One of the most memorable books by E.B. White was Charlotte's Web, an award-winning story about a pig named Wilbur, who is befriended by a spider: Charlotte. The spider saves Wilbur, makes him miraculous (special)--so he doesn't go to the slaughterhouse to be turned into bacon.
According to Alison Flood, in an article for The Guardian, there was more than a little real-life in White's depiction of Charlotte. In this review of the new E.B. White biography (by Michael Sims), she follows the path of inspiration for the famous literary spider. White was apparently fascinated by spiders, "meticulously" researching (and watching) them.
As most students/biographers of E.B.White could see, "there had been numerous Charlottes and Wilburs and Templetons in his life--but that there was indeed a particular clever spider who helped inspire the book..." But, White accomplished something quite singular with his spidery descriptions--he humanized one of the most feared creatures.
Charlotte is a friend. We come to care what happens to her. In Chapter 5, Wilbur thinks, "I've got a new friend... But what a gamble friendship is! Charlotte is fierce, brutal, scheming, bloodthirsty--everything I don't like. How can I learn to like her, even though she is pretty and, of course, clever?"
All the while, White employs his famous award-winning writing style ("unable not to write"). As James Thurber once said, "No one can write a sentence like White." (One of his claims to fame was The Elements of Style.)
Cover Art © HarperCollins.