Who is responsible for Mr. Pignati's death? Lorraine blames John, and, though John feels guilty, he says that Mr. Pignati would have died anyway. This novel asks us to think about who is ultimately responsible for a bad outcome. Can we be responsible for something we didn't consciously cause? Who is most responsible? The person who started the chain of events? The person who made bad decisions that led to the bad outcome? Can responsibility always be determined? At the heart of John and Lorraine's identities is a whole heap of guilt and equal amounts of blame; we watch them grow up as a result of the guilt they feel and of the blame they cast.
Lorraine and John are responsible for the consequences of their actions, even if those consequences are not intended.
When John says that Mr. Pignati had trespassed and paid with his life (15), he's implying that Mr. Pignati is to blame for his own death.
Every single character in The Pigman lies or deceives others at some point. John is a chronic liar, especially to his teachers and parents; Lorraine regularly lies to her mother; Mr. Pignati lies about his wife being in California; and Norton and Dennis are thieves. What is the point of all this lying? Can lying serve as a form of self-protection or self-preservation? If so, is it always wrong? Why do these characters lie so much? What does this imply about the possibility of honest communication?
Considering their role models, John's and Lorraine's habitual lying is not surprising.
Deception, for John, functions as a coping mechanism, a buffer between himself and the harsh realities of the world.
Death is everywhere in The Pigman. Mr. Pignati dies; his wife is dead; Bobo dies; Lorraine's mother tends dying patients; John fears that his father will die soon; John and Lorraine drink above a tomb in the cemetery, where John thinks about the bodies underneath them. Mr. Pignati is so distraught at his wife's death that he cannot even admit that she is dead, but the thought of his own death doesn't seem to bother him. Lorraine doesn't tell us much about how she feels about death, but John has a morbid imagination and tells us several times how the thought of death disturbs him. When Mr. Pignati dies, John and Lorraine's grief forces them to grow up and take responsibility for their actions.
The harsh reality of Mr. Pignati's death forces John and Lorraine to mature and take responsibility for their actions.
In The Pigman we see two badly dysfunctional families and the temporary happy "family" of Lorraine, John, and Mr. Pignati. What is a family? How do family relationships break down? Why are parents sometimes cruel to their children? Can children break free of the destructive influences of bad parents? What does it mean to be a good or bad parent, anyway? Mr. Pignati doesn't have children, so he lavishes John and Lorraine with presents and attention. Lorraine and John have never had a kind, generous father-figure, so they easily slip into the role of Mr. Pignati's children. In fact, they claim to be his children at the hospital and when talking to the police, when he has his first heart attack.
John's and Lorraine's neglect and abuse have damaged them in several ways.
In The Pigman, the theme of "Home" is closely related to "Family." What is a home? John and Lorraine clearly don't feel "at home" in their actual homes, or – before they meet Mr. Pignati – anyplace else, for that matter. They feel most welcome and comfortable in Mr. Pignati's house, but this is a temporary kind of home, and ironically, their "making themselves at home" here results in Mr. Pignati's death. This novel doesn't depict any happy homes at all. In fact, it is the lack of a comforting home that forces John and Lorraine to seek one with Mr. Pignati.
In Mr. Pignati's home, Lorraine and John find a refuge from the discomfort of their own homes.
The home Lorraine and John found with Mr. Pignati was illusory and temporary because it was not based on real ties of kinship and responsibility.
Poor Mr. Pignati. He loves to enjoy life, drink wine, tell jokes, and eat gourmet food. And yet he is very lonely. How can this happen? John reflects on how wrong it is that older people (Mr. Pignati is in his fifties) can be so isolated, especially if they're a little eccentric. Ironically, John and Lorraine form a friendship with the oldest character in the novel and are profoundly alienated from adults younger than Mr. Pignati, such as their parents and teachers. Mr. Pignati has an infectious love of life, which he shares with and teaches to John and Lorraine. Ironically, they learn to appreciate life from someone who is about to die.
Although they try to convince themselves otherwise, in many ways John and Lorraine are, in fact, taking advantage of a lonely old man.
John and Lorraine brought joy into Mr. Pignati's life, joy that he would not have had without them.
The Pigman's two main characters are fifteen years old. At times, they seem older and at times they seem like typical teenagers trying out roles and identities. We get a tantalizing glimpse into Lorraine's mother's past when Lorraine describes the photograph showing her parents young, attractive, and in love.
John and Lorraine mature as the novel progresses.
Although, at the end of the novel, John says that he and Lorraine have learned to take responsibility for their actions, there is no real evidence that this is true.
Alcohol and cigarettes feature prominently in The Pigman. Drinking alcohol is an escape for John – an escape from school, from responsibility – but it is not a way of defying his parents. His father actually encouraged John to drink alcohol when John was about ten years old. John also smokes a lot and Lorraine has been unsuccessful in her efforts to get him to stop.
John drinks to escape the realities of his life.
The adults in the novel who give alcohol to minors [John's father; Mr. Pignati; Tony, who sells kids beer (6)] are partially responsible for the minors' alcohol abuse.
The two narrators in The Pigman provide different perspectives on the events they relate. Each one says the other distorts reality, and doesn't tell the story right. Is one version more "true"? Or do both versions give us a more balanced perspective?
The double narrative greatly enhances our understanding of the story.
Lorraine actually distorts just as much as John, but she doesn't realize it.