Study Guide

The Pigman Drugs and Alcohol

By Paul Zindel

Drugs and Alcohol

[John:] If I got all involved, I'd forget I had lit the bomb, and then even I'd be surprised when it went off. Of course, I was never as surprised as the poor guys who were in the boys' john on the first floor sneaking a cigarette, because the boys' john is right next to the Dean's office and a whole flock of gestapo would race in there and blame them. Sure they didn't do it, but it's pretty hard to say you're innocent when you're caught with a lungful of rich, mellow tobacco smoke. When the Dean catches you smoking, it really may be hazardous to your health. I smoke one with a recessed filter myself. (1)

John and Lorraine's high school seems to be a place of continuous conflict between the kids and the administration, which John refers to as the "gestapo."

[Lorraine:] And he drinks and smokes more than any boy I ever heard of. […] I tried to explain to him how dangerous it was, particularly smoking, and even went to the trouble of finding a case history similar to his in a book by Sigmund Freud. I almost had him convinced that smoking was an infantile, destructive activity when he pointed out a picture of Freud smoking a cigar on the book's cover.
"If Freud smokes, why can't I?"
"Freud doesn't smoke anymore," I told him. "He's dead." (2)

This humorous, ironic passage demonstrates Lorraine's earnest desire to educate John about the dangers of smoking, and John's ability to use his charm, humor, and intelligence to win any discussion or argument. (Freud was, in fact, a heavy cigar smoker, and died of cancer of the jaw and throat.)

[Lorraine:] Although I didn't know John and his family until two years ago when I moved into the neighborhood, from what I've been able to gather I think his father was a compulsive alcoholic. I've spent hours trying to analyze the situation, and the closest I've been able to come to a theory is that his father set a bad example at an age when John was impressionable. I think his father made it seem as though drinking alcoholic beverages was a sign of maturity. This particular sign of maturity ended up giving his father sclerosis of the liver, so he doesn't drink anymore, but John does. (2)

Lorraine's analysis of John's father's drinking influencing John seems correct, especially in light of what we learn later about John's father encouraging ten-year-old John to drink beer. (For Lorraine's, and later, John's use of the term "sclerosis," see the chapter-by-chapter plot summary.)

[John:] I decided not to push the matter, but I did need a dollar and a quarter for a six-pack, so when I got home I asked my Old Lady for it.
"No, no, no," she said in her best grating voice, all the while shining the coffee table in our sparkling living room […] (5)

Interesting how John casually asks his mother for money for beer and cigarettes – – although he undoubtedly didn't tell her what it was for. John apparently doesn't have an allowance, or any other source of pocket money.

[John:] "You're ruining your lungs with that thing" was the first remark out of her [Lorraine's] mouth besides a cough from a misdirected puff from my cigarette. She sounds just like her mother when she says that. (5)

Ouch! To say that Lorraine sounds like her mother is hardly a compliment. What, exactly, does Lorraine's voice sound like? Later, Norton calls her a "screech owl," and John comes to her defense (9).

[Lorraine:] Right after we left the Pigman's, John dragged me down to Tony's Market, which is on the corner of Victory Boulevard and Cebra Avenue. All the kids go to Tony's because he sells beer to anyone and for some reason the police leave him alone. John thinks he pays them off, but I think it's just that old Tony has a nice, friendly face and believes in the old days when they thought a little alcohol was good for everyone. He's sort of a father-image with a cultural lag. (6)

The description of Tony, who has a nice friendly face, and believes in the old days when they thought a little alcohol was good for everyone, reminds us of…Mr. Pignati! Interesting that Lorraine and John have another adult in their lives who is somewhat similar to Mr. Pignati.

"Johnny wants a sip of beer," Bore used to say in the old days. He got a big kick out of it when I was about ten years old, and I'd go around emptying all the beer glasses lying around the house.
"That kid's going to be a real drinker," he'd say in front of company, and then I'd go through my beer-drinking performance for everybody, and they'd laugh their heads off. (9)

Well, no wonder John grew up into a drinker.

[John:] Dennis came over first around seven thirty because I told him to steal a bottle of 80 proofer out of his father's whiskey cabinet. His father's a building inspector, and everybody who doesn't want to be inspected too much slips him a bottle and a few bucks each month. Dennis also brought some soda mixers and two dozen glasses he got from his mother by telling her I was having a birthday party and they were needed for the lemonade. (13)

Again, we see the world of adults as corrupt, dishonest, and clueless. Dennis's mother, earlier described by John as "retarded" (3), is probably the only parent in the novel who would believe Dennis needs soda mixers and two dozen glasses for the lemonade at a birthday party.

[Lorraine:] "Not one cent for tribute!" John suddenly mumbled, leaning forward, laughing, and then falling back unable to hold his head up. He was hopelessly drunk, and I slammed the door of the patrol car. (14)

By getting so drunk that he passes out, John demonstrates his irresponsibility and drinking problem. What does "not one cent for tribute" mean, anyway? Basically, it means, "no, we won't pay a bribe," and is probably something John studied in American History.

[John:] I took a puff on the cigarette, and I could hear Lorraine's voice saying I was killing myself. As if I didn't know it! Did she think I thought smoking and drinking were supposed to make me live longer? I knew what it was doing to me. (15)

This passage indicates John's despair after Mr. Pignati's death.