carrying, Mrs. Arable tells Fern that Mr. Arable is going to “do away with” the “runt”. (White 1). Granted, using the term “do away with” is better than saying that the pig was going to be killed, however, the message that the pig was going to cease to exist is very apparent.
Additionally, the themes of power and control are seen when Mrs. Arable tells Fern that the pig was “small and weak” and that it would “never amount to anything”. (White 1). These statements give Mrs. Arable’s position on how the world works: the strong survive and the small and weak shall perish. Mrs. Arable sees the world as “survival of the fittest”, while Fern sees the world as being equal and that every living thing should have a chance at life.
To prove that the themes of inequality and injustice vs. power and control are present in the book “Charlotte’s Web”, one doesn’t have to look too much further than the first few pages. Although these themes are very apparent so early on in the book, to learn the lessons behind each theme, one must read the book in its entirety. Reading “Charlotte’s Web” as an adult and viewing the story at a higher level of maturity and education, themes and lessons that were invisible during childhood suddenly become extremely visible to the adult. Fern and Mrs. Arable are visible in a more symbolic context and each fulfills an important purpose in the story.

Works Cited
White, E.B. Charlotte’s Web. New York, NY: Harper Collins, 1952.…...

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