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Free Study Guide/Summary for A Day No Pigs Would Die

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This chapter opens with Robert wrapped in a blanket and being carried by Benjamin Tanner, the neighbor who owns Apron. He has found the injured Robert, covered in “blood and dirt and Satan,” and brought him home. Immediately, his parents and Aunt Carrie begin to take care of him, as he fades in and out of consciousness. His mother’s hands are gentle as she feels his wounds and begins to wash them with lilac water; her voice is soft and sweet as she talks to him and calls him “poor lamb;” and she smells like the goodness she represents. Robert also hears his father thank Mr. Tanner for bringing his son home and saying, “Whatever he done, I’ll make it right.” His father’s words make Robert remember that he has left school; he tries to explain, but the words will not come out.

Mama notices that Robert is holding something in his hand. It is the goiter that he has pulled from Apron’s throat, and he is reluctant to give it up after fighting so hard to get it. When Papa finally retrieves it, he calls the goiter an “evil thing.” He then goes to work on Robert’s injured arm. He loosens the bandana that Mr. Tanner has tied tightly on it, for he believes that the “only way to treat a wound is to bleed it, ‘til it’s clean as a cat’s mouth.” He then tells his wife to get a needle and thread, for she will need to sew up the arm. Even though it hurts horribly when Mama takes her stitches, Robert never screams or cries.

When Mama is through with her work on the arm, Papa carries Robert upstairs. He finds the strength to tell his father that Mr. Tanner will find his new calf up on the ridge. He also says he helped to “get it born,” and he pulled the ball out of Apron’s throat. Then he apologizes for skipping school. Aunt Carrie comes in and asks Robert about his missing pants. Robert explains how he used them to pull out the calf.

After Robert sleeps for awhile, Mama brings him hot succotash to eat and fresh, warm milk to drink. Papa comes in and tells him that “I ought to lick you proper for leaving the schoolhouse”, and Robert agrees. Papa places great faith in education and does not want “to raise a fool” who has not regularly gone to school. He does not, however, think his son was a fool to put his arm in the cow’s mouth. Papa knows that Robert values life and was just trying to save Apron.

When Robert talks about how much he hurts, his father tells him not to complain; but Mr. Peck also shows his softer side, for he has brought Robert some spruce gum to chew and some sumac to make into a whistle. He reminds him that a boy with a fine whistle “won’t have no earthy reason to skip school.” Once again, Robert agrees with his father.

When Papa stands up to leave Robert’s room, he gently pulls the quilt up around his son. Robert smells the hard work and “stale death” on his father’s hands. Mr. Peck, as always, has been killing pigs, for it how he makes a living. The only time that he smells different is on Sunday, for Papa always bathes on Saturday night so that he will be fresh at the Shaker meeting the next day.


This chapter introduces Robert’s family. Mr. Peck is a big, tall man who is proud by nature; he is also strict and stern, but has a gentle side to him. When Mr. Tanner carries Robert home, Mr. Peck tells him that if Robert has caused any problems, he will make it right. Later in the evening, he scolds Robert for skipping school; at the same time, he gives him fresh sumac from which to carve a whistle. Then he gently reminds his son that a boy with a fine whistle has no need to skip school. He also treats him to some spruce gun to help him forget his pains, but he tells him not to complain.

Mr. Peck is a hard-working farmer, a pig butcher, and a practical man. He expects his only son to work just like him. He believes that Robert needs to apply himself in school so that he can sign checks and manage a business in the future. When he sees Robert’s hurt arm, he is practical about it. He lets the wound bleed to free it of infection and then has his wife sew it up. He is also a religious man. After working hard all week and smelling like stale death, Mr. Peck bathes on Saturday nights so he will be fresh and presentable for the Shaker meeting that he always attends on Sunday.

In contrast to her stern husband, Mrs. Peck is always soft and gentle. She tenderly cares for Robert, washing his wounds and calling him poor lamb. She makes him a special dinner and brings it to his room. When she is called by her husband to stitch up Robert’s arm, she is as gentle as she can possibly be. Robert appreciates her care and refuses to scream or cry out, even though it hurts greatly.

Robert is greatly influenced by his parents and their Shaker beliefs. Even before he is fully conscious, he tries to explain about skipping school. When his father scolds him for his behavior, he readily agrees that his father is correct. It is also obvious that he has great respect for both his parents.

It is important to note the dialogue in this chapter. It is the first time it is used in the novel since Robert was alone in the first chapter. The colloquial, country language used by the characters helps to develop them as real people.

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