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A DAY NO PIGS WOULD DIE FREE BOOKNOTES
The style of the book is simple and realistic, reinforcing the plain and simple life of the Shakers that the novel portrays. Since the characters are not well educated, they speak with an accent and in grammatically incorrect sentences; the dialog adds to the realism of the novel. It also adds humor to the book. Since the book is told from Robert's point of view, the reader is given extra insight into the mind of a maturing thirteen-year-old boy; this also adds to the realistic style of the book.
THE MEANING OF THE TITLE
The title of the novel clearly reflects the life/death theme of the book. Mr. Peck makes his living by killing hogs. On the day that he dies, however, his boss and his co-workers come to the funeral. Robert remarks that it is "a day no pigs would die." Because of Haven's death, the pigs would ironically live and additional day. The title also clearly recalls the fact that Pinky, Robert's pet pig, has been slaughtered by Mr. Peck in order to feed the family.
1. Describe the basic character of the protagonist, Robert Peck.
2. What lessons does Robert learn during the course of the novel and how does he learn them?
3. Compare and contrast Haven Peck and his wife, Robert's mother and father.
4. The novel is filled with images of new life and death. Give specific examples of each.
5. What is learned about Shaker life in the novel?
6. Does the language of the novel enhance or detract from the story? Fully explain your answer.
7. How is the theme of neighborliness developed in the novel?
8. Who is Aunt Matty? How is she a comic relief character in the novel?
9. What is the climax of the plot? Why is it the climax?
10. Why does Robert go to the Rutland Fair? Describe his experiences there.
11. Why is the book considered a tragic comedy?
COMMENT ON THE STUDY OF LITERATURE
The study of literature is not like the study of math or science, or even history. While those disciplines are based largely upon fact, the study of literature is based upon interpretation and analysis. There are no clear-cut answers in literature, outside of the factual information about an author's life and the basic information about setting and characterization in a piece of literature. The rest is a highly subjective reading of what an author has written; each person brings a different set of values and a different background to the reading. As a result, no two people see the piece of literature in exactly the same light, and few critics agree on everything about a book or an author.
In this study guide, we have tried to give an objective literary analysis based upon the information actually found in the novel, book, or play. In the end, however, it is an individual interpretation, but one that we feel can be readily supported by the information that is presented in the guide. In your course of literature study, you or your professor/teacher may come up with a different interpretation of the mood or the theme or the conflict. Your interpretation, if it can be logically supported with information contained within the piece of literature, is just as correct as ours. So is the interpretation of your teacher or professor.
Literature is simply not a black or white situation; instead, there are many gray areas that are open to varying analyses. Your task is to come up with your own analysis that you can logically defend. Hopefully, these booknotes will help you to accomplish that goal.