Free Study Guide/Summary for A Day No Pigs Would Die|
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NOTES / CRITICISM - A DAY NO PIGS WOULD DIE
“October came, with colors as pretty as laundry on a line;” but Pinky still does not come into heat. When Robert tells Mr. Tanner about it and asks him if he thinks Pinky is barren, Mr. Tanner decides to bring his prize boar,
Samson, over to the Pecks to mate
with Pinky. He arrives with Samson in the wagon after Mr. Peck has left for work.
Robert helps him to get Samson from the wagon into the pen. He then goes and brings
Pinky to the pen. Although Pinky is a large pig, next to Samson, she looks small,
half his size. Although Samson immediately goes up to Pinky and pushes her with
his nose, she has no interest in him and backs away, kicking at him. She then
bites his ear, and Mr. Tanner has to whack her with a stick. He explains to Robert
that this is “all part of courting. .
While the man and boy are waiting for something to happen in the pen, Mr. Tanner asks Robert about his father’s health. Robert lies and says that his father is fine, but he looks away as he says it. As Robert wonders what to say next, Miss Sarah, the cat, comes out of the barn with her three kittens. Seeing the kittens, Mr. Tanner is sure that Caleb, his barn cat, is the father and says, “If he ain’t the tom that serviced that litter, I’ll ride Samson all the way home.” Robert thinks that there is not a man alive who could straddle the mean-looking Samson.
Mr. Tanner tells Robert that if Pinky has a litter of piglets, he expects a stud fee. The boy has to ask what that means. Tanner explains that he should be paid fifty dollars or have two picks of the litter. Robert agrees to his having his picks. Then the boy suddenly realizes that pigs and litters are a real business, especially when Mr. Tanner tells him that Pinky should bear 20 to 24 piglets a year, which translates into lots of dollars, “good solid Yankee dollars that you can bank.” He knows those dollars can help to pay off the farm. But Robert thinks that his thoughts of hogs and dollars and banks are not very Christian, and he says to Tanner, “We’re Plain People. It may not be right to want for so much.” Mr. Tanner assures Robert that it is proper to make a good living and tells the boy that he himself is a Christian, a God-fearing Baptist. Robert is shocked to learn that his neighbors belong to the Baptist Church, and he suddenly feels foolish about his past prejudices about this Baptist religion.
As Robert and Mr. Tanner watch, it is as if Samson understands what is expected of him; he pens Pinky against the fence and mounts her. Pinky squeals from the pain and from his weight. As Robert looks on, he feels a hatred for Samson for being so big, mean, and heavy. As soon as the mating is finished, Robert starts to go into the pen. Mr. Tanner grabs him by the shoulder and says, “If you go into that pen now. . .that boar will have you for breakfast.” He then asks the boy, “Where’s your sense?” A humiliated Robert says that he must not have any. Mr. Tanner sternly replies, “Time you got some,” and reminds him that at age thirteen, which Robert will be in February, a boy turns into a man and must act like one.
Talk again turns to Mr. Peck. Mr. Tanner says that Robert’s
Pa “ought to take it easy one of these days, now he’s got you to man the place.”
The boy answers that his father works all the time, never resting. “And worse
than that, he works inside himself. I can see it on his face. Like he’s been trying
all his life to catch up to something.” Mr. Tanner compliments the boy on his
insight and inquires about his studies. Robert answers that his teacher tells
him that he has potential, that he "could be more than a farmer.” Mr. Tanner
is shocked at the response. He tells the boy, “There’s no higher calling than
animal husbandry, and making things live and grow. We farmers. . .tend all of
God’s good living things, and I say there’s nothing finer.”