Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 530
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 of the liver, and “all of a sudden,” John’s parents “got old...they just seemed tired.” John became nothing more than “a disturbing influence” in the house and was constantly nagged about being a bother. His parents seemed to care little about his welfare, and they were in a perpetual state of annoyance about the noise he made or the messes he left behind. In contrast, the Pigman always encouraged John to “make [him]self comfortable” in his house, wanting him to “feel at home...with a big smile so you know he meant it.” John knew that he would kill Norton if he ever did anything to hurt the kind old man.