Study Guide

The Pigman Family

By Paul Zindel

Family

[Lorraine:] The analysts would call his family the source problem or say he drinks and smokes to assert his independence. (2)

Lorraine raises an interesting question: is John's family actually responsible for his behavior?

[Lorraine:] Actually, we both have families you wouldn't believe, but I don't particularly feel like going into it at the moment because I just ate lunch in the cafeteria. (2)

This passage appears early in the novel, before we know very much about Lorraine's and John's families. Is Lorraine's humorous comment about just having eaten lunch perhaps a defense?

[John:] Now it was just the way I said yeah that set him off, and that night when he got home, he just put the lock on the phone and didn't say a word. But I'm used to it. Bore and I have been having a lot of trouble communicating lately as it is, and sometimes I go a little crazy when I feel I'm being picked on or not being trusted. That's why I finally put airplane glue in the keyhole of the lock so nobody could use the telephone, key or no key. (3)

Here, John demonstrates a certain degree of self-knowledge: he knows how his tone sets his father off, and he realizes that his extreme reactions occur when he feels that he is being picked on. He also demonstrates his inventiveness and ability to get the last laugh.

[Lorraine:] I was glad to be able to get out to the kitchen because it makes me sad to watch my mother brush her hair. My mom is a very pretty woman when she has her long brown hair down, and when she smiles, which is hardly ever. She just doesn't look the way she sounds, and I often wonder how she got this way. It's not exactly easy being her daughter, and more than once I've thought about what a good psychiatrist could do for her. Actually, I think her problems are so deep-rooted she'd need three years of intensive psychoanalysis. (6)

Lorraine shows us that she is sensitive and analytical, and that she tries to understand her mother.

[John:] "Would you like a glass of wine?" Mr. Pignati offered, straightening up a few things in the living room. It was great how happy he was to see us. I can't remember Bore, or my mother either for that matter, ever looking happy to see me, let alone when I came into the house with a friend. (7)

There is an enormous contrast between the lack welcome Lorraine and John feel in their own homes and the incredibly welcome Mr. Pignati gives them. But should he really be giving fifteen-year-olds so much wine?

[Lorraine:] I realized how many things the Pigman and his wife must have shared—even the fun of preparing good food. Good food is supposed to produce good conversation, I've heard. I guess it's no wonder my mother and I never had an interesting conversation when all we eat is canned soup, chop suey, and instant coffee. (8)

Lorraine's contact with Mr. Pignati seems to be broadening her world-view.

[Lorraine:] It was easy to feel sorry for her [Lorraine's mother], to see how awful her life was—even to understand a little why she picked on me so. It hadn't always been like that though. But she did pick on me now! (8)

Again, Lorraine shows how she tries to understand her mother. Though she mentions a time when her mother hadn't always picked on her, we never hear anything about this time. We may wonder: How old was Lorraine? Why and how did her mother change?

[Mr. Pignati:] "She loved me," he said. He looked so tired.

"We loved each other. We didn't need anyone else. She did everything for me. We were each other's life," he managed to say and then broke into sobs. He tried to cover his eyes and turn his head so we wouldn't have to see him like that.

I couldn't help thinking about my mother and father—that maybe as simple as Mr. Pignati was, he knew something about love and having fun that other people didn't. I guess Conchetta had known the secret too. (10)

Lorraine thinks that knowing how to have fun is an important part of a healthy relationship. We wonder: did Lorraine's parents ever know how to have fun? And we know that Lorraine and John certainly know how to have fun; we may wonder if they will become romantically involved.

[Lorraine:] That's how the three of us were. If one of us did something that was funny, the other two had to come up with something too. Three copycats. It wasn't exactly that we had to show off so much as that we wanted to entertain each other. We wanted to show equally how much we were thankful for each other's company. (10)

Lorraine, John, and Mr. Pignati have formed something resembling a family.

[John:] We still pretended we were John and Lorraine Pignati because only members of the immediate family were allowed to visit. (11)

John and Lorraine have figuratively assumed the identities of Mr. Pignati's "children," and now they assume these identities literally.