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BOOK SUMMARY - A DAY NO PIGS WOULD DIE BY ROBERT NEWTON PECK
Pinky quickly becomes Robert’s pet, following the boy everywhere. With the help of his father and Solomon, the Peck’s ox, Robert moves an old corncrib away from the barn and makes it into a pigpen. While he is working on the pen with his father, Robert asks him if he believes in all the Shaker laws. His father says that he believes in the Shaker way and tries to follow it. Robert explains that he does not like some of the Shaker laws, especially the one that does not allow him to go to a baseball game on Sunday. His father reminds him that the Shaker way does not just forbid baseball on Sunday, but on everyday, for watching a ballgame is considered a frill. As a result, Mr. Peck knows nothing about baseball, and Robert has only learned about it from a library book.
Father and son then talk about Robert’s school. The boy has just made a 99% on a history test. The only question he missed was about Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys. Robert thought they were a baseball team rather than a hero and his followers from Vermont history. Mr. Peck has never heard of Ethan Allen or Calvin Coolidge, the President of the United States at the time. When Robert asks his father if he’s a Republican, like everyone in Learning, Vermont, Mr. Peck answers that he is neither Republican nor Democrat and states, “I’m not nothing.” He then tells his son he is not allowed to vote since he cannot read or write. Mr. Peck has trouble understanding this rule since he is an American who works hard. He says it seems that men judge him to have a weak mind since he is illiterate. “They can’t see that the rows of corn in my field are straight as fences . . . They’ll not care that I owe no debt, and that I am beholding to no man.”
In spite of the lack of respect he receives, Mr. Peck explains to Robert that he is a rich man. “We are Plain People. . .We live the Book of Shaker. We are not worldly people. . .not paining with worldly wants and wishes... We have one another to fend to, and this land to tend. And one day we’ll own it outright. We have Solomon here to. . . help us haul our burdens. . .We have Daisy’s hot milk. We got rain to wash up with. . .We can look at sundown and see it all. . .We hear all the music that’s in the wind. . .We have the back to do work.” Mr. Peck also feels blessed to live in the good state of Vermont where “we can turn grass into milk and corn into hogs.”
Robert and his father finish the
pigsty. The first night Robert sleeps in it with Pinky, for he is afraid his pet
piglet will be lonesome. Before he drifts off to sleep, Robert thinks he is the
luckiest boy in all of Learning, Vermont.
Although there is little action or plot advancement in this chapter, the author continues to develop his main characters and explain the Shaker Way. Mr. Peck tells Robert that the Shakers are plain people who do not have worldly wants or time for politics. Instead, they work hard, love their families, study the Book of Shaker, and try to be good neighbors. In this chapter, Mr. Peck’s logical, practical side is not just discussed; he shows his abilities when he figures out how to build Pinky’s pig sty and builds a capstan to pull the corn crib into place with Solomon’s help.
Mr. Peck explains to Robert that since he is an illiterate man, he is not allowed to vote. In spite of this deprivation, he still feels privileged because he almost owns his land outright, is beholden to no one, and provides for his family by being a pig butcher. He also can appreciate the beauty of a sunset and the musical sound of the wind. As a result, he judges himself to be richer than most people, who care only about worldly wants and wishes.
In many ways, Robert is much like his father. He is not afraid of hard work, helping with the chores on the farm and building the pigsty when he has just healed from his wounds. He is also a good student, shown by his grade of 99% on the history test, the highest in the class. He is also appreciative of what he has. Because he is the proud owner of a piglet, the first thing he has ever possessed in his life, he feels he is the luckiest boy in town. Robert also shows he is a curious boy. He reads about baseball in library books and questions some of the Shaker laws. He particularly disapproves of the one that says he cannot attend a baseball game since it is considered a frill. In spite of his questioning, Robert is respectful of both his father and the Shaker Way.
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