At a bookstore while I was digging out my debit card, the topic of conversation centered around a tiny “Charlotte’s Web” book pin I was wearing on my sweatshirt.
“I loved that book”, the clerk told me.
“Oh,” I replied, “I loved it too. My great-Uncle wrote it.”
He was duly impressed and as I handed him my card, he asked me if I had ever met White. I replied that I had not. But while I never met him, in our household you knew his many books by heart and you could not escape knowing all about Wilbur, Charlotte and Fern.
More effective than any church sermon, I was constantly encouraged to “live like Charlotte.”
The other day when organizing my office, I stumbled across an old copy of Charlottes’ Web inscribed by my Uncle, nephew to White. Instead of continuing with the cleaning I sat down to read a chapter or two (or three.)
Just as before, my old friends came back to speak to me and I realized that reading the book with an adult perspective gave me a new appreciation for what we could learn from this charming story. Little did I know how much gentle advice you could glean from the story of a girl, a spider and a pig.
Wouldn’t’ that be a fun thing to write about, I thought to myself.
And so because it is the perfect project for this writer who love to share life lessons, here you go – my take on lessons learned from Charlotte’s Web written by E.B. White starting at Chapter 1.
Early one morning while getting ready for breakfast, Fern, a little girl who lives on a farm with her brother and parents wonders where her father is going with an axe.
“Well, said her mother, “one of the pigs is a runt. It’s very small and weak, and it will never amount to anything. So your father has decided to do away with it.”
Fern rushes from the table and wrestles her father for the axe. “Please don’t kill i!” she sobbed “It’s unfair.”
“Fern,” said Mr. Arable, I know more about raising a little f pigs than you do. A weakling makes trouble. Now run along.”
“But it’s unfair” cried Fern. “The pig couldn’t help being born small, could it? I I had been very small at birth, would you have killed me?”
Mr. Arable sends Fern back into the house and tells Fern that he will bring the runt into the house and she can take care of it and feed it with a bottle. Fern goes into the house and washes up. In the meantime her brother Avery comes downstairs and sees the pig.
Can I have a pig too?” he asks.
“No, I only distribute pigs to early risers,” said Mr. Arable. “Fern was up at daylight, trying to rid the world of injustice. As a result she now has a pig. It just shows what can happen if a person gets out of bed promptly. Let’s eat.”
Before Fern eats her breakfast she sits down and feeds the tiny pig by bottle. They hear the school bus honk and Mrs. Avery tucks doughnuts into their hands and rushes them out the door to get to school.
Fern delighted with her new charge, calls the pig Wilbur.
There are so many lessons from this one little chapter. Let’s begin.
If Fern hadn’t gotten up early enough to see her father heading out to the barn with an axe, Charlotte’s Web would have been a very short and incredibly sad story. Instead because of her getting up and joining the community and because she was vigilant to injustice, she was able to challenge it and bring awareness which resulted in change.
Lessons learned – Don’t stay behind, get up and join others. Speak out when you see injustice and act against it when you are able to. The sooner you address injustice, the greater your chances of stopping it.
Fern wrestles with her father for the axe.
Lesson learned – Don’t’ be afraid of someone who is bigger than you.
As a mother it now breaks my heart to read the passage where the father says that a weakling causes trouble. As one whose kids have dyslexia and who has been an advocate for adults and children with disabilities, I now see that Mr. and Mrs. Arable were wrong – not only do runts amount to something, but weaklings can contribute so very much to the community. Hooray for Fern being able to recognize this long before others did.
Lessons learned Don’t discount people who are weak or small because even the tiniest of voices can make a contribution.
Mr. Arable decides to save the pig and gives it to Fern.
Lessons learned – Under the right circumstances people’s attitudes and behaviors can change.
Fern is delighted when she discovers that the pig is hers. Realizing it needs care, before she eats breakfast she sits down and feeds her new charge.
Lesson learned – sometimes the needs of others come before yours (you’ll fully embrace this concept when you become a parent.)
The school bus honks and Fern and her brother are rushed out of the house to catch it so they can go to school.
Lesson learned – Don’t’ underestimate the power and importance of education.
Finally, Mrs. Arable realizing that in all the commotion hadn’t had time for a proper meal, she takes care of her children by giving them doughnuts to eat on the bus and they go out the door.
Lesson learned – no matter what, take care of yourself by starting the day off eating a good breakfast.
Bonus lesson learned – Don’t forget to say “thank you” to your mom.
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com
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