Ode to a Spider

My friend Jeff recently called my attention to a segment that aired on NPR’s “All Things Considered” on August 4, 2008.

Entitled “Charlotte A. Cavatica: Bloodthirsty, Wise and True” and reported by Melissa Block, the segment discusses the character of Charlotte and includes clips of E. B. White reading from Charlotte’s Web. Like his readers, young and old, he always struggled to read the ending without crying (spoiler alert: Charlotte dies). The show also includes speculation by Martha White (EBW’s granddaughter and editor of his collected letters) that Charlotte was modeled on her grandmother, Katharine White. Lending credence to the theory, NPR’s Block notes that EBW penned an arachnid love poem when he and Katharine were newlyweds, some 25 years before the publication of Charlotte’s Web:

Natural History
E. B. White, 1929

The spider, dropping down from twig,
Unfolds a plan of her devising,
A thin premeditated rig
To use in rising.

And all that journey down through space,
In cool descent and loyal hearted,
She spins a ladder to the place
From where she started.

Thus I, gone forth as spiders do
In spider’s web a truth discerning,
Attach one silken thread to you
For my returning.

The poem’s beauty and simplicity (“Omit needless words!”) lures the reader into forgetting, briefly, that the spider’s love(ly) web is trap from which its victims do not escape alive.

And if the spider Charlotte was a portrait of Katharine, does that mean EBW cast himself as a pig in Wilbur? His fondness and respect for pigs is seen in his poignant and ironic essay “Death of a Pig,” in which he goes to great lengths to save the life of an ailing pig that he intends to slaughter. (More on that another day.)

Listen to the NPR story in full: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=93263496

Downloaded from Flickr's Creative Commons. Thank you to "Amortize" for sharing -- I've never seen a winter web like this. It was taken in the central England in 2005.

Downloaded from Flickr's Creative Commons. Thank you to "Amortize" for sharing -- I've never seen a winter web like this. It was taken in the central England in 2005.

Advertisements

0 Responses to “Ode to a Spider”



  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




Tweets (@jandev)

Recent Tweets


%d bloggers like this: