The classic young adult novel, The Pigman, written in 1968, revolutionized young adult literature. Through the characters of John and Lorraine, it openly displayed negative attitudes that teenagers feel towards parents and adults for one of the first times in history. It displays teenage reality honestly, through drinking, smoking, cussing, negative parent-child relationships, a subtle inference to a teen pregnancy, and self-centered motivation.
The story starts out with a boy starting to write an epic, in first person voice, about something important that he needs to come to terms with. The second chapter is told by the other main character, a girl, Lorraine. From that point on the chapters flip-flop from one point of view to the other. It is an interesting and effective writing technique. The use of grapics, such as graffeti, in parts of the book add visual appeal and interest to the text.
This dramatic story revolves around two teenagers, John and Lorraine, high school sophomores. It is a retelling of events of how the two friends met and befriended lonely and simple, Mr. Pignati (the Pigman), which ultimately leads to his death. The relationship started when the two make a prank phone call to his house asking for a donation to a fake charity. When the elderly man says that he will give them money, they go to his house and an ongoing relationship ensues. He offers them money, food, fun, shopping sprees, acceptance, a place to feel welcome; everything that their parents and their homes don't.
They do many things with Mr. Pignati (nicknamed the Pigman for his cherished collection of pigs that he keeps in a back room.) They try fancy foods and drink wine, watch TV, Lorraine tries on his dead wife's clothes, they skip school and go on shopping sprees with Mr. Pignati who buys them roller-skates, and go to the zoo to visit Bobo, a baboon that Mr. Pignati considers his friend. In general, they just have a great time. When they are all goofing off at his house, Mr. Pignati suffers from a heart attack while chasing John up the stairs. He seems to being recovering well in the hospital when John decides to use the trusting Mr. Pignati's house to host a party. Things get out of control when the teenagers get drunk. When an uninvited boy, Norton, shows up, wanting to steal from the house, he starts smashing all of the pigs, looking for money. A taxi pulls up and the Pigman steps into the house. John and Lorraine are taken home to their parents.
Trying to reconcile with Mr. Pignati they invite hime to the zoo. He accepts their invitation to go see Bobo, his beloved baboon friend. When they get there, they discover that the baboon has died. Does this possibly symbolize that their friendship is dead as well? Mr. Pignati has a heart attack right there and then and dies.
The characterization of the teenagers in this book may be realistic, but I hope not. They are extremely self-centered and self-motivated, taking but not giving back unless it is out of guilt. The Pigman represents the ideal adult in their eyes, giving, fun loving and understanding. He is more like an adolescent himself than an adult is. He is the only adult that is portrayed favorably in the book. Adults in the book are raked over the coals. John calls his father, the Bore, and his mother is displayed as a dimwit (all she cares about is keeping her house free from a speck of dust.) The parents are portrayed as thieves (Lorraine's mother, a nurse, steals from her patients) unforgiving of past relationships (hung up on her failed marriage, she is fearful that Lorraine is going to be abused sexually.)
The setting for the story is often in Mr. Pignatis house, where they hang out a lot. It is a fun, safe, welcoming place. When they are in their own homes they feel unwelcome and lonely. Other parts of the book take place at the zoo, a store, a cemetery, and school library (where they write the epic.)
The theme, in my mind at least, is death. Not necessarily physical death, although there is plenty of that (Conchetta, Mr. Pignati, Bobo, cemetery and freshly dug graves, a crazy woman (or prophet?) on the bus chanting, death is coming.) Death of childhood in this coming of age story are represented as well. On the last page of the book John states that they had trespassed, trespassed into adulthood. Now that they have visited, they are there to stay.
This is a short book in words, but long in depth and meaning. If you peel back the layers of meaning behind the few words it will take a long time to digest.
Zindel, Paul. 1968. THE PIGMAN. New York: Dell Publishing. ISBN: 0-440-96970-0.