Discussion Topic

John's maturation in Zindel's "The Pigman."

Summary:

John's maturation in "The Pigman" is marked by his evolving sense of responsibility and empathy. Initially reckless and rebellious, his friendship with Mr. Pignati and the experiences they share lead him to reflect on the consequences of his actions. By the end of the story, John demonstrates growth by recognizing the impact of his behavior on others and showing remorse for his past mistakes.

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Has John matured since his freshman year in Zindel's The Pigman?

In Zindel's The Pigman, John writes about being a troublemaker in school. He brags about being called the Bathroom Bomber because he used to set off tiny bombs in bathrooms during his Freshman year. He then brags about a prank he calls "the fruit rolls," which is when he gets other students in class to roll old apples at substitute teachers. John says the following about himself after bragging about his pranks:

"I gave up all that kid stuff now that I'm a sophomore. The only thing I do now that is faintly criminal is write on desks" (3-4).

This does not mean that John has matured. Someone who has a mature outlook on life wouldn't start a book that is supposed to be a "memorial epic" (5) by bragging about himself. Not only that, but as John is writing the first chapter, he has just done something very immature--he held a teenage party in Mr. Pignati's house without permission. During the party, John had his friend bring alcohol, the girls tried on the deceased wife's dresses, and police were called in to break it up. This does not demonstrate that John has matured. Even though John is the one who wants to write about his and Lorraine's friendship with the Pigman, which might seem honorable, he only suggests it to help Lorraine with her grief. Mr. Pignati died after they held that party at his house and she feels as though this pushed him into the grave. Therefore, John is not much more mature by his sophomore year. He is getting better, but he still has a way to go before one might call him mature. 

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How does John mature throughout "The Pigman"?

When we are first introduced to John, he thinks very little of how his actions might have consequences. He considers himself a bit of a "bad boy" with a devil-may-care attitude. In general, he has a serious problem with authority. It's why he sets off firecrackers at school and does his ridiculously stupid fruit roll prank. I really believe that John is the way that he is because he figures nobody cares about him. If nobody cares about him, John figures he shouldn't care about how his actions affect the lives of other people. Lorraine and the Pigman are what cause John to start changing. Through those two characters, John learns what it feels like to be loved and respected by a peer and an adult. Unfortunately, that isn't enough. John has to see the hurt he causes in the Pigman due to the party in order for John's heart and personality to really begin changing. Readers only get a very brief glimpse into John's drastic change, but we do finish the book believing that John is now ready and willing to take responsibility for his actions; therefore, we hope and believe that John will act in a way that shows he truly cares about other people much more.

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How does John mature throughout "The Pigman"?

There is a definite difference between the John at the start of the book and the John at the end. Note how the first chapter gives us an accurate idea of John's character through the way that he sets himself up against the establishment of school. He sets off firecrackers in his school and organises other students to roll rotten apples towards substitute teachers. He drinks and smokes, and definitely is presented as an anti-establishment figure. As the novel progresses, we see that this is largely in response to his relationship with his parents. John deliberately tries to inject fun and rebellion into his own character in response to the way that his parents lead such a conventional and boring existence. This explains his happy-go-lucky nature and the way that he throws a party in Mr. Pignati's house. It is often he that has to drag the reluctant Lorraine with him along on their plans to cause mischief.

However, at the end of the novel, after the disaster of the party and the way that he recognises he was at fault, it is clear that John has learnt a massive lesson. Note what he says towards the end of the final chapter:

There was no one else to blame anymore. No Bores or Old Ladies or Nortons, or Assassins waiting at the bridge. And there was no place to hide--no place across any river for a boatman to take us.

John is forced to recognise that, with Mr. Pignati's death, there was something in him and Lorraine that died as well, and that now, they had to face the consequences of their actions. John realises that he cannot "blame" anybody else for his life, and that his life would be "what we made of it--nothing more, nothing less." The symbol of the monkeys is one that is tremendously important, as the last sentence of the novel indicates:

They build their own cages, we could almost hear the Pigman whisper, as he took his children with him.

John learns that he must not "build his own cage" of irresponsibility. He has to accept responsibility for his own life and the decisions and mistakes that he made just as he has recognised that he was wrong to throw the party. He has moved from being a carefree, rebellious youth to a position of maturity.

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