Friday, May 27, 2011


The other day I posted a few discussions on Goodreads under the Children Literature group. I was surprised that people replied!

This was the original question I posed to the group discussion:
What do you think of this story?
I am focusing my research on relationships between humans, and in comparison to the ones created in this story, they can have either extremely positive effects or very negative effects on children in the public education system.
What are your thoughts on the relationships formed in this story?
Is it worthwhile to research today, or is it simply a story?
What makes it worthwhile?

Within the same day two people commented. I liked their posts, not necessarily for their answers, but mostly for the spark their answers created in me.

Chandra responded saying, "I read this one with my daughter fairly recently and I definitely don't think it's irrelevant at all. The story is still powerfully effective in helping children explore difficult themes (fear, death, loneliness) and developing empathy and understanding for others.
But you say you're focusing on the relationships between humans in this story? Hmmm, that's a tough one since the primary relationships are among the animals - Wilbur, Templeton, Charlotte, the Geese, etc. The only human relationships depicted are those of the Arable family - Fern and her parents and brother and the Zuckerman farm folks and they're very much background characters. Or am I misunderstanding your intent and you're studying all of the relationships in the story and applying/comparing them to real life human relationships?"

Later Cheryl responded to my questions, and I must say I loved the new light she brought to the table. She wrote, "Since the animals are so anthropomorphised, they hardly count as animals. I mean, Wilbur is a boy about Fern's age, Charlotte fills the role of an aunt or a mentor, Templeton is like a crotchety uncle or neighbor.
Of course the animals' life cycles are so accelerated compared to the humans' lives, the animal/human r'ships change over the course of the story. Fern originally cares for Wilbur as if he's an infant, but by the end of the story he's more mature than she is. Yet they both do grow & learn wisdom."

Cheryl's comment about how the animals' life cycles are accelerated made me wrinkle my brow at first. She is right! That is why this story can teach so much in just a few short pages. In fact, the audio version is only 3 hours long, but since the relationships between the characters, whether it be friend or motherly basis, develop and end so quickly, the reader can easily relate, respond and learn from White's "children story".

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