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Literature / The Pigman

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The Pigman is a 1968 young-adult book published by Paul Zindel. The central plot revolves around two teenagers, John Conlan and Lorraine Jensen, who befriend a middle-aged widower, Angelo Pignati, who they nickname the Pigman for his collection of porcelain pigs given to him by his wife before her passing. Through a series of events, John and Lorraine become Mr. Pignati's closest friends, and he becomes a father-like figure to them due to their family issues at home.

The beginning of the book begins with an oath signed by John and Lorraine, stating that they will state only the facts about their experiences with Mr. Pignati. This reveals that Mr. Pignati has indeed passed away, and the novel is an in-universe biography written by the students, with John narrating the odd-numbered chapters and Lorraine the even.

The book had one direct sequel, The Pigman's Legacy in 1980, and an unofficial third edition in 1990, The Pigman and Me, which was an autobiography by Zindel. The Pigman has been adapted into a play, but no film-maker has ever picked it up. It is often assigned to reading classes from elementary through junior high school, despite being an adult book.

Tropes present:

  • Abusive Parents: Lorraine's mother can certainly be verbally abusive as well as strict. She picks on Lorraine's appearance, criticizes pretty much everything she does, won't let her have friends or spend time away from home. It culminates in her slapping and berating Lorraine for being involved in a Wild Teen Party (granted, she was brought home by a police officer, who seemed to regret bringing her back there when he saw the way the woman reacted), followed by a Why Did You Make Me Hit You? moment where Lorraine ends up feeling guilty for daring to have a good time. It seems she learned a lesson between books, though, as she's stopped badgering Lorraine in Legacy.
  • The Atoner: John and Lorraine in The Pigman's Legacy where they meet another old man and befriend him, determined not to repeat their past mistakes.
  • Bittersweet Ending: After a series of heartbreaks—including John and Lorraine using his house for a party, resulting in some of his late wife's clothes being ruined and the destruction of his beloved pig collection—Mr. Pignati dies of cardiac arrest when he finds out that Bobo passed away. John and Lorraine are left to deal with the crushing guilt of what has happened. The one silver lining is that the two seem to have learned from the tragic state of Mr. Pignati's life that they need to take control of their own.
  • Dead All Along: Mr. Pignati's wife Conchetta. He told John and Lorraine that she was visiting his sister in California, but while they're exploring the bedroom they find a bill from a funeral home. This can be seen as the first baby step towards Mr. Pignati's eventual Despair Event Horizon.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The death of Bobo, Mr. Pignati's favorite animal at the zoo, is what ultimately does him in.
  • Disappeared Dad: It is discussed earlier in the book that Lorraine's dad cheated on her mom, and they ended up getting a divorce.
  • Does Not Like Men: Lorraine's mom, ever since she found out that her husband had been cheating on her. This is why she does not like Lorraine hanging around with Mr. Pignati and John.
  • Easily Forgiven: Mr. Pignati is not angry at John and Lorraine for throwing a party at his house and his porcelain pig collection being destroyed in the process, but they do eventually serve some form of consequence for their actions when a few more sad events eventually overcome Mr. Pignati, and he dies of a cardiac arrest.
  • For the Evulz: Norton destroys Mr. Pignati's pig collection purely to wreak havoc.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Norton is part of John and Lorraine's circle of prank callers, even though he's universally considered to be a loser at school and John in particular hates him.
  • Growing Up Sucks: John goes into great depth about this in the final chapter of the book after Mr. Pignati dies. The experience has made him and Lorraine both realize that now they're old enough to not only understand that not everything they do can be blamed on something else, but also that life can be horribly unfair outside of their control as well.
  • Knight of Cerebus: The first half of the book is simply the story of two teenagers befriending a quirky, lonely man. Norton Kelly making it known to John that he's very interested in getting into Pignati's house is, as John himself narrates, a harbinger: not only does he steal some of Mr. Pignati's belongings, he also destroys his pig collection for nothing but cruelty, both of which contribute to Pignati's eventual death.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Norton once got busted for shoplifting a bag of marshmallows, and John's called him "The Marshmallow Kid" ever since.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Mr. Pignati's collection of pigs is in memory of his late wife, which makes Norton's destruction of them all the more sickening.
  • Why We Can't Have Nice Things: John and Lorraine make genuine friends with Mr. Pignati, only to take advantage of his trust by using his house as a party venue, resulting in the destruction of several beloved items, including his pig collection. This, coupled with Bobo's death, kills Mr. Pignati from grief and stress.
  • Wild Teen Party: John and Lorraine have one at Mr. Pignati's house while he's in the hospital. It wasn't really meant to be one at first, but things eventually get out of hand, especially after Norton arrives, and Mr. Pignati's collection of pigs ends up getting destroyed.