The Pigman Setting

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby
While 'The Pigman', by Paul Zindel, may seem to be a story that is largely independent of its setting, the truth is that by better understanding New York during the 1960s, we better understand the tale.

Place and Time

Unlike many other works, the setting, the place or kind of surroundings of an event, of The Pigman may not immediately jump out as a major factor. After all, it's hard to imagine a work like Treasure Island not taking place during the Age of Piracy, but The Pigman could have just as easily happened in our time as during the 1960s, when it was set.

However, while that may be true, the fact is that the setting of the 1960s actually lends quite a bit of depth to The Pigman. Still, this is something that may not be abundantly obvious to the reader without being informed of it. Luckily for you, we're going to discuss exactly why this is so important in this lesson.

New York City

The Pigman is set in New York City, mainly in Staten Island. While that gives us some idea of the story happening in an urban environment, it really doesn't begin to do it justice. Remember, until the last couple of decades, New York City may not have always been a family-friendly place. Serious amounts of urban decay had affected the city and left many areas, such as the zoo, in relatively bad shape. Interestingly enough, this decay also serves as a symbol of Mr. Pignati's own decline. While we may read about going to the zoo as a normal enough way to spend the afternoon, for New Yorkers of that time period it was a bit more depressing. In fact, it was a big declaration of trust for John and Lorraine to go with Mr. Pignati to the zoo. This is further evidenced by the changes in zoos over the past half century. Today, a great deal of time and effort is invested in making zoo habitats similar to natural habitats. Back then, unlike today, animals really did go on display in nothing more than a cage. This information helps to further underline the importance of the cage as a symbol in the book.

The 1960s

It was not only urban decay that was problematic during the 1960s. In fact, The Pigman alludes to an entire cultural revolution that was going. In earlier time periods, like the 1950s, the idea of teenagers throwing a party with alcohol would have been considered especially rebellious. However, in the 1960s, a surprising number of teenagers rebelled by doing this exact thing. Actually, alcohol was often the least of their parents worries! The 1960s were also, while not mentioned in The Pigman, a period of experimentation with drugs, ranging from Marijuana to LSD.

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