Death of a Pig by E.B. White is an essay which comprises both irony and humor, demonstrating the author’s love for animals which is strangely combined with compassion towards them.
Stylistically the author encloses his essay into two similar paragraphs at the beginning and at the end, each of them explaining the reason for his penitence and grief. The first paragraph states that ‘the pig died at last, and I lived’, which presupposes some real heart-break, as though when losing a close relative. At first one may think that it is pure love and even affection towards an animal – the pig is depicted as though being a human creature: the author mentions his ‘smile’, ‘frowning expression’ and ‘face’. The style is highly emotional, even pathetic at times, filled with comparisons, similes, parallel construction. Thus, a pig is compared with a child, giving him some oil for treatment – with a torture and the procedure itself is called ‘the evil hour’. Should one eliminate the word ‘pig’ from the text or substitute it for another one, it might well be a story of a fatally ill child. The treatment procedure is described scrupulously, and the scene of the death itself and the following burial occupy the whole page.
So, a reader it brought to believe that the author is an animal-lover and treats the pig as though his pet, if not a child. But when reading attentively, lots of hints and hidden details are discovered. In the second paragraph lots of theatrical imagery is used to describe the ‘scheme’ of buying, raising and then slaughtering a pig. Such words as ‘tragedy’, ‘original script’, ‘ceremonial ending’ draw the pre-planned pattern which was not supposed to include the pig’s natural death. So, we can arrive at the conclusion that it was not exactly the death itself that mattered, but the corruption of the successful farmer’s ‘play’ – the one which resulted in a pig changing into ham and smoked bacon.