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The Pigman’s Legacy by Paul Zindel – Book Review
Welcome back, John and Lorraine, to a more mature adventure in search for identity under the auspices of total truth and unwavering honesty. Angelo Pignati did not die in vain. His resounding effect on John and Lorraine awakened in them deep feelings they ignored because of their youthful naivete. They may have had doubts about their role in the death of the Pigman because they could never be sure that their actions, if different, may have had a more positive result. Such hindsight is rarely beneficial unless one learns from his indiscretions.
Just as the concept of the Pigman may be said to reside in different people in variable circumstances, there could be no doubt that the spirit of Angelo Pignati reincarnated itself in the person of Colonel Glenville, whose apparent poverty was his only company in the face of imminent death. He identified himself as Gus, who was actually his canine companion faithful beyond the end, and probed the hearts and minds of both John and Lorraine (again, alternating as narrators) to elicit from them the essence of their respective IDS. Like Mr. Pignati, the Colonel effectively drove Lorraine and John to the ultimate of their pursuit of identity not only to quash the feelings of doubt about themselves but to form the foundation of their truthful exposition of themselves to each other as well as to their families and peers.
The Colonel’s Game of Life had the same goal as Mr. Pignati’s Assassin/Boatman challenge, the solidification of moral fiber, goals, and determination of values. It was complex and, understandably, more open-ended and subject to more liberal interpretation. The result was the same: greater insight into the essence of the self.
The unlikely scenario of the Studebaker ride, essential for the mobility required to transport the quartet of Dolly, the Colonel, John, and Lorraine to Atlantic City, smacked of the humor of Bernie [Weekend at Bernie’s] as the lively cadaver without the morbidity. The revitalization of the life of the Colonel with Dolly paralleled the birth of the idyllic love of Lorraine for John. As the Colonel re-emerged from death, so also do John and Lorraine encapsulate themselves in love for each other. But, it takes a devastating, emotional tragedy for John to come to grips with his nearly fatal, tragic flaw, which awakens in him the fact that the weaknesses of the parents can materialize with similar vices in the progeny. Forgiveness of the self empowers forgiveness of others.
It would have been romantic for Lorraine to have been able to exert the necessary power over John to save him from himself; but, realistically, someone so entrenched in the mire of his own misconception of self would not allow himself to be so dissuaded. He had to fail in order to realize his own frailty and succeed in finding himself and his feelings for Lorraine, which he had for so long denied. The Colonel had to die poor to allow others to live, and love, from his richness. Somewhere, another Pigman lives, waiting to be discovered by those who are most in need of him and his legacy.
Evaluation: Once again, the alternating narrators style works to make the reading easier for both boys and girls. Both are able to relate more personally and identify with the real problems John and Lorraine feel. The consistency in the natures of both Angelo and the Colonel provides the unity of purpose Zindel expresses through his characters — to address viable responses to psychological and social problems faced by young adults in a world that draws no clear lines of demarcation. Providing older problems that include travel, drinking, gambling, and personal responsibility expands the scope of the experiences with Angelo Pignati, the forerunner of all Pigmen to come.
Recommendation: This is an indispensable sequel to the first Pigman novel and would satisfy the hunger of an even wider range of students because of the more serious conflicts that are addressed. It can be read to those who are younger just for the sheer adventure without delving into the deeper meanings of the questions that are posed.
Teaching: Undoubtedly, I would teach both as if they were part one and part two of the same book. I would also incorpotrate variations of the items found on the Colonel’s Road of Life exercise with creative input from students to provide their own individual roads and rationalizations. I would not hesitate to incorporate as a preview to the texts Zindel’s biographical sketch, The Pigman and Me.
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