As Charlotte and Templeton, for different reasons to be sure, work together to save Wilbur from the slaughterhouse, what is Wilbur’s role? Is he just the cute pig upon whom Charlotte can focus her selflessness or to whom Templeton can be responsible? I think not. Wilbur floats through the story as the object of response-ability on Charlotte’s part and the reason for responsibility on Templeton’s part, but he does not reciprocate, at least not directly or overtly. Wilbur is the beneficiary of Charlotte’s and Templeton’s goodwill but he does not give directly back. He never acts with either responsibility or as a response-able character. Oh sure, you say, but he was Charlotte’s friend. True enough, but being a friend is hardly enough. One can be a friend without ever being response-able for the friend. What did Wilbur do for Charlotte? One can also be a friend without acting responsibly to one’s friend. Did Wilbur ever do any self-conscious act to Templeton as a friend?
So what exactly is Wilbur’s role? On the one hand, he serves as the focus of the ethical imperative for Charlotte and he stands at the center of Templeton’s self-conscious efforts of responsibility to Wilbur. After all, without such a focal point neither of the two characters would have any reason to exercise their ethical choices. On the other hand, Wilbur must play a role beyond merely being a foil for Charlotte and Templeton. Here we must turn to Derrida. Wilbur is the other to Charlotte and Templeton but he is in the process of becoming, of growing into something new, of discovery through experience. Wilbur is never finished, he never becomes. He is always anticipating, waiting, wondering, seeking. He represents the doubt of Derrida’s aporia as he anticipates what is to come. Wilbur represents the alterity of the other in its fullest otherness–an alterity without bounds yet one that is bounded by the barnyard; an alterity that is only recognized by the likes of Charlotte and Templeton but not Uncle Homer and Lurvy, the true humans of the story. To the humans, Wilbur is just a pig but to Charlotte he is everything that is becoming and to Templeton he represents a reciprocity over which neither Wilbur nor Templeton has any control; it is, however, that reciprocity that drives Templeton’s self-conscious behavior toward Wilbur at Charlotte’s request. As the embodiment of the other, Wilbur need not do more. His anticipation is enough.