The Pig by Doris Lessing
In The Pig by Doris Lessing we have the theme of control, infidelity, letting go and disappointment. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises from the beginning of the story that Lessing may be exploring the theme of control. The farmer appears to get great joy out of controlling his farm-workers and their families. Something that is noticeable when the farmer orders his workers to call out their wives and children from their huts. It is as though the farmer views himself as a man of importance and as such everybody must hear what he has to say. It is also noticeable that the farmer is unhelpful to Jonas when Jonas asks not to be given the rifle to shoot intruders on the farm. Jonas himself has an issue with control and is unable to control his young wife. Who is having an affair with a younger man.
This affair is something that plays on Jonas’ mind throughout the story. He is unable, as one would expect, to let go of what is happening between his wife and the young man. In fact so disturbed by his wife’s actions. Jonas decides to keep an eye on his hut instead of looking out for intruders on the farm. What is also interesting is the fact that Jonas waits for an entire week before he takes any action. Despite seeing the young man visiting his wife on several occasions. It is as though Jonas is paralysed and unable to act on his emotions. Something that has driven him throughout the story. Some readers might also suggest that Jonas would be better off letting his young wife go. For her to leave him. As she clearly doesn’t love him. Though it is also possible that the relationship between Jonas’ wife and the young man is purely physical. Which lends the question as to Jonas’ sexual prowess.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The young buck that is described as being limp when it dies may relate to phallic symbolism (for Jonas). Something that is compounded by Lessing’s physical description of Jonas while he watches for the young man to arrive at his hut. Jonas’ muscles are so taut he is unable to hold the rifle. It may also be a case that Lessing interchanges the role of the buck. Particularly when Jonas is following the young man as he walks through the mealies. The setting may also be significant. Lessing sets the story at night time, over several nights, and she may be using the setting as foreshadowing. It is always dark (black nights) and Jonas is about to attempt to kill a man. Something that some readers might consider to be a dark act. An unacceptable act in fact.
The end of the story is interesting as Jonas ends up missing the young man when he shoots at him and kills a pig instead. It is as though Jonas is to live with the continual interference of the young man in his and his wife’s life. Surely an issue that would displease Jonas. He had ample opportunity to kill the young man yet he waited till he was fifty yards away from him before he took aim. This distance may be important as it is possible that Lessing is symbolically suggesting that Jonas wishes to distance himself from the young man’s actions. It might also be that Jonas, who has never shot a man before, might feel a little bit unsettled about the direction the night is taking. He after all wants rid of the young man but may not necessarily think that killing him is the right course of action. Though it is obvious that Jonas is disappointed when he discovers he has only managed to shoot a pig. Leaving the young man to act as he may wish to act with Jonas’ wife. At the end of the story noting has been resolved. Jonas is still left with the issue of the young man sleeping with his wife.