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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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
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.'
What motivates John?
`At first John thought of it
simply as a way of getting
money for beer and
`Give me one good
reason why [John
should not take the
`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.'
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).
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.
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.
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
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?
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
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
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
Write a detailed account of a time when you have been taken by surprise.
Pay careful attention to the vocabulary that you use.
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.
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;
Maternity and paternity leave;
Single parent families;
and any other changes that the group believes are relevant.
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.
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.
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
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?
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
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.
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
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
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.
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)
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
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
Mr. Pignati collapses and dies during a trip to the zoo.
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
Why do you think that Mr. Pignati liked to visit Bobo so much?
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.'
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.