…which reminds me of the final scenes in Charlotte’s Web, a children’s novel by E.B. White. Charlotte, a spider, had saved Wilbur, a pig, from an early slaughter by helping him win a prize for the smartest pig at the county fair. Pleased with his worldly achievement, Wilbur thought that life would go on forever, and that he and Charlotte would forever be best friends. When they set out to return to the barn from the county fair, Charlotte suddenly said, ‘I will not be going back to the barn.’
Wilbur leapt to his feet. ‘Not going back?’ he cried. ‘Charlotte, what are you talking about?’
‘I’m done for,’ she replied. ‘In a day or two I’ll be dead …’
It was at this moment that Wilbur remembered the mortality of life. Hearing that, Wilbur threw himself down in an agony of pain and sorrow. ‘Charlotte,’ he moaned. ‘Charlotte! My true friend!’
But Charlotte, the spider, understood the cycle of life better than any other animal. She knew that it was winter and her time had come. ‘Come now, let’s not make a scene,’ said the spider. ‘Be quiet, Wilbur. Stop thrashing about!’
Wilbur was indeed devastated. But then he thought of a way to help Charlotte – he found a way to take Charlotte’s egg sac back to the barn so that the little spiders would hatch, so that in a different form, Charlotte would live on.
I have always suspected that E.B. White actually wrote Charlotte’s Web for adults – Life is mortal; yet humanity goes on forever.