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Scenes from "Charlotte's Web" (1973), contributed by Emily Mitchell (TF, 2021)
I have chosen to contribute two scenes from the animated film Charlotte's Web (1973), which is based on the 1952 children's novel by E.B. White. Charlotte's Web tells the story of an unlikely friendship between Wilbur, a farm pig, and Charlotte, a barn spider. After learning that the farmer intends to slaughter Wilbur for his meat, Charlotte develops a plan to make Wilbur famous and thereby guarantee his safety. The plan works: Wilbur is awarded a prize at the county fair, and the farmer spares his life. Shortly after this moment of triumph, Charlotte, who, being a spider, has a very short life span, becomes weak and dies (shown in the first two video clips below). Wilbur, though heartbroken at the loss of his friend, saves the eggs she had laid and brings them back to the farm. He derives a sense of comfort and purpose from caring for Charlotte's daughters (shown in the third video clip below), although no-one can ever take her place in his heart.
Charlotte's Web was one of my favorite films when I was a child. It introduces children to the concept of loss in an age-appropriate way while simultaneously delivering a profound message. Although the film does not shy away from depicting the reality of death and the devastating effect that it can have on those left behind, it also emphasizes that death is a natural part of life. In her final moments, Charlotte sings a song about the passing of time and the changing of the seasons; her last words ("How very special are we / For just a moment, to be / Part of life's eternal rhyme") are a celebration of life rather than a lamentation of her own mortality. She demonstrates to Wilbur, and to the audience, that death is not something to be afraid of. In addition, the final scene, in which Wilbur befriends Charlotte's daughters, shows that life goes on even in the face of loss. While we may never fully 'get over' a loss, we can find meaning in remembering the deceased and cherishing the relationships that we have.