E. B. White: Overview

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Author: Cosette Kies
Editor: David Pringle
Date: 1996
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 1,271 words

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E. B. White has been greatly admired as a poet, essayist, journalist, grammarian, editor, and most of all, as the author of three books of children's fantasy. Of the three novels Charlotte's Web is the most revered and will probably account for White's continuing reputation in the years to come. White's fantasies are set in the real world, America of the mid-20th century. In all three, however, human characters are mixed with animals which have been humanized to various degrees. The animals may be unique, such as Stuart Little, a mouse, who is born into a human family, or they may be animals born and living with other animals, such as Wilbur the pig and Louis the swan. In all settings, however, there is interaction with humans, and although there is communication between animals and humans, the animals do not think of themselves as people. They are different, and they know it.

The first children's fantasy by White was Stuart Little. Stuart is mouse-sized and is described as looking like a mouse. Much of the charm in the early pages of the story comes from the ingenious ways the Little family cope with Stuart's size. As Stuart matures he finds ways to help his family, but he is increasingly bothered by his difference from humans. After a number of amusing adventures in New York City and narrowly escaping death from a cat, Stuart heads north into the countryside to find his friend, the bird Margola who had saved his life. This surface quest is underlaid by a more important meaning, for Stuart must seek his destiny. He meets and is enchanted by a lovely mouse maiden, but true love does not evolve. Stuart continues his trip to find the meaning of his life. In the end he is still on the road heading north. "As he peered ahead into the great land that stretched before him, the...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420008561