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A Day No Pigs Would Die

Chapter 13

Summary Chapter 13

Moved by the passionate way that Mr. Tanner talks about farming, Robert tells Mr. Tanner how his family will completely own their farm in just five more years. Mr. Tanner is glad to hear it and compliments Robert and the rest of the Pecks on what good neighbors they are. He tells Robert how they have a lot to look forward to because of Pinky. "She'll farrow at least ten pigs, spring and fall," he tells Robert, "In five years, that's a hundred hogs." With Pinky's meaty line, and Samson's genes, those pigs equate to dollars that the Peck's can use to pay off the farm. All the talk of hundreds of hogs and hundreds of dollars roll around in Robert's head, and suddenly he isn't sure if all that Mr. Tanner is talking about is good. "But we're Plain People," he tells Mr. Tanner, "It may not be right to want so much." Mr. Tanner tells him, "Nonsense, boy. Bess and I are fearing Christians same as you." It turns out that the Tanners are Baptists, just like Robert's Aunt Matty. Robert gets a good laugh out of this and realizes how wrong he had been about the Baptists.

Analysis

The scene of Pinky and Samson mating recalls Haven Peck's wisdom of the previous chapter when he says, "Dying is dirty business. Like getting born." Here, elements of both birth and death are intermingled. Pinky's inability to have offspring, despite Samson's mating with her, seals her fate. This turns out to be the dirtiest business of all. Pinky screams and screams from the pain of breeding, but he continues to scream even after the act is over, perhaps admitting that Samson's efforts are for nothing and that she is doomed.

Mr. Tanner questions Robert about his father's health twice in this chapter, indicating that he probably suspects that Haven is not well. Just as Haven tries to teach Robert as much about life as he can before he dies, Mr. Tanner, knowing that Robert will soon be forced into manhood and all the responsibility that comes with it, does what he can to make sure that Robert will be prepared.

He teaches Robert about the ways of breeding pigs and about the business side of raising animals. The idea of pigs and dollars being related is very new and confusing to Robert because he has no experience with money. He even suspects that the enterprise of making money from farming might not be good, having always being taught that hard work is supposed to be a reward in itself. Mr. Tanner tries to explain that money in and of itself is not evil because it can help them pay off the farm. He backs it up by saying that he too is a God- fearing Christian just like Robert, who would not do anything to bring strife to neighbor.

Mr. Tanner's philosophy of pigs and money is different from anything that Haven ever taught Robert. Where Haven seemed to always try to improve the family internally by teaching Robert and maintaining the farm, Mr. Tanner shows Robert that he can improve their lives by looking outside as well. Mr. Tanner and Haven Peck also differ in their views of farming in general. Mr. Peck wants something better for his son than the hard life of a farmer, but Mr. Tanner believes that there is no higher calling.

When Robert learns that Mr. Tanner is a Baptist, he realizes how foolish his earlier views of Baptists had been. Though the Baptists are different from the Shakers, he learns to accept and appreciate them for the good that they do. Like Haven Peck, who accepts the Hillmans for what they are despite the past between them, Robert learns to accept the Baptists despite their strange beliefs. Learning to accept people is a major step in Robert's developing maturity. Later, when he is forced to part with his pig and then his father, the way he deals with the loss will show that he has learned to accept everything that life throws at him.