Study Guide

Mama in A Day No Pigs Would Die

By Robert Newton Peck

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Mama may not do a whole ton in A Day No Pigs Would Die, but if she's important to our leading gent, she's important to us.

This is a woman who's always there to support her son, whether that means sewing up his arm after Apron bites him or running out to hug him when he comes home from the fair. In fact, Rob tells us that he "could smell her goodness" (2.33). We can almost smell it, too. If only it were a scratch 'n' sniff book.

One Tough Cookie

But don't get the wrong idea. Mama's no pushover. Remember that scene where she and Aunt Carrie discuss the gossip about the Widow Bascom and her new hired hand?:

"Right under our noses, all that sin."

"Carrie, you know well as I that the Widow Bascom and her hired man ain't living under our noses. They're near a mile down the road."

"Too close for comfort."

"Maybe it's time that Widow Bascom took some comfort, and him too." (9.8-12)

Yeah, Mama isn't afraid to speak her mind. Aunt Carrie—along with most of the rest of the community—clearly disapproves of what she thinks is going on, but Mama just as clearly has a different point of view. But Mama will have none of it.

When a Woman Loves a Man

Mama goes on to say that "[l]ife ain't easy for a widow woman" (9.16). Unlike Aunt Carrie, she seems to put more value on comfort and companionship than on any moral or social code that others might want to enforce. It's telling, too, that her sympathy for the widow seems to reflect the warmth and happiness of her relationship with Papa. When Aunt Carrie mentions that the Widow and her hired man have been heard laughing when "there weren't a light burning in the whole house" (9.23), Mama responds very straightforwardly: "Sometimes that's the way of it," she says. "Often there's lots to laugh at in the dark" (9.24, 26).

Since she seems so happy in her relationship with Papa, it's especially impressive how strong Mama is when Papa dies. We can easily imagine someone breaking down and falling apart at a time like that. Not Mama. Like Rob, she does what she has to do, no matter how much it hurts. Do you think she does the right thing by staying strong, or should she have allowed herself more time to grieve?

Either way, one thing's for sure: she's a Peck through and through, that one.

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