Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
The Pigman, Zindel’s first young adult novel, has been called a groundbreaking work. Zindel’s portrayal of high school students struggling with their own problems in their own environments introduced a new type of adolescent fiction. The Pigman was revolutionary in that Zindel moved away from more cautious traditional juvenile fiction to a kind of writing that depicted teenagers and their problems with candor and seriousness. The Pigman established a style of writing for young adults which became almost a formula for teen novels (including Zindel’s own) after 1968.
The Pigman records the adventures of two high school students whose search for fun leads to the death of a lonely old man. Like Zindel’s novels that follow, it is written in a style which has been described as an accurate capturing of the “bright, hyperbolic sheen of teen-age language.”
The two teenagers who tell the story, John Conlan and Lorraine Jensen, assume responsibility for alternating chapters in what they call an “epic.” Characteristically, John is the dominant personality. As in most of his novels, the principal characters are two teenagers of opposite sex, with the male typically taking the leading role. In novels such as My Darling, My Hamburger, the boy serves as narrator, but in The Pigman and A Begonia for Miss Applebaum the task is shared, with each narrator responsible for alternating...
(The entire section is 789 words.)
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Told in chapters alternating from Lorraine's and John's point of view, The Pigman opens with an "Oath," signed by both John and Lorraine, two high school sophomores, in which they swear to tell only the facts, in this "memorial epic" about their experiences with Angelo Pignati, whom they later refer to as the "Pigman."
Harmless Pranks Accelerate
John, one of two protagonists who act as narrator, explains that he hates school, in fact hates "everything," and tells about his past escapades, in which he set off firecrackers in the school bathroom and organized his whole class to roll damaged apples across the classroom floor when the substitute teacher had her back turned. Intelligent, charming, and bored, he's not a bad kid, but is pent-up and restless, with parents who don't understand him and don't want to try.
Lorraine, the other protagonist and narrator of the book, is similarly alienated from her family, which consists only of her mother. Her father, who left when her mother was pregnant with her, is now dead, and her mother works as a private nurse to try and make ends meet. Like John, Lorraine is very intelligent; she wants to be a writer. A keen observer of people, she is compassionate and sensitive. She and her mother moved into John's neighborhood at the beginning of freshman year, and Lorraine and John, perhaps drawn by their mutual restlessness and alienation, have since become good friends.
(The entire section is 1198 words.)
Chapter 1 Summary
John Conlan and Lorraine Jensen are sophomores at Franklin High School. They have decided to record “the facts” of their recent experiences with Mr. Angelo Pignati; they swear to tell “the truth and nothing but the truth.”
John opens the narration by introducing himself, admitting that he pretty much “hate[s] everything” but that he hates school in particular. During his freshman year at Franklin, he was called the “Bathroom Bomber” because of his propensity for setting off small, homemade firecracker bombs in the boys’ bathroom on the first floor of the school. John had become so adept that he could rig his explosives to go off up to eight minutes after he had set them up, allowing him to make a clean getaway. Sometimes John would even forget that he had set the bomb, and he would be as surprised as everyone else when he heard the sound of the blast. Blame for the prank would often fall upon hapless students who happened to be in the bathroom at the time, “sneaking a cigarette.” John had never been caught.
After he tired of his “bomb avocation,” John masterminded the “supercolossal fruit roll” stunt. John would pass the word at lunch on the days that a substitute teacher was scheduled for the afternoon, and students would show up at the designated class with “scrawny apples” purchased from the cafeteria, waiting for a series of signals from John. At an opportune moment, John would loudly clear his throat, give a “phony sneeze,” and whistle, and everyone would simultaneously roll the apples toward the front of the room. The sound of the fruit rumbling down the aisles made a noise “just like a herd of buffalo stampeding” and, naturally, created quite a disturbance. John boasts that this diversion was effective every time except for once, when the substitute was a retired postman who spent the period earnestly talking about commemorative stamps. The postman had been so enthusiastic about his topic that John had not had the heart to go through with the stunt and had called it off.
According to John, his days as a prankster are over now that he is a sophomore. The only thing he continues to do that is even “faintly criminal” is to write on desks, which he is about to do now. John scrawls a humorous note about being changed into a bug by “a rotten science teacher” on the pristine surface before him. Then he gets to the subject at hand, the account he...
(The entire section is 514 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary
Lorraine narrates this chapter, and she begins by describing John, who is six feet tall with “longish brown hair and blue eyes.” John’s eyes, which are “gigantic” and seem to look right through people, are his best feature. He is the kind of guy who “will do just about anything to stir up some excitement,” and he gets away with a lot of things just because he is “extremely handsome.” John drinks and smokes in excess, and Lorraine, who is a psychology buff, believes he does these things “to assert his independence.” Lorraine has tried to get John to quit smoking by attempting to convince him of the dangers of the habit, but to no avail.
Lorraine says that the big difference between her and John is their level of compassion. Lorraine prides herself on her compassionate nature, while John “pretends he doesn’t care about anything in the world.” Despite his apathetic demeanor, Lorraine believes that John really is a very caring person deep down inside. The fact that he is her best friend is proof to Lorraine that John is, indeed, a sensitive individual.
Lorraine has a low opinion of herself as a result of being the focus of constant criticism from her unhappy and bitter mother. She moved into John’s neighborhood two years previously, at the start of their freshman year in high school. She was lonely because no one spoke to her at all for the first few weeks. She noticed John at school right away because of his “fantastic eyes.” She thought from the very beginning that “he had to be something special.”
John and Lorraine met under bizarre circumstances. One day on the school bus, he sat next to her because all the other seats were taken. Inexplicably, John started laughing “right out loud” for no apparent reason. Lorraine was sure he was laughing at her and was “so embarrassed [she] wanted to cry.” After her initial reaction of discomfiture, Lorraine became angry and asked John to stop laughing so that people would not think she was “sitting with a lunatic.” John, who actually seemed surprised to see Lorraine there, apologized; shortly thereafter he commented to himself, “I am a lunatic.” After managing to remain silent for a short while, John began laughing again, and Lorraine, at a loss as to how to respond, started to laugh too. The two of them, playing off each other, began to laugh louder and louder, and soon “the whole bus thought [they] were out of...
(The entire section is 422 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary
John concedes that he is, in fact, very handsome, but he says this does not get him very much except perhaps with Miss King, his English teacher. Miss King always laughs a little when she talks with John and calls him “a card”; John thinks her behavior is fake and finds it annoying. The thing that John and Lorraine appreciated most about the Pigman was that he did not act like that. Instead of trying to be up to date and “cool or hip,” he was unafraid to be himself, and he often said that John and Lorraine were just “delightful.”
John wants to be a great actor when he grows up, while Lorraine aspires to be a famous writer. John speaks harshly about Lorraine's mother; he says she goes out of her way to tear her daughter down. John thinks that Lorraine looks fine and that all she needs is “a little confidence.” He is especially drawn to her “interesting green eyes that scan like nervous radar.”
The incident with the Pigman began when John and Lorraine, along with two other friends, Dennis Kobin and Norton Kelly, were amusing themselves by doing “phone gags” last September. John and Lorraine could only meet for these phone sessions at Dennis’s or Norton’s houses. Lorraine’s house was off limits because her mother did not have unlimited service and was a “disinfectant fanatic” anyway. The phone at John’s house was unusable because John’s father had put a lock on it to prevent his son from abusing his phone privileges; in an act of defiance, John had put airplane glue in the keyhole of the lock so no one could use it at all.
The idea of the “phone marathon” was to choose a number at random from the directory, call it, and see how long one could keep whomever answered talking on the phone. John, who pretended he was calling from a television quiz show, was not very good at this game because he would always burst out laughing. The record for the longest call belonged to Dennis; he had picked an old woman “who lived alone and was desperate to talk to anyone.” His phone call lasted for two hours and twenty-six minutes.
It was Lorraine who picked the Pigman’s number when it was her turn to use the phone. In a statement of foreshadowing, John says that he thinks the old man would have died anyway. He admits that he and Lorraine might have “speeded things up a little,” but he insists that, surely, they did not murder him.
(The entire section is 434 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary
Lorraine describes Dennis and Norton as “really disturbed.” Norton in particular is a delinquent and an “outcast”; he and John “hate each other.” During his freshman year, Norton had been caught stealing a bag of marshmallows from the supermarket, and his name had been publicized in the local newspaper. Ever since then, everyone calls him “The Marshmallow Kid.”
Norton was the one who started cheating during the phone marathons, peeking as he ran his finger down the directory so he would get a woman to call, as women were notoriously easier to keep talking on the phone for a good length of time. Lorraine admits that, when it was her turn, she cheated a little too, choosing the Pigman because his house was on Howard Avenue, not far from where she lived. The Pigman, whose real name was Angelo Pignati, answered her call with a “jolly...bubbling voice.” When Lorraine introduced herself as “Miss Truman of the Howard Avenue Charities,” he responded that his wife was not home, but Lorraine quickly assured him that it was all right; it was “good-hearted people” like himself she was interested in talking to. When Mr. Pignati asked Lorraine the name of her charity, she burst out laughing, then tried to cover her faux pas by telling him that one of the girls at the office with her had just told a funny joke. Partly at John’s prompting, Lorraine told the Pigman that their charity was called the L&J Fund.
After a long silence, the old man asked Lorraine what the joke was that the girl told her, adding that he knew a lot of jokes but only his wife laughed at them. Mr. Pignati volunteered the information that his wife was on a trip, visiting his sister in California. He then told Lorraine a joke that was a favorite of his wife’s. Lorraine, sensing a deep loneliness in his voice that made her feel sorry for him, began to wish that she had never chosen his name in the phone directory and called to bother him.
As the Pigman talked on and on, Lorraine reflected that it was John who first taught her to prevaricate. Lorraine believes that John lies all the time because “his own life is so boring when measured against his daydreams that...he makes up things to pretend it’s exciting.” John lies to his teachers to get out of trouble, and he lies to his parents to get on their nerves. Lorraine thinks that John’s parents are as bad as he is when it comes to lying; in fact, they may be worse....
(The entire section is 568 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary
Mr. Pignati invited Lorraine and John to come to his house the next day to pick up his donation, but Lorraine was not enthusiastic about going because it was “wrong to take money from an old man.” John, who was in need of funds to buy a six-pack, tried to convince her, but decided to see if he could get a dollar twenty-five from his parents instead. When he asked his mother for the cash, she nervously informed him that his father had instructed her not to give him anything until he had a chance to talk to him about his latest act of rebellion, putting airplane glue in the telephone lock. Not wanting to be around when his father came home, John picked up the phone and tapped the connection button ten times, which summoned the operator, who dialed Lorraine’s number for him. As soon as John heard Lorraine’s phone ring once, he hung up, which was their signal for her to meet him at the corner of Eddy and Victory Boulevard if she could get away.
John and Lorraine argued about whether they should go over to the Pigman’s house to collect the ten dollars, and John finally convinced Lorraine that they should because the old man sounded lonely and would probably appreciate their company. The house on Howard Avenue was “a phenomenal dump,” and Lorraine wondered if the Pigman was poor. Angelo Pignati, a large man in his late fifties, answered the door with a “great big smile on his face.” He invited John and Lorraine to come in and sit down in the living room, then he went into the kitchen to get them some wine. When he returned, he informed them that he had just gotten back from the zoo and that his wife, who had been gone for about a month, was visiting his sister in California. He suddenly looked as though he was going to cry, then he abruptly changed the subject.
The Pigman told John and Lorraine that while he was waiting for them to arrive, he had been practicing “how to memorize ten items.” Looking like “a great big kid,” he urged them to name ten objects for him and gave them a piece of paper and a pencil so they could write them down. Mr. Pignati, who had been careful not to look at the written list, then happily recited the objects back to them, after which he showed them the secret of this “breathtaking feat” by drawing a diagram representing the mental picture he had made to connect the items in his mind. Mr. Pignati insisted that both John and Lorraine try the game next, and when they had each...
(The entire section is 611 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary
Ignoring Lorraine’s protests, John cashed the Pigman’s check and bought a six-pack of beer and some cigarettes. He then tried to convince her that they should go to the zoo with Mr. Pignati.
Lorraine did not get home until after six-thirty that evening. Her mother, who is very controlling of her daughter’s behavior, demanded to know where she had been. Lorraine’s mother is a single parent, having been left by her husband fifteen years previous. Possibly because of her own negative experiences with men, she is paranoid about the boys with whom Lorraine might come in contact; she monitors her whereabouts closely.
Lorraine’s mother works as a private nurse. Her latest client, an old man with terminal cancer, had just died that day. She talks about her patients in a callous manner. She proudly showed Lorraine some canned goods she had stolen from the old man’s house, rationalizing that they would never be missed. Lorraine’s mother talked about the under-the-table commission she would get for referring the deceased to a particular undertaker, and she lamented that her next assignment, “another terminal cancer,” would not start until the day after tomorrow. Complaining that she could not both “go out and earn a living and keep [the] house decent,” she asked Lorraine to stay at home from school the next day to help her clean.
Lorraine told her mother that she could not miss school because there was going to be an important test in Latin. As her mother groused that she could “take a year off from that school and not miss anything,” Lorraine pretended she was consulting a girlfriend about homework and called John. She heard a lot of yelling in the background; John’s father was livid at his son’s recalcitrant behavior. Talking quietly and quickly so as not to be overheard, John and Lorraine decided to ditch school the next day and go to the zoo with Mr. Pignati.
John and Lorraine arranged to meet the Pigman at the front of the zoo at ten o’clock in the morning. At precisely the correct time, Mr. Pignati arrived, with a smile that “stretched clear across his face.” Despite the Pigman’s merry mood, Lorraine was filled with a feeling of foreboding. A series of “bad omens” occurred within the next few minutes. First, the lady who sold popcorn at the zoo was antagonistic to her, and then Lorraine was “attacked” by a peacock. Finally, in the nocturnal room of the Mammal...
(The entire section is 636 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
John did not share Lorraine’s trepidations about their relationship with the Pigman. He thoroughly enjoyed their trip to the zoo and thought that it was “sort of nice” that a baboon had a friend like Mr. Pignati. John also liked the fact that the old man treated him and Lorraine as if he genuinely liked them too. John concluded that the Pigman was “a little crazy” but harmless.
Lorraine and John did not get to the Pigman’s the next day until around seven o’clock in the evening. Dennis and Norton had accosted them after school, wanting to know where they were going. Because John and Lorraine did not want the boys to find out about Mr. Pignati, they pretended that they did not have anything to do and ended up going to the cemetery to have a drink with them. John thinks that cemeteries “are one of the loveliest places to be—if you’re not dead, of course.” Cemeteries make him think about his own mortality, and they make him sad because he knows that he is not really concerned about the dead people around him; he is only searching for “anything to prove” to himself that there is something after death to look forward to besides decaying.
To get out of the house that night, Lorraine lied to her mother, telling her that she needed to go to the library. John, on the other hand, had no trouble getting away. He and his father got into an argument again, this time about John’s plans for his future. John’s father wants him to get a lucrative job working on the Stock Exchange like his brother Kenny, but John wants to be an actor. The argument between John and his father became heated and unpleasant, and when it was over, John’s mother suggested that he go over to a friend’s house so as not to further aggravate his father. John was very glad to comply.
When John and Lorraine arrived at the Pigman’s house, the old man was clearly glad to see them, and the two young people basked in his appreciation of them, which was so different from the reception they were used to getting in their own homes. The Pigman excitedly offered to show John and Lorraine around the house, encouraging them to explore and to make themselves at home. Lorraine went upstairs and brought back a picture of a young girl in a confirmation dress; she asked the Pigman who the girl was. The smile faded off the Pigman’s face as he told her that the girl was his wife, Conchetta.
After a brief moment of uncomfortable...
(The entire section is 574 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary
Lorraine was horrified but not surprised when John whispered to her that the Pigman’s wife was dead. She had suspected as much, and she remembered cases in which a man and wife died within a short time of each other. She thought “the love between a man and a woman must be the strongest thing in the world.” Recalling her own parents, Lorraine then wondered why their relationship had not been like that.
John, who was exploring upstairs again, came down with a small plastic card and asked the Pigman what it was. Mr. Pignati explained about charge cards, and John was amazed that a store would essentially allow people to take whatever they wanted and not require them to pay until later. Mr. Pignati said that he got the card so that his wife could go shopping at Beekman’s delicatessen.
At home that evening, Lorraine had another typically unpleasant interaction with her mother, who was starting a new assignment caring for a terminal cancer victim whom she said had “sex on the brain.” She gloated about how she was being treated with kid gloves by the patient’s family because of the difficulty in dealing with this patient; she planned to take full advantage of the situation. As she left, she gave Lorraine a list of chores to do in the house, along with her usual warnings about not letting anyone in under any circumstances. Lorraine tried to remember how awful her mother’s life was and to understand why she picked on her so much. She wished that her mother knew how to have fun like the Pigman.
Lorraine managed to finish her chores and get out of the house by about eleven. She and John met the Pigman at the ferry, and the three of them traveled to Beekman’s Department Store in Manhattan. The Pigman took them to the delicatessen first, where he encouraged them to pick out interesting things they might like to try. They then proceeded to the fifth floor, where they had to pass through the women’s underwear department. A saleswoman greeted them and asked the Pigman if he was looking for something for his daughter. Lorraine impulsively said that she was not his daughter but quickly qualified her answer when she saw the crestfallen look on the old man’s face; she declared that she was his niece. Mr. Pignati insisted that Lorraine get a package of nylon stockings, and Lorraine, terrified about what her mother would say when she brought them home, chose some in her mother’s size so she could give them to...
(The entire section is 666 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary
John and Norton have hated each other for years. Norton has been known as a bully from the time he was about ten; according to John, Norton “was always picking fights and throwing stones and beating up everybody.” When he was a freshman, Norton began shoplifting, and his transgressions became increasingly more daring and lawless. John thinks that Norton has definite sociopathic tendencies and believes he is “the type of guy who could grow up to be a killer.”
Just before Thanksgiving, Norton confronted John and asked why he and Lorraine were always going over to Mr. Pignati’s house. John tried being evasive, telling Norton that the old man was “just a nice guy.” With typical malevolence, Norton then asked if there was anything worth stealing at the Pigman’s house, and John told him that Mr. Pignati had nothing valuable, just “some tools and stuff...some electrical junk.” Norton did not lose interest in the subject as John had hoped he would. Instead, he “perked up,” musing that there was “a big market” for electronics. With this veiled threat to the old man John had grown to love, Norton reached “a new peak of ugliness.”
John and Norton began to trade insults, and an argument ensued concerning Lorraine. John ended the confrontation by bringing up the subject of marshmallows, which was like “stick[ing] a knife” into his adversary because of the embarrassing reputation Norton had earlier earned as the petty criminal The Marshmallow Kid. As John walked angrily away, Norton shouted that if he did not give him “a little more information” about Mr. Pignati, he and Dennis would “pay a little visit over there” themselves. John was infuriated as Norton continued to taunt him, and he turned around to deliver one last epithet at his tormentor. He was forced to admit to himself, however, that he was “just as screwed up” as Norton was.
John tried to figure out why he was the way he was, especially in the area of drinking. He remembered that his father used to encourage him to play the clown when he was younger, urging him to finish all the empty beer glasses around the house and bragging in front of company about how his younger son was “going to be a real drinker.” John knew that everyone really liked his brother Kenny, the “smart college kid”; the only thing John did better than Kenny was drink beer.
John’s father quit drinking when he developed cirrhosis...
(The entire section is 530 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary
By December, John and Lorraine were going over to the Pigman’s house every day after school. Lorraine would lie to her mother to explain why she was not at home, telling her that she was going to a school club meeting or that she had missed the bus. Lorraine’s mother was paranoid that her daughter would be victimized by men, whom she unilaterally believed were “only after one thing.” Lorraine was irritated and demoralized by her mother’s constant badgering, but she was more patient when she realized that her mother’s distrust of men most likely stemmed from her experience of being abandoned by her own husband.
Lorraine had given her mother the stockings that the Pigman had bought for her; she said that she paid for them by saving her bus and lunch money for a few days. Although her mother was suspicious and questioned her repeatedly to catch her in a lie, Lorraine could tell that she appreciated the gift.
All in all, it was a relief for both John and Lorraine to be able to spend a little time each day in the comfortable, accepting atmosphere provided by Mr. Pignati. Things were going very well until one snowy evening in January, when the Pigman had just returned from the zoo.
John and Lorraine found Mr. Pignati very depressed when they arrived at his house. Apparently, Bobo had seemed sick that day and would not eat; the Pigman lamented that his beloved baboon was getting old. Lorraine tried to lift his spirits by serving him a glass of wine and bringing out a plate of candy. John, who was watching television, grabbed a piece of candy and popped it in his mouth, and Lorraine went over to turn down the TV, telling John that now would be a good time to tell the Pigman something they had decided to share with him.
John and Lorraine told Mr. Pignati that they were not really charity workers as they had pretended to be when they first met him. They explained that it had just been a game, and they apologized for lying. John and Lorraine told Mr. Pignati that they could not lie to him anymore because they now liked him more than anyone else they knew.
The Pigman received their admission silently, and after a while he broke down and told them a secret of his own. Crying broken heartedly, he spoke about the things that he loved most about his wife Conchetta, and then he admitted that she was dead. Lorraine sat beside the old man and took his hand, and John offered the simple words,...
(The entire section is 628 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary
John recognized immediately that the Pigman was having a heart attack, and he called the police. An ambulance arrived with two attendants and “an old lady doctor,” who efficiently placed the Pigman on a stretcher and wheeled him away. Mr. Pignati appeared to be breathing easily, and John did not think that he was going to die.
John and Lorraine identified themselves as the Pigman’s children when the police questioned them. They had removed the skates from the old man’s feet before the authorities arrived, and John explained that Mr. Pignati had been out all day and had also been shoveling snow. After looking around the house, the policemen finally left. John and Lorraine found the keys to the house in the kitchen and locked up. After taking a walk in the cemetery, they went home.
The next day, the two young people cut school and took the bus to visit Mr. Pignati at the hospital, bringing a bunch of gladiolas Lorraine had gathered at the cemetery. They found Mr. Pignati sitting up in bed with “a great big grin on his face,” looking “better than ever.” When John and Lorraine told him that they had been forced to masquerade as his children to get in to visit him, he looked ecstatic.
John and Lorraine told the Pigman that they had locked up his house the night before and offered him his keys. Mr. Pignati, however, told them to keep them, in case they might want to go there and watch some television or something while he was gone. Lorraine was hesitant to take him up on his suggestion, but John happily overruled her and took the keys back. The Pigman asked John and Lorraine to visit Bobo for him while he was in the hospital, and he gave them specific instructions on the treats the baboon preferred.
Lorraine blames John for everything that happened from that point on, and John concedes that she might be right. At first things were fine; John and Lorraine went over to the Pigman’s house after school as usual, and Lorraine decided to make some spaghetti while John watched television. After awhile, John got bored and went upstairs to explore. He went into the Pigman’s closet and tried on a very old-fashioned jacket; intrigued by the way he looked, he added a red and blue flowered tie and drew a moustache on his face with a makeup pencil. When he went back downstairs, he found that Lorraine had set the table nicely, with two candles burning in the center. Lorraine was mesmerized by John’s...
(The entire section is 604 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary
On Thursday, John and Lorraine did not get together until third period lunch. Lorraine had endured a typically unpleasant morning with her mother, who kept harping about how she wished her new client “would hurry up and croak” because her husband was getting “a little too friendly” with the nurses while his wife lay dying. John was late to school because of another confrontation with his father, who could not understand how John could be missing “forty-two assignments in Problems in American Democracy.” During their break, John and Lorraine went over to the pay phone near the principal’s office, which they were not supposed to use. John stood guard in the hall while Lorraine talked to the nurse on Mr. Pignati’s floor at the hospital and learned that the Pigman was doing well but probably would not be released until Saturday at the earliest.
John had thought he and Lorraine would have had a great time going over to the Pigman’s house during his absence, but things had not turned out exactly as he had planned. The Pigman had been taken ill on Sunday, and on Monday, John and Lorraine had dressed up in the Pignatis’ clothes and shared dinner by candlelight. The two had gone over to the house again on Tuesday, but Lorraine had tried to make some TV dinners and burned them. On Wednesday, they had only a little time at the house after school because Lorraine’s mother “was on the warpath about antifermenting the kitchen,” and on Thursday, they had to do a report for their class on Problems in American Democracy.
Because Friday was the last day before the Pigman was scheduled to return, John and Lorraine cut school so that they could spend some time together at the house. Lorraine attempted to make breakfast, but John was in a sour mood, complaining about her cooking and refusing to help clean up. Lorraine knew that something was bothering John, so she let him watch TV for a while as she set about straightening things up in the house alone. Lorraine reflected that John’s bad mood had been building ever since the night he kissed her in the Pigman’s bedroom. Things had been “slightly awkward” between them since then, and Lorraine concluded that, although she had “been in love” with John for months, the feelings he was now experiencing were new and confusing to him; “suddenly he was wearing shaving lotion, combing his hair, and fighting with [her].” After a while, John came into the...
(The entire section is 621 words.)
Chapter 13 Summary
John did not think Mr. Pignati would mind if he and Lorraine had “a few friends” over at his house while he was in the hospital, so the went ahead with plans for a party. Dennis was first to arrive that evening because John had asked him to bring some alcohol from his father’s liquor cabinet. Lorraine had prepared a variety of hors d’oeuvres for the guests, and by seven-thirty about a dozen people were in attendance.
Many of John and Lorraine’s classmates had planned to attend a dance at St. Mary’s Hall that night, but when they heard about the party at the Pigman’s house they decided to go there instead. By eight o’clock the band had arrived, and once they had their amplifiers plugged in, “the house really started to jump.” Friends invited other friends, and before long the crowd grew to more than forty kids.
John and some of the other boys moved most of the furniture out of the living room and pulled back the rug to create a “great dance floor.” One of the girls did some “fantastic shaking” to a pulsing drum solo, and when the electric guitars joined in the windowpanes literally began to rattle. John estimated that the event was turning out to be “the party of the year” and was pleased because damage to the house was minimal.
At about ten-thirty, John put on his skates and came rolling onto the dance floor, and he and another girl, who was wearing Lorraine’s skates, did “this dance you wouldn’t believe.” To John’s chagrin, Norton Kelly arrived, furious at not having been invited. John lied to Norton, telling him that he had been trying to contact him all night, and quickly diverted his attention by offering him some wine. Lorraine looked very worried when she saw that Norton was there, but eventually she and another girl went upstairs to try on some of Conchetta Pignati’s old clothes.
As the party became increasingly rowdy, John noticed that Norton was nowhere to be seen. Lorraine hollered that she had seen the troublemaker go upstairs, and John, still wearing his roller skates, clumped up the stairs after him. John found Norton in the Pigman’s workroom, packing up an old oscilloscope that he clearly was going to steal from the house. John ordered Norton to leave the equipment alone, but just then Lorraine called frantically from the foot of the stairs. In that second, Norton hit John hard in the stomach and ran down the staircase. John, in his skates,...
(The entire section is 626 words.)
Chapter 14 Summary
The police took John and Lorraine home from the Pigman’s house. John, who was very drunk, was “out for the night,” but Lorraine pleaded with the officers to let them see Mr. Pignati. The officer refused, telling her that “the old guy’s crying” and informing her that she and John were lucky he had decided not to press charges. Lorraine told the officer that her mother would beat her when she got home, and he unsympathetically responded that she should have thought about that earlier.
At Lorraine’s house, one of the officers explained to Lorraine’s mother that Lorraine and some friends “had too much to drink at some old man’s house on Howard Avenue [and] almost wrecked the place.” Lorraine’s mother pulled her daughter into the house and slapped her; Lorraine screamed, causing the policemen to look a little sorry that they had brought her home. After the police left, Lorraine’s mother stared at her with “disbelief and disgust.” Lorraine wanted desperately for her mother to understand that it was just a party she had gone to and that she was growing up and needed to have friends, but her mother slapped her again. Lorraine’s mother then broke into tears, and Lorraine knew that she wanted her to run over and beg for forgiveness. Lorraine refused, thinking that it was the Pigman who needed to forgive her, not her mother. Later, Lorraine explained about herself, John, and Mr. Pignati. Just when she thought that her mother had understood a little bit, her mother asked if the old man had tried anything sexual with her, and Lorraine realized that things would never change.
As Lorraine lay in bed waiting to fall asleep, she hoped that Mr. Pignati would not think that she and John had deliberately betrayed his kindness toward them. She wanted to tell him that they had only been “playing,” and she remembered the night John had dressed up as a “handsome European businessman” and kissed her: “a boy with a moustache, a girl with a feather.” In the morning, Lorraine’s mother awakened her, inquisitorially demanding if she had done something “bad” to get the stockings she had bought her. She then left, telling Lorraine to clean the house and be there when she got home because she was “not through with [her] yet.”
John met Lorraine at about eleven o’clock. He looked “disheartened” and said that when the police had brought him home the night before, his parents had responded...
(The entire section is 693 words.)
Chapter 15 Summary
John, kneeling by the fallen Pigman, yelled at the zoo attendant to call an ambulance. He then said to Lorraine, “Get out of here,” because he was afraid of what her mother would do if she got into any more trouble. John checked Mr. Pignati’s wrist for a pulse, but there was none, and the old man was not breathing. John wanted to whisper to him, “Did you have to die?” but he knew the Pigman could no longer hear him.
As he waited for the ambulance with the Pigman, John reflected that, contrary to what Lorraine may have thought, he really did care about things. John was sickened by his awareness of the world as a place
where you can grow old and be alone and have to get down on your hands and knees and beg for friends.
He could not stand the thought that a person could end his life with only a baboon to talk to, and he wondered if they were all like baboons,
smiling away and not really caring what was going on as long as there were enough peanuts bouncing around to think about.
Maybe everyone, including his parents and Lorraine’s mother, were nothing more than “baffled baboons concentrating on all the wrong things.” It occurred to John to check Mr. Pignati’s wallet to see if he was carrying identification; then he could leave and not get further involved in yet another unpleasant situation. Even as he entertained this thought, he was ashamed and began to think of other things—“anything to get away from what was really happening.”
As he continued to wait for the authorities to come for Mr. Pignati’s body, John thought about the inevitability of his own death. Lorraine often chided him for drinking and smoking, telling him, “You must want to die.” In a way, Lorraine was right; John thought:
Maybe I would rather be dead than to turn into the kind of grown-up people I knew. What was so hot about living anyway if people think you’re a disturbing influence just because you still think about God and Death and the Universe and Love.
John felt sorry for his parents in that moment because they had ceased to care about what was important and were now living their lives by just going through the motions.
The ambulance arrived, and the doctor gestured that the Pigman was dead. As they took away the body, John quietly said,...
(The entire section is 617 words.)