What does the title A Day No Pigs Would Die mean?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Written in 1972, A Day No Pigs Would Die is loosely based on the youth of author Robert Newton Peck during the 1920s. The story is about Robert, a young boy living on a farm, and his growing up in a pragmatic world of birth and death instead of idealized comfort.

The Peck family are farmers, and Haven Peck, Robert's father, is a butcher. Robert grows up knowing how to butcher animals, and how they eat each other to survive; he delivers a bull calf for another farmer and receives a piglet as a reward. Robert continues to grow and is very attached to his pet pig, which is sterile and so of no use on a pig farm. One year, when the crops are bad and food is scarce, Haven Peck and Robert butcher the pet pig. Robert is very sad, but understands why things must be done, and that incident allows him to bond with his father, who is sympathetic for the loss of a pet (an unusual emotion for a butcher). At the end of the book, Haven dies, and all the farmers from around come to help bury him:

...I looked up road. Another wagon was coming. It was May and Sebring Hillman... Isadore Crookshank along with Jacob Henry and his folks. Last to come was Mr. Clay Sander, the man my father slaughtered for. Along with several of the men that Papa worked with. There would be no work on this day. A day no pigs would die... they'd come because they respected him and honored him.
(Peck, A Day No..., Google Books)

Despite the need for food, work stops for the day while they honor Haven Peck. On that day, no pigs will die; even if they die the next day, it doesn't matter, because the funeral is as much about life as about death, and they receive an extra day of life from Haven's death. Robert ends the novel working on chores to continue the farm.


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