Study Guide

The Pigman Family

By Paul Zindel


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.

Questions About Family

  1. Lorraine says of John's family: "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?
  2. In many ways, Mr. Pignati treats Bobo like a son, feeding him, worrying about him, talking sweetly to him. What, if anything, does this imply about his relationships with humans?
  3. Have Lorraine and John been damaged by their parents' neglectful and/or abusive behavior? If so, how?
  4. John and Lorraine find a father-figure in Mr. Pignati and form a group resembling a family. What are some of the reasons this "family" doesn't last?

Chew on This

John's and Lorraine's neglect and abuse have damaged them in several ways.