The pigman; Paul Zindel

Literatura universal del siglo XX. Narrativa norteamericana. Novela juvenil. Resumen. # Young adult novels

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THE PIGMAN

Chapter one

There is talk of how Lorraine plays jokes on supply teachers at school. We

learn that the librarian's nickname is `the cricket' because `her nylon stockings

rub together when she walks so they make a scraaaaaaatchy sound.' (p.11).

Points worth noting

This chapter is narrated by John, and is written in a conversational style.

John's observation `Cricket is down at the other end of the library showing

some four - eyed dimwit how to use the encyclopaedias,' hints at his

arrogant, superior attitude that will dominate the novel.

Chapter two

Lorraine tells us how she has tried to convince John not to smoke. So far, her

efforts have proved unsuccessful because `nothing seems to have any impact

on John.' (p.13).

Lorraine believes that, despite appearances, John is compassionate, but

hides his feelings, pretending instead not to care. John's complex personality

is revealed when Lorraine tells us `John has compassion deep inside of him,

which is the real reason we got involved with the Pigman.' At the same time

though, there is the acknowledgement that `at first John thought of it all

simply as a way for getting money for beer and cigarettes.' One cannot help

feeling that whilst John is portrayed as manipulative character, he is to be

pitied when we learn that `any real hostility he has is directed against himself.'

(p.14). Paul Zindel links John's problems to his home - life and in part

excuses his behaviour, this therefore makes it difficult for the reader to form a

fixed opinion of John; our feelings towards him are ambivalent.

Lorraine tells us how she first met John when she was sitting next to him on a

bus. At first, he irritated Lorraine, but eventually he made her laugh too.

Work

In chapter two, Lorraine describes John in an honest way. Whilst she is his

friend and sees that he has many attractive qualities, Lorraine knows only too

well that John has traits that are far from attractive too.

Describe a friend that you have. What attracts you to that particular person?

What annoys you about your friend? How do you cope with it?

Chapter three

In the opening paragraph, John tells us how attractive he is. On first reading,

one would perhaps mistakenly laugh at John's apparent sarcasm, if it were

not for the fact that Lorraine has already told us that he is indeed very

handsome. John's narcissistic spiel leaves us with little doubt that he really is

an arrogant, self - important teenager.

John has little respect for authority, he simply does as he chooses. When his

father enquires `Do you realise I've been trying to get your mother for half an

hour and the line's been busy?' John replies `Those things happen, I was

talking to a friend.' (p.21). Although John's insolence angers his father, he is

powerless to stop him taking advantage. Whilst John's action of pouring

`airplane glue in the keyhole of the lock,' is childish in the extreme, it is John's

way of gaining control over his father and avoiding the situation where he is

barred from using the phone.

John's remark that Norton and Dennis are `two amoebae' and that Dennis's

mother `is so retarded that she doesn't know what's coming off anyway'

confirms that John believes that he is intellectually superior not only to his

peers, but also to their parents.

Chapter four

Lorraine's view of Dennis and Norton at the beginning of the chapter is

somewhat tempered, she refers to them as `really disturbed boys,' and calls

Norton a `social outcast.' That the two descriptions of the boys are written one

after another, does I think, invite us to compare both Lorraine's and John's

reflections, and comment upon the different ways in which they express their

thoughts.

Although it is Lorraine who first makes contact with Mr. Pignati, it is John who

is in the background telling Lorraine what to say. Unable to stand by and

listen to Lorraine make the arrangements, John demands that he wants to

speak to Mr Pignati and takes the receiver from Lorraine.

Work

So far, we have decided that John is arrogant, insolent, conceited, overly

confident and believes that he superior to others. The author conveys this

through what John says, his actions, and what Lorraine says about him.

Imagine that when John takes the phone from Lorraine, he does speak to Mr.

Pignati. Write out the phone conversation that follows. Remember that it

should be in keeping with what we already know about John. He is

persuasive, enjoys fooling others, and is greedy for money to buy beer and

cigarettes.

Chapter five

Lorraine refuses to go to Mr. Pignati's house `because it is wrong to take

money from an old man.' (p.29). John persists, arguing that they should tell

Mr. Piganti that he is supporting a charity for aspiring actors and writers. John

openly admits though that he `did need a dollar and a quarter for a six pack.'

(p.30). Not content with fooling Mr. Piganti, John tells the operator that he

cannot dial the phone number that he wants because he `has no arms.'

John's seemingly altruistic desire to do `his duty to visit the lonely,' is exposed

for what it really is; a cunning plan to earn him money for beer.

John is shrewd enough to realise that `all I have to do is push her [Lorraine] a

little farther, and I'll get what I want.' Monitoring the situation at each stage,

John concludes `then I knew I had her just where I wanted her.' Despite

Lorraine's protestation that it is mean to take money from an old man, and

her hesitation when she sees Mr. Pignati's house because he might be poor,

she is persuaded against her better judgement and ends up going to the

house with John.

Exercising his power over Mr. Pignati, John forces him to hand over the

money so that they can leave as quickly as possible. John's cold uncaring

nature is revealed when Mr. Pignati suggests `We should all go to the zoo

tomorrow.' Ignoring the comment, John reminds Mr. Pignati of their reason for

the visit. With `an air of impatience,' John tells him `Miss Trueman and I have

many other stops to make today.'

Work

What motivates John?

Money

`At first John thought of it

simply as a way of getting

money for beer and

cigarettes.' (p.15).

`Give me one good

reason why [John

should not take the

money].' (p.29).

Fooling others

`We can tell him that the L &

fund is intended to subsidise

writers and actors.' (p.29).

I can't [dial the number], I

have no arms.' (p.32)

`John cashed the cheque and

got a six - pack of

beer and a packet cigarettes.'

(p.41).

Being in control

John is determined not

to let Norton in on the

secret. `I just didn't want

them to know.' (p.29).

`That's when I know all I

have to do is push her

[ Lorraine] a little farther

and I'll get what I want.' (p.33).

`Those things happen. I

was talking to a friend.'

John refuses to let his father

use the phone. (p.21).

`Let me talk to him,' John demanded. (p.28).

Chapter six

John uses the money from Mr. Pignati to buy beer and cigarettes. (p.41).

John and Lorraine accompany Mr. Pignati to the zoo, where they meet Bobo,

the gorilla that is Mr. Pignati's `best friend.' It becomes clear that Mr. Pignati

is a lonely, if slightly disturbed, man.

Work

Paul Zindel, through Lorraine's eyes, describes vividly a trip to the zoo. Write

an account in which you describe a particularly memorable day out. Try to

make your account as interesting and as entertaining as possible.

Chapter seven

Lorraine and John visit Mr. Pignati's house. He shows them around and

invites them to look around the house. Lorraine discovers a photograph, and

asks who it is. Both Lorraine and John know that `something [is] wrong,' with

the version of events that Mr. Pignati has given about his wife, but they are

not quite sure what it is that is wrong.

Whilst John is looking through Mr. Pignati's drawers, he discovers the burial

certificate for Conchetta Pignati, the wife that is supposedly on holiday in

California.

Work

Discuss the significance of the burial certificate. If Conchetta is dead, as now

seems the case, why has Mr. Pignati lied to Lorraine and John? What, if

anything, is he hiding?

Chapter eight

Lorraine and John are slightly uneasy because they know that Mr. Pignati has

lied to them, and they don't know the circumstances surrounding the death of

his wife.

Mr. Pignati takes them to Beekham's department store, where he insists on

spending lots of money on John and Lorraine. He buys three pairs of roller

skates, and they skate home together.

Points worth noting

Mr. Pignati is keen to make friends with John and Lorraine and treats them

well, but at the same time one understands that he needs them too. He is

vulnerable, in many ways more vulnerable than John and Lorraine. It is

through his friendship with John and Lorraine that he can revisit his childhood

years.

Work

John describes to Lorraine how he has found the funeral bill. Lorraine is

shocked, believing that all along she has had a feeling that something was

amiss. Why do you think that Lorraine forgets about this discovery so

quickly?

Write a detailed account of a time when you have been taken by surprise.

Pay careful attention to the vocabulary that you use.

Chapter nine

Norton quizzes John as to why he goes Mr. Pignati's house. John refers

again to Norton's limited mental capacity, deciding that he is `so low on the

scale of evolution he belongs back in the age of the Cro - Magnon man.'

(p.78) John thinks back to Norton's childhood, in which `he played with dolls,'

and seems to link Norton's limited intelligence with the fact that he played

with dolls as a child. Perhaps the most important thing to come out of this, is

that John admits that he is `just as screwed up as he is.' (p.82).

John attempts to understand the way he is, and why he has the problems that

he does. He blames his father for encouraging him to drink at a young age.

Implicit in this criticism of his parents though, is perhaps a criticism of John

himself; of his inability to have the strength of character as a young adult to

tackle the problem himself. This chapter reveals the growing divide between

John and his parents.

Work

John's observation about Norton playing with dolls, is closely linked to

socially acceptable roles for males and females.

A stereotype is a commonly held belief, often with little or no truth in it. For

example it is not true that boys who play with dolls are gay. Stereotypes can

be used to define identity; they can include as well as exclude.

Discuss male and female roles and stereotypes. How have both men's and

women's roles have changed over the past thirty years? Think about;

Working women - women in high of responsibility;

Education;

Maternity and paternity leave;

House husbands;

Single parent families;

and any other changes that the group believes are relevant.

Chapter ten

Lorraine's mother begins to question her as to where she has been. Lorraine

tells her mother that she has been to a Latin dance club, and missed the last

bus home. John and Lorraine have been to visit Mr. Pignati, and that is why

she is late home.

John and Lorraine admit to Mr. Pignati that they aren't charity workers, and

the plan was all a game.

Mr. Pignati begins to cry as he remembers his wife, he tells them his secret,

that his wife Conchetta is dead. To cheer up Mr. Pignati, John suggests that

they play a game, but Mr. Pignati's choice is a bizarre game in which there is

talk of a murdered wife.

During a game of chase, Mr. Pignati collapses with a suspected heart attack,

and falls down the stairs to the bottom.

Work

In this chapter suspense is built up in various ways. We know that Lorraine is

telling lies to her mother, Mr. Pignati reveals that his wife is dead, but doesn't

say how she died and Mr. Pignati initiates a strange game.

Look at how Paul Zindel makes the story interesting and creates suspense.

Comprehension questions

What lie does Lorraine tell her mother? (p.84).

Why is her mother paranoid? (p.84).

How does the author build up suspense as Lorraine enters Mr. Pignati's

house? Pick out appropriate words and phrases. (p.86 - 87).

How does Mr. Pignati react when John tells him the truth?

We know that Mr. Pignati is sad about something else, why isn't it revealed

here? (p.88).

Why do you think that the author doesn't give us any more information other

than `she's [Conchetta's] dead?' (p.90).

What is the purpose of the strange game?

Chapter eleven

Realising that Mr. Pignati has had a heart attack, John and Lorraine call the

police and an ambulance. John is arrogant, commenting on the attitude of the

`snotty cop.' Again John's thoughts reveal his belief that he is superior to

other people, `I mean those particular cops were so dumb it was pathetic. I

felt like I was talking to two grown up Dennises who had arrested mental

growth.' (p.97)

John's remark that Lorraine looked like `a Mongolian peasant hawking flowers

in a flea - market' as she carried the flowers for Mr. Pignati to the hospital is

far from complimentary, and will form part of a collection of comments made

by John that are derogatory to women.

John asserts his authority over Lorraine when he insists that they will take Mr.

Pignati's house keys, despite Lorraine already having declined the offer. He

tells us ``Maybe we will, I said, taking the keys right out of her hand […]. I

flashed Lorraine a dirty look and she never finished her sentence.' (p.100).

After dressing up in Mr. Pignati's and Conchetta's clothes, John and Lorraine

enjoy a candle lit dinner that she has prepared. John announces that he is `a

handsome European businessman and that you [Lorraine] are in love with

me!' (p.104). It is he who, despite Lorraine's protestations, kisses her.

Admittedly, in the first instance, this could be taken as a teenage experiment

between two close friends, but when Lorraine tells him forcefully `John, stop it

now. I'm not kidding.' (p104), John does not stop, it simply encourages him

and Lorraine is powerless to stop him.

Chapter twelve

John telephones the hospital to check that Mr. Pignati is fine, but in an echo

of an earlier incident, John persuades the operator to connect him to the

hospital free of charge because he tells the operator that `I just lost my dime

trying to get to St. Ambrose hospital. I got some saloon by mistake.' (p.107).

The aspect that concerns me most is the ease with which John is able to

invent lies on the spur of the moment.

Lorraine has made the evening meal, but John refuses to help. He is

awkward, demanding that Lorraine `shut up and do the dishes.' (p109).

Unable to regonize that life is much easier if people work as a team and co -

operate, John refuses to remove the garbage because `you're the one who

makes it.' (p109). Not wanting to appear as if he is doing Lorraine a favour,

John decides that he will take the garbage out, not to help Lorraine, simply

because `The Pigman's coming home tomorrow, and this hovel better look

good.' (p.110).

Work

In chapters eleven and twelve, we learn a considerable amount about the

way in which John behaves and his relationship with other characters.

Look back over the following incidents;

p.97 When the police question John

p.99 John's description of Lorraine carrying the flowers

p.100 John's decision to take the keys

p.102 John's reply to Lorraine `None of your business.'

p. 104 The point where Lorraine tells John `Stop it, I'm not kidding.'

p.107 John's lie to the operator

p.109 John's refusal to remove the rubbish

p.110 John's decision to take the rubbish out

p.112 John's decision to invite friends around to have a party

and comment on how the author portrays John. Pay attention to his personal

characteristics and his relationship with other people. Use quotes to support

your answer.

Chapter thirteen

John invites Dennis to the party, telling him to steal a bottle of whisky from his

father. Earlier, Lorraine talked of John's hatred of both Dennis and Norton.

(p.23).

John refers to Lorraine as `she' six times as he describes her preparing the

food for the party. His lack of respect for women in general is evident through

the relationship that he has not only with his mother, but with teenage girls.

Melissa Dumas is envisaged as having `a lovely voice, but her memory is like

that of a titmouse with curvature of the brain.' (p.116).

Lorraine's reasonable request that the music is turned down, so that it won't

interfere with the nuns, is met with John's put down, `Oh shut up.' He

describes his anger and remarks how he was `furious about her telling me I

made most of the garbage.' Although John does treat Lorraine shabbily, he

comments favourably on her appearance. `Lorraine looked beautiful again,'

he thinks to himself. Perhaps the silent thoughts that John has, do show that

he has a more caring side to his personality, but the problem is that these

comments often remain unsaid, they are locked in John's private thoughts.

John's blatant disregard for other people's belongings is evident in his

assessment of the damage to the house after the party. `There wasn't that

much damage being done,' he tells us. It consists of `somebody drop[ping] a

drink down the stairs, and a cigarette [which] burned a small hole in the throw

rug.' A lamp has also been smashed.

The way in which John lies to Norton when he turns up uninvited, indicates

that he is an essentially weak character, one who is prepared to lie rather

than to stand up for what he believes. Rather than sending Norton away,

John is over friendly, telling him that `I've tried to get in touch with you all

night.' (p.118) He invites him to join the party.

John is angry that Norton smashes one of Mr. Pignati's pigs. Understandably,

he is upset and annoyed, but John's response to punch Norton in the face is

extreme enough. Further to that, there is no sense of regret, rather `when I

[John] saw the blood pouring out of Norton's nose, I [John] was so happy I

[John] began to laugh. (p.121)

Work

Consider John's attitude towards women. Comment on how he treats

Lorraine, and his comments about Melissa and Helen.

Describe the relationship between John, Dennis and Norton. (p.113). Look

back at pages 20, 22 and 29. What is John's motivation for inviting Dennis to

the party?

Chapter fourteen

Lorraine is concerned about Mr. Pignati, he is upset that his house has been

damaged, and his beloved wife's dress has been ripped. Lorraine feels that

John has let her down, he is in part responsible for the trouble, yet he is so

drunk that he is unconscious.

Lorraine is in trouble for lying to her mother, but it is not this that makes her

cry, but the guilt that she feels for being partly responsible for the events at

Mr. Pignati's house.

She goes to bed thinking `of the condition of Mr. Pignati's house.' Loyalty and

friendship built on trust are what Lorraine values, and she feels that she has

broken those bonds of friendship with Mr. Pignati. She is concerned that he

will interpret the events as Lorraine and John deliberately choosing to leave

him in this way. Lorraine's regret and remorse do not make better what has

happened, but at least the acknowledgement that she is in some way to

blame and her realisation that it was a game that went wrong, go part way to

moderate our feelings of anger towards her.

John's response to the situation provides us with a sharp contrast. His first

words are far from expressing any concern for Mr. Pignati. Instead, he

chooses to concentrate on his own problems. `My father says I have to go to

a psychiatrist,' he announces. He appears to be unaffected by the previous

night's events and calmly moulds the slush into an ice ball whilst complaining

`My mother started her high - frequency cackling, but it was Bore who got on

my nerves.' John does enquire about Mr. Pignati, but even at this late stage,

his sentiments are insincere, Lorraine detects the `artificial enthusiasm' in his

voice. (p.130).

Mr. Pignati collapses and dies during a trip to the zoo.

Work

Imagine that you are a journalist. Write a report on the death of Mr. Pignati.

Your article should be printed on an inside page of the newspaper.

Discuss how to set out a newspaper report - the features that should be

included, witness statements, style, tone, language used and anything else

that is relevant.

Re - write the article in seventy words for a `news in brief' section of the

newspaper.

Discussion point

Why do you think that Mr. Pignati liked to visit Bobo so much?

Chapter fifteen

Lorraine is shocked when she realises that Mr. Pignati is dead. Reacting in

the expected way, she `burst into tears and ran out.' (p.135). John on the

other hand, is rather cold in his response. `You better get out of here,' he tells

Lorraine. In a cynical attempt to justify his comment, John tells us that if

Lorraine's mother had realised that she was involved with Mr. Pignati, `her

mother would've shipped her off to a Tibetan convent for ninety - six years.'

Arguably, John is a caring person, and it is revealed in his response to Mr.

Pignati's death. John's questioning `Why did you [Mr. Pignati] have to die?

and the placing of the handkerchief over Mr. Pignati's mouth is a poignant

moment in which John sheds the cold exterior that he has presented to the

reader for most of the novel. `I did care,' John tells us. He admits that `Up

until then had never been particularly disturbed about seeing a corpse,' but

things appear to be different now. Perhaps this lonely old man whom John

was so keen to deceive has taught him more than he ever imagined. If the

deception of Mr. Pignati and his subsequent death have taught John to feel

compassion, then at least some good has come out of the story.

Whilst John is clearly the architect of his own disaster, at various points in the

novel, it emerges that he is in part, a product of his damaged home life. It is a

damning indictment on society that John feels `Maybe I would rather be dead

than turn into the kind of grown up people I knew.' (p.138). John is finally able

to see that 'We [Lorraine and John] had trespassed […] and we were being

punished for it.' John and Lorraine have matured during the course of the

novel, and have come to realise that `When he [Mr. Pignati] died, something

in us had died as well.' Taking full responsibility for the chain of events, it is

the first time that we hear John admit that `no one else was to blame.'

(p.140).

Work

For most of the novel, John is portrayed as a self - centred hedonist.

Arguably he appears to mature towards the end of the novel. Consider the

extent to which John is responsible for the events that unfold, and whether or

not he accepts responsibility for his part in the destruction of Mr. Pignati.