A Day No Pigs Would Die
by Robert Newton Peck
Analysis: Narrator Point of View
Who is the narrator, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?
First Person (Central Narrator)
From the first line of A Day No Pigs Would Die to the last, Rob is our guide. It's his voice we hear telling us the story—and it's a very unusual and distinctive voice, too. It's the voice of a child on the threshold of adulthood, of a country boy, of someone who's been raised close to the land, and whose background comes through in the colorful phrasing he uses to express himself.
We mean, come on, not just any narrator who would tell us, when describing mud sticking to the bottom of a wagon, that "[i]t frosted the wheels like they was cake, and it sucked at your boots. Made you feel you were standing in syrup" (8.24). That's some delicious imagery if we ever saw it.
You Win Some, You Lose Some
One of the best things about hearing the story from Rob's point of view is how it allows us to get right up close and personal and see things as Rob sees them. When he's being dragged around with his arm in Apron's mouth, we're right there with him, inside the experience. When Rob tells us that, "I thought my arm had got sawed off part way between elbow and shoulder. She bit and bit and never let go" (1.26), we can almost feel the pain.
The limitations of Rob's point of view make for some pretty funny moments, too. Remember when Rob's Aunt Matty tells him he needs a tutor, and he thinks she means a cornet (a.k.a. a horn) because that's what you "toot" on? Yeah, that one gave us a chuckle.
True, Rob's narration can be a little challenging. As narrator, of course, he's central to the story, and central to our experience of it as well. But as a 12-year-old boy in a world run by grown-ups, he's often outside the action in a way that can sometimes make it a little hard for us to follow what's going on. For instance, when Rob accompanies Papa to the graveyard in the middle of the night to fetch Mr. Hillman, Rob's lack of information about what's going on can disorient us until he—and we—get situated.
Similarly, we might not know that Rob's version of Vermont history (Ethan Allen, Abner Doubleday, etc.) is more than a little skewed, because the only source of knowledge we have in the book is Rob himself. Rob does his best, though, and usually gives us just enough information for us to piece together what's going on. And after all, that's all we can really ask for in a narrator, isn't it?