No doubt about it: over the course of A Day No Pigs Would Die, we watch our narrator grow up. When the story starts out, Rob's main concerns consist of being teased by other kids at school and getting his chores done. His life moves along easily from little adventure to little adventure, and there are plenty of chuckles along the way. But as the book progresses, things start to feel a lot more, well, adult. By the end of the story, Rob has learned some really tough lessons, and he's ready to take Papa's place at the head of the family. But don't worry, Shmoopers, being an adult is a pretty sweet gig.
In A Day No Pigs Would Die, growing up simply means learning to think more about others than about yourself.
Papa's idea of what it takes to be a man is really just a kind of defeatism. Always "doing what needs to be done" just means giving up and accepting the awful things that come your way, instead of trying to change them.