The Pigman

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The Pigman
N24680.jpg
Author Paul Zindel
Country USA
Language English
Genre Young Adult literature
Publisher Harper Trophy
Publication date
1968-10-12
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 166 pages
ISBN 978-0-06-075735-9
OCLC 58968588
LC Class CPB Box no. 2360 vol. 13
Followed by The Pigman's Legacy (1980)
The Pigman & Me (1990)

The Pigman is a young adult novel written by Paul Zindel, first published in 1968. Zindel wrote a screenplay, adapting the book for the stage and screen, but it was not taken up by any film maker.

The novel is frequently assigned in elementary schools, middle schools, and some high schools as assignments for English classes.


The novel begins with an "oath" signed by John Conlan and Lorraine Jensen, two high school sophomores, who pledge that they will report only the facts about their experiences with Mr. Pignati.

When John, Lorraine, and two teen troublemakers, Norton Kelly and Dennis Kobin make prank phone calls, Lorraine picks out Mr. Pignati's phone number and pretends to be calling from a charity. Mr. Pignati offers to donate ten dollars, and John and Lorraine travel to his house to collect the funds. From the first meeting, the two teenagers and the old man become close friends. Mr. Pignati finds new friends, and happily takes on the role of a father-figure for the two teenagers.

John and Lorraine's visits become increasingly frequent, and during one such visit, they discover the documents that show that Mr. Pignati's wife, Conchetta, is dead, not just on vacation as he had previously told them. Soon, John and Lorraine visit him every day after school, and he showers them with gifts, food, and most importantly, the love and attention they do not receive in their own joyless homes. They reveal to him that they were never affiliated with any charity, and he reveals what they already know: his wife is dead.

Mr. Pignati suffers a heart attack while he and the teens are playing tag with roller skates, and is sent to the hospital; John and Lorraine agree to take care of his house while he recovers. The true betrayal comes when John invites friends over to Mr. Pignati's house. The situation quickly turns into a drunken, boisterous party. Lorraine's friend rips one of Conchetta Pignati's dresses. Norton ransacks Mr. Pignati's house and destroys Conchetta's collection of porcelain pigs, which Mr. Pignati holds very dear to him. John beats him up in retaliation.

Mr. Pignati returns to find his house ransacked, and is incredibly hurt when he finds out John and Lorraine were responsible for the incident. Feeling terrible, the two offer to take him to the zoo to help make up for it. At the zoo to meet Bobo, they discover that Bobo the baboon, Mr. Pignati's favorite animal and buddy, has died. Overcome with grief and the heaviness of the recent events, Mr. Pignati suffers a cardiac arrest and dies, leaving John and Lorraine grieving and reflecting on the fragility of life. So John and Lorraine write their story down.

Characters[edit]

  • John Conlan - The male protagonist, who narrates the odd-numbered chapters. John is something of an anti-hero, as he uses his intelligence, looks, and charm for personal gain. He aspires to be an actor, but currently fuels his creativity with pranks, though most of them are benign.
  • Lorraine Jensen - The female protagonist, who narrates the even numbered chapters. Lorraine aspires to be a writer or a psychologist, and her sensitive, analytical nature provides a counterbalance to John's impulsiveness. She is socially awkward, different, and has a low self-esteem.
  • Angelo Pignati (Pigman) - An elderly widower who lives in a messy house in John and Lorraine's neighborhood. His eponymous nickname comes from his vast collection of ceramic pigs. Described as lonely since the death of his wife, his friendship with John and Lorraine fills a void in his life. Also the Pigman found Lorraine and John quite generous and admired them.
  • Bore - John's father. Bore is a commodities trader and although the stress of the job is detrimental to his health, he still pressures John to follow in his footsteps. He was a heavy drinker until he developed cirrhosis of the liver.
  • The Old Lady - John's mother. It is suggested that she may have obsessive-compulsive disorder, as she is fixated on cleaning, which she uses as a coping mechanism for the tension between her husband and son.
  • Norton Kelly - A classmate of John and Lorraine and the main antagonist. Described as a barbarian by the protagonists, Norton spends much of his time stealing electronics, and is convinced there are valuables inside the Pignati household.
  • Dennis Kobin - Norton's follower. Best friends with Norton but not as important as him in the book.
  • Lorraine's mother - Critical of her daughter. Accuses her of being fat and constantly tells her "you're not a pretty girl Lorraine". She also constantly warns Lorraine of men and boys, saying "they have only one thing on their mind"

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