Charlotte’s Web is one of the most popular children’s books. It’s also lived by kids’ writers like Kate DiCamillo, who also wrote a foreword for a later edition. It’s filled with memorable characters and lines that get stuck in our brains.
Some of the most famous lines from Charlotte’s Web deal with the strong friendship between a small pig, Wilbur, and a spider, Charlotte. As the plot progresses, they form a strong bond, and Charlotte says at one point: “I am not going to let you die, Wilbur.” Other lines are about human nature.
In this article, I’ll present and describe the 17 most famous lines from E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. Many of these quotes deal with the friendship between Charlotte and Wilbur. There are also quotes about accepting the difference and human nature
1. I knew you wouldn’t forsake me just when I need you most.
The friendship theme looms large in Charlotte’s Web, and this line best describes the strong bond between Wilbur and Charlotte.
In the scene, Charlotte was pregnant with her eggs and knew she’d need to build a web nest for them soon. When Wilbur begged her to come to the County Fair with him, she refused. After many pleas, Charlotte agreed and said she’d come to the Fair if she were able to, which made Wilbur’s day.
2. But I’m not terrific, charlotte. I’m just about average for a pig.
This line contains Wilbur’s honest opinion about himself, which isn’t the best. Because Wilbur was born small and weak, Mr. Arable wanted to kill him until Fern, his daughter, stopped him. Other animals also mocked Wilbur, making him form a weak opinion about himself.
However, his friend Charlotte was always there to cheer him up and motivate him. This is best seen in the rest of this quote. After Wilbur says the line from above, Charlotte quickly adds: “‘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.'”
3. Wilbur didn’t want food, he wanted love. He wanted a friend—someone who would play with him.
This line shows Wilbur’s need for friends. His need for love instead of food shows his difficult life up until then. In fact, he always had to worry about his life because when he was sold to Homer Zuckerman, it was clear Zuckerman would slaughter Wilbur before the winter.
Regardless of this, Wilbur just wanted to have a friend. When other animals refused to be his friends, Charlotte took pity and befriended Wilbur, promising to save him from being killed.
4. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.
When Wilbur asks Charlotte why she helped him when he never did anything for her, she says he’s her friend. She quickly added the line above. She explained to Wilbur that a spider’s life isn’t always great, and helping him was, in a way, helping herself. That’s also true of human beings.
As Charlotte points out in the quote, anybody could benefit from helping other people without expecting anything in return. We’ll often find that just by helping someone, our life gets just a little bit better.
5. “You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing.”
In the same scene as the one above, Charlotte’s honest about her friendship with Wilbur. Wilbur thinks that friends have to do things to repay all they’re doing for each other, so he gets confused about why Charlotte would help him when he never did anything for her.
For Charlotte, being true friends is plenty enough. She never expected anything in return from Wilbur.
6. I am not going to let you die, Wilbur.
This is one of the most important lines in Charlotte’s Web. When Wilbur learns Uncle Homer’s raising him for slaughter, he gets into a panic attack and starts shouting, “I don’t want to die!” At this point, Charlotte promises Wilbur that she’d protect him and promises she won’t let him die.
Later, Charlotte comes up with a brilliant plan to save Wilbur by weaving her web into words like “Some pig!” for Uncle Homer to see and be impressed with Wilbur. This ultimately saves Wilbur’s life.
7. I’ll be a friend to you. I’ve watched you all day and I like you.
You’d think a pig and a spider would never be good friends. However, that’s precisely what happens in Charlotte’s Web. When Wilbur arrives at Uncle Homer’s farm, he tries to make new friends with various animals, but none are interested. Suddenly, he hears a voice saying the line above.
Wilbur gets surprised and asks whose voice that is, but because Charlotte’s a spider, it’s hard to notice her. That’s how their life-long friendship started.
8. …the quickest way to spoil a friendship is to wake somebody up in the morning before he is ready.
When Wilbur finally makes a friend, he can hardly sleep from excitement. When morning comes, he starts yelling for the mysterious voice to reveal itself. Other animals immediately get annoyed with Wilbur’s shouting, and the sheep orders him to stop, saying this hilarious quote:
“If you have a new friend here, you are probably disturbing his rest; and the quickest way to spoil a friendship is to wake somebody up in the morning before he is ready. How can you be sure your friend is an early riser?”
Honestly, I think we all agree with the sheep’s comment!
9. But no—with men it’s rush, rush, rush, every minute. I’m glad I’m a sedentary spider.
This line shows E. B. White’s wit and criticism of human nature. Part of the fun in the entire section is that Charlotte—a spider—mocks humans that it took them eight years to build a “web” that she could build in a day. She’s referring to Queensborough Bridge here.
More importantly, White makes fun of humans because we’re constantly in some hurry. Although humans live longer than barn spiders, Charlotte’s still glad she has nowhere to hurry. Maybe that’s the reason why she can help Wilbur.
10. Children almost always hang onto things tighter than their parents think they will.
What parent doesn’t worry about their kids? E. B. White certainly noticed that, but he advises parents to leave room for breathing when raising children.
This line comes from the scene in the book where Fern, a little girl who saved Wilbur from her father, and her brother, Avery, go on their Uncle Homer’s swing in the barn. It’s a huge rope swing that frightened parents when their kids used it. However, White here suggests that nothing bad ever happened. Kids are capable of more than their parents think.
11. People believe almost anything they see in print.
Charlotte devised a plan to save Wilbur’s life from Uncle Homer. She’d weave impressive words describing Wilbur so Uncle Homer would spare him when he saw he had an extraordinary pig. Charlotte and Goose decide to use the word “terrific,” but Wilbur objects. He believes he isn’t terrific. As the response, Charlotte states the line above.
The line shows how superficial and easy to fool humans are. Although the book was published in 1952, this statement is as true today as it was back then. We jump too quickly to conclusions and believe everything we see—even the animals know that about us.
12. “If I can fool a bug,” thought Charlotte, “I can surely fool a man. People are not as smart as bugs.”
The chapter where this line appears describes how Charlotte waited passionately for an idea of how to save Wilbur. She knew an idea would come to her just like bugs do when they get stuck in her web. Suddenly, the idea finally came, and he uttered the line above.
Again, E. B. White uses irony here to comment on human nature. He states through Charlotte how people aren’t that smart in many ways. In fact, for Charlotte, even bugs are smarter than human beings. Of course, by the end of the book, that proves to be true.
This line also shows Charlotte’s wit and resourcefulness. She uses everything at her disposal to trick human beings, especially her web.
13. This is our moment for setting forth. We are aeronauts and we are going out into the world to make webs for ourselves.
When Charlotte’s baby spiders finally hatch, Wilbur takes care of them. He’s excited that he got so many friends now (over 500!). However, little spiders soon start “flying away” by producing a web and letting the air carry them far away. Wilbur becomes upset, and one of the spiders states the line above.
It’s a wonderful line depicting that every bird must leave its nest one day. As we grow older, we also need to go into the wide world to try our luck and “make webs for ourselves.” The wonderful thing about that phrase is that it can be anything you want. For some, it’s a dream job, and for others, a home.
For those unfamiliar with the term, aeronauts travel using hot-air balloons or other flying objects.
14. I don’t understand it, and I don’t like what I can’t understand.
After Charlotte weaves impressive words about Wilbur in her web, Mrs. Arable, Fern’s mother, isn’t sure how that happened. When she visits Dr. Dorian, she retells the story to him, and he just says that webs are a miracle. Mrs. Arable isn’t sure what the doctor means, and she states the line above.
However, the line is yet another hit on E. B. White’s part about human nature. We often don’t like or even fear what we don’t understand. Sometimes, that can cost us some great adventures or memories.
On a more serious level, some hateful people attack others because they’re different. White here states they don’t like them because they can’t understand them.
Also, some of us always worry about the things we don’t understand. However, we should listen to Dr. Dorian when he says: “I don’t understand everything, and I don’t intend
to let it worry me.”
15. A spider’s web is stronger than it looks. Although it is made of thin, delicate strands, the web is not easily broken.
In this brilliant line, a spider’s web stands as a metaphor for various things. It can stand for human beings who are stronger than they look. We all go through difficult times and sometimes may look fragile, but we have thicker skin than we think. It’s like E. B. White is saying: whatever hardship we’re going through, we’re not easily broken.
Like a spider’s web (especially barn spiders who build their webs anew every day), we always recuperate and get back on our feet. This is a wonderful message for kids and adults reading Charlotte’s Web.
16. It is deeply satisfying to win a prize in front of a lot of people.
This funny line appears in the book after Wilbur receives a ribbon at the County Fair. Uncle Homer, a proud and boastful man, was over the moon when Wilbur won. This line is famous because it reveals a lot about us deep down.
We all secretly like it when we’re praised or rewarded for something. Moreover, it isn’t so much about the prize, but the presence of all the people around. Although we’re not as terrible as Uncle Homer to feel proud because his pig (not even himself) won a prize, deep down, we’re still happy when someone taps our shoulder and says, “good job.”
17. I want you to get plenty of sleep, and stop worrying. Never hurry and never worry!
Charlotte proclaims this line to Wilbur as part of her plan to save him before it’s too late. The first part of her plan was to make Wilbur stronger and stop him from worrying so much. However, as with almost all the other lines from Charlotte’s Web, this is a great message to younger and adult readers.
White seems to suggest that we should enjoy our lives without much worry. The best way to preserve our physical and mental health is to sleep and be relaxed.
In the spirit of the advice above, don’t hurry to leave the page just yet. Read my other article to see why you should read Charlotte’s Web and choose other most-read children’s books!