Who are the three monkeys in a cage really?

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katwood001 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The three monkeys in a cage found during the shopping trip to Beekman's department store are symbolic of the strange company of the three friends in the book: Lorraine, John, and Mr. Pignati.  As the three monkeys cling to one another "as though pleading for love," John, Lorraine, and Mr. Pignati rely upon one on another in a difficult world where each of them deals with his or her own difficulties: Lorraine—her mother, John—his father, and Pignati—his grief.  This metaphor is reinforced once Mr. Pignati buys the roller-skates.  Lorraine comments: 

"We must have looked just like three monkeys.  The Pigman, John, and me—three funny little monkeys."