Life of Pi Smore

By: Noah Simcoe, Dylan Burroughs, & Chris Hampson

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When & Where

In Life of Pi, the majority of the story takes place in a crowded lifeboat, on the Pacific

Ocean. Pi and the other animals are in a space that is marked: “three and a half feet

deep, eight feet wide, and twenty-six feet long” and that the boat can “accommodate a maximum of thirty-two people ” (Martel 173). These dimensions and numbers make the reader believe the lifeboat is very big and full of room, but it really doesn’t turn out to be. Pi notes that the boat is “not as spacious as might be expected because of the side benches and buoyancy tanks” (Martel 173). These benches run along the entire sides of the boat, and are stacked above the buoyancy tanks. Taking up even more of the lifeboat’s space are a group of animals from the Pondicherry Zoo. This includes a male zebra, weighing over 500 pounds, an adult female Bornean orangutan, weighing at barely 100 pounds, an adult male spotted hyena, weighing at 200 pounds, and a 450-pound male Bengal tiger (Martel 164, 169). Not only do the animals themselves take up more space on the lifeboat, but they also have their own territories of space that they do not like disturbed. This limits Pi, and restricts to only certain areas on the lifeboat, making his chances of survival harder than before.
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Social Contexts

In the story of “Life of Pi”, Pi does not necessarily fit in with his society. As we read on more in the story, we find out that Pi is practicing Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. One day, all three of Pi’s religious leaders end up running into Pi and his family, and begin debating over which religion Pi is. After several minutes of bickering, of the priests speaks up saying how “[Pi] cannot be a Hindu, a Christian, and a Muslim” and that “he must chose” (Martel 87). Pi’s dad comes to Pi defense saying that Piscine has the freedom to practice whatever religion he desires, but the priests “scream in unison”, that Pi should “practice-singular” (Martel 87). Although Pi is free to practice whatever religions he pleases, the priests make it clear that this is not the social norm. From that conversation, Pi’s family begins dropping hints that Pi should be practicing only one religion, which sets him apart from his family and society.
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Political Contexts

During the time of the story, India is going through a political change.

The Tamil Nadu government is being taken down by Delhi, which is the current capital of India (Martel 98). Mrs. Gandhi is conducting a “dictatorial takeover of the nation”, and this is the “straw that broke [Pi’s father’s] back” (Martel 99). With this political change, Pi’s father begins to worry about the future of the Pondicherry Zoo. He also says that Mrs. Gandhi will soon “come down to [their] zoo” and request to use the animal cages as human prison cells (Martel 99). While he is not actually serious, this shows us that Pi’s father is paranoid about the whole situation, and believes that his family needs to pack up and leave India for good. This causes Pi’s family to sell the zoo, and set sail to Canada.
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Modern Contexts

Throughout Life of Pi, Pi uses his faith to help him survive on the lifeboat. Shortly after Pi receives access to all of the survival supplies, he realizes that he has a very hard journey ahead of himself. Instead of just giving up and accepting defeat, Pi states “I will beat the odds, as great as they are”, and that “As long as God is with me, I will not die” (Martel 186). God becomes one of Pi’s greatest sources of motivation during his time on the lifeboat. Pi knows that the chances of him getting home alive and seeing his family again are very slim, but he continues to push forward because he believes that his God will get him through this. Even later in the story, Pi shows he is still strong with his faith when he catches his first dorado, yelling “thank you, Lord Vishnu, thank you!”, in gratitude of the new food (Martel 233). Pi’s habits connect to our world today because a lot of people are very dependent upon their faith. No matter how bad a person’s situation is, it is not uncommon to still see people relying and showing support to their god/s/. Also, it is very common seeing people thanking their god/s/ when their lives are introduced to wonderful gifts, miracles, and good news, just as Pi did when he caught his first fish on the lifeboat.
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Peer Significance

In Life of Pi, Pi experiences an extreme sense of loneliness while at sea. Not long after his arrival on the lifeboat, Pi chooses to isolate himself from Richard Parker, by spending most of his time on the makeshift raft. This eliminates his fear of being “clubbed alive with one of [Richard Parker’s] great paws”, however, Pi is now completely by himself (Martel 185). During one of the nights on his raft, Pi says “I looked out at the empty horizon… there was so much water. And I was all alone. All alone” (Martel 212). At this part in the story, Pi realizes that he has no one for him as he looks into nothing but miles and miles of sea. Pi no longer knows the fate of his family, and his only companion left is hiding dangerously in the hull of the lifeboat. In our world today, many people experience the same type of loneliness that Pi is going through in the story. People get this feeling from many things, like a breakup, loss of relative, or lack of friends/social encounters. In Life of Pi, Pi finds a way to survive on the lifeboat and overcome his lonely emotions.
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Literary Value

In Life of Pi, the color orange is an archetype used, that resembles value and hope. Inside of the lifeboat, Pi notes that “every significant object aboard was orange”, which includes the tarpaulin, the life jackets, the lifebuoy, the oars, and the plastic whistles (Martel 174). During Pi’s time at sea, these objects all prove to be necessities. In fact, Pi began using the orange whistles to “train” Richard Parker and assert his dominance towards him on the lifeboat. One morning after a tough storm, Pi talks about all of the equipment he’s lost, saying that “cradled in the palm of [his] hand was all that remained between [him] and death: the last of the orange whistles” (Martel 289). This shows us how important the whistles are to Pi, and that he seriously does not think he would be able to survive without them. By reacting this way with the whistle, the color orange can be seen as something very valuable on the lifeboat.

Life of Pi Book Review


Yann Martel, author of the novel Life of Pi, illustrates that people can accomplish anything as long as they remain strong in their faith. Yann Martel is a Spanish-born Canadian author, who grew up in Spain, Costa Rica, France, and Mexico, before moving to Canada. Prior to becoming a full time writer, Martel spent time as a tree planter, dishwasher, and security guard. In Life of Pi, Pi, the main character, faces a great deal of social diversity. Pi practices Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam, and this causes him to be viewed differently from his family members and colleagues. When the story takes place, in the 1970’s, India’s government is going through an immense political change. This dictatorship is what causes Pi’s family to leave India and sail to Canada, which progresses the story forward. On his way there, a big turn of events happens, leaving Pi stranded in the­­­ sea. In Life of Pi, Yann Martel uses symbolism to share Pi’s adventure and struggle for survival across the Pacific Ocean. In the beginning of Life of Pi, the author writes about Pi’s background. Pi Patel is an intelligent boy who was raised in India at his father’s zoo. Shortly into the story, Pi’s family decides to sell their zoo and leave India. With Pi’s family and a majority of the Pondicherry Zoo crammed into a cargo ship, they head to Canada. One evening at sea, the cargo ship sinks during a storm, and Pi escapes on a lifeboat with a group of animals, including an adult male Bengal tiger. Pi’s survival instincts immediately pitch in, and he begins to think of plans to get rid of the tiger. Throughout the story, Pi’s judgement of the tiger changes, and he eventually begins to try and survive along with the Tiger. Pi faces many challenges along his journey at sea, and uses his faith and hopes of seeing his family again, as his main source of motivation to survive as long as possible. In Life of Pi, the text is structured in a chronological sequence. The story is separated into three different parts, each explaining a big portion of Pi’s life journey. In part one, Yann Martel does an excellent job of giving plenty of background information to the reader about Pi Patel. These details let the reader know how Pi has become the boy he was throughout the story, and also why his faith is so elaborate. By reading through part one, the reader knows Pi’s personality and history very well. After the ship sinks and Pi is stranded (in part two), the reader can easily sympathize for Pi because they know his character thoroughly, and realize that he clearly does not deserve to be going through this catastrophe. Part two, the longest part of the story, gives convincing and exciting information to the reader of how Pi Patel exactly survived on the lifeboat. For the beginning of part two, the story takes place day to day, and helps develop the routine of Pi at sea in the readers’ minds. As more and more text is read, time in the story goes by faster, and only the new or important events of Pi’s journey are illustrated in the story. This works perfectly for the story, because if the book were to record all of Pi’s 227 days at sea, it would eventually get repetitive and boring. Finally, in part three, Martel gives the reader the epilogue to Pi’s journey, as well as the symbolic meaning of the entire story. I think that this book is a great read for all ages, especially teenagers and young adults. In Life of Pi, Yann Martel does a worthy job of putting the reader in Pi’s shoes, by using vivid and accurate details that make all of the events seem very realistic. Pi faces many problems that are relevant in our society today, and many teenagers could in fact relate to them. One of the biggest challenges Pi faces is absolute loneliness while on the raft, and as a reader you can often relate to him in certain periods in the book. Although the story reveals many obstacles that are thrown in Pi’s way, it still lets the reader know how Pi overcame each and every problem. Life of Pi does a great job of illustrating the amount of hard work and motivation Pi had, that helped him survive and reach his goals while at sea.