What is most refreshing about Paul Zindel’s 1968 novel The Pigman is that, not only do the characters appear realistic, the situations (specifically the teenaged pressures) that they encounter remain just as relevant in 2004. Lorraine Jensen and John Conlan, two high school sophomores, discover that their friendship with the Pigman, Mr. Pignati, enables them to better deal with reality, even after their fantasies end. In effect, Lorraine and John’s interaction with the Pigman traces the death of adolescence, the period of time where childhood, despite our desperate efforts to hold on, gives way to the realities of the adult world.
In some respects, Lorraine and John’s meeting with Mr. Pignati comes about by accident, through their crank phone calls. Caller ID has all but destroyed this childish prank, but at one time, it was a common rite of passage, asking for Prince Albert in a can. These childish pranks are revelatory of an anti-establishment attitude. For example, at the very beginning, John reveals the depths of his attitude: “I used to really hate school when I first started at Franklin High. I hated it so much the first year they called me the Bathroom Bomber. […] I set off twenty-three bombs before I didn’t feel like doing it anymore”. A joke taken too far brings them to the Pigman.
Mr. Pignati is, in many respects, the exact adult that Lorraine and John need at that point in their life. He is more like a crazy uncle or indulgent grandfather, in direct contrast to the stifling family life that is their norm. The Pigman provides them with a sort of freedom, an adolescent freedom that every person at that age seems to need.