Why I Want To Be Charlotte: What We Can Learn From Charlotte’s Web

What We Can Learn From Charlotte's Web

What We Can Learn From Charlotte’s Web

What We Can Learn From Charlotte’s Web. Following several discussions about spiders and their ways, my four-year-old and I took a trip to the library to borrow the DVD of Charlotte’s Web [1973]I remember all over again why I loved this movie as a child, and I love it now in some new ways.  I want to be Charlotte, I suddenly realized.  Here’s why:

1.       Charlotte is happy with who she is.  When Wilbur says she’s beautiful, Charlotte responds, “Well, I am pretty.  Nearly all spiders are good-looking.  I’m not as flashy as some, but I’ll do.”  Her cool confidence impressed me—and made me chuckle– partly because I think spiders are pretty much the most revolting thing ever; yet I do find Charlotte attractive, and she does look like a spider.  Maybe beauty is from the inside out.  Also, she doesn’t have to be the best looking spider; she’ll do.  My fiercely competitive nature could learn a lot from that kind of contentment.  I hope I can model this attitude for my children.

Charlotte is unapologetic and confident

2.      Wilbur is horrified when Charlotte catches a fly and prepares to eat it. “Of course, I don’t actually eat it,” she says, “I drink its blood. I love blood.”  Wilbur is nauseated, naturally.  It’s not that Charlotte isn’t courteous or goes out of her way to offend—she’s actually very gracious–but she is full of common sense and frank about how the world works, even when it isn’t the way we would like it to.  Sometimes I am wishy-washy about truth because I am afraid it will be hard for others to swallow, which is only a disservice to all of us.  At the very least, important conversations could ensue; Charlotte’s concludes with her explaining to Wilbur that if she didn’t eat bugs, the world would be inundated with them.

3.      Charlotte is intelligent and linguistically adept.  She is a writer, after all.  Wilbur is forever asking her what words like “versatile” and “salutations” mean, and her definitions are simple and eloquent.  I like the elegant precision with which she speaks.  I’m not drawing a life lesson here, it just suits my tastes; but a movie that teaches my kids some finer points of language?  Yes, please.

Charlotte is a devoted friend to someone wholly unlike her.

4.      Wilbur is not particularly intelligent or linguistically adept.  He’s an innocent and an idealist; Charlotte’s view of life is more realistic.  Charlotte is industrious and Wilbur likes to play; Charlotte is calm and Wilbur is given to hysterics.  Charlotte can do more for Wilbur than he can do for her, yet her affection for him is loyal to the end, and she genuinely likes him.  Perhaps his cheerfulness and playfulness are an antidote to her sober look her own life, which she knows will be brief, but I think it is a choice to love in spite of differences, plain and simple.

5.      Charlotte is a good mother.  Charlotte says of her egg sac, “It is my magnum opus…the finest work I have ever made.”  Little misty-eyed on that one.  I spend my life making things; I don’t want to forget that the finest work I can produce is what I make in my children: fine characters, I hope, wise and gentle souls.  It is the only success I truly aspire to, and the one I am least sure of attaining.  This certainly helps me understand What We Can Learn From Charlotte’s Web. God help me.


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