Symbolism in The Pigman

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby
In 'The Pigman', a number of symbols are used to help the reader better appreciate the story. From symbols about Mr. Pignati's past to the constraints all the characters are found in, these symbols help to further explain the story. In this lesson, we'll be looking at some of major symbols in the novel.

Symbolism in The Pigman

Given the incredible amount of depth to be found in the story of The Pigman, it is of little surprise that there is a significant amount of symbolism to be found in many aspects of the book. Those symbols can be broadly grouped into two categories - those that focus on the past life of Mr. Pignati, and those that focus on the present state of affairs. In this lesson, we'll look at symbols that fit into each group in an attempt to better understand exactly what happens throughout the book.

Background on The Pigman

Just to refresh your memory, remember that The Pigman is about the relationship between three main characters. John and Lorraine are teenagers who prank call Mr. Pignati, but end up becoming friends with him. Mr. Pignati teaches the two a great deal about life and all value the relationship. Ultimately, Mr. Pignati ends up in the hospital, and John and Lorraine have a party at his house. Sadly, a number of Mr. Pignati's prized possessions are destroyed and he is clearly hurt upon his return. However, it is not until Mr. Pignati finds that his best friend, a baboon at the zoo, has died that he loses all hope and has a fatal heart attack.

The Past

A number of symbols found in The Pigman refer back to a lost life. Two of these are especially powerful. Mrs. Pignati's wedding dress is a reminder of the love that Mr. and Mrs. Pignati once had. Mr. Pignati never quite accepts that his wife is gone until he is forced to admit it in a moment of vulnerability to John and Lorraine. Of course, it is rather obvious, so the pair had figured it out long before. When it is ripped in the party, it shows that once and for all that Mrs. Pignati is gone and he will not have her company again.

The pig collection is also a symbol, but this time of all the happiness that Mr. Pignati once had. All of the pigs in the collection are fragile, just like one's memories of a happy life. Mr. Pignati reveals that he started the collection by sending one to his future wife as a way for her to think of him. In a way, Mr. Pignati still lived for his memories, so when the collection is destroyed, a part of him vanishes as well.

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