Life of Pi
by Yann Martel
When & Where?
Martel's novel, Life of Pi, begins in Pondicherry, India during the 1970s. While only a small part of the novel takes place in India, the original setting sets up the rest of the novel. Pi Patel, the narrator and main character, was born in India and raised on a zoo. Pi's father decides to move his family to Canada during a time of political turmoil in India. Pi's family takes a cargo ship across the Pacific Ocean full of crew members and zoo animals. The cargo ship ends up sinking leaving Pi and an adult tiger, Richard Parker, stranded on a life boat in the middle of the ocean. The Pacific Ocean is the main setting of the story and represents not only the vastness and loneliness of being stranded, but also highlights some major character growth, both mentally and spiritually. The "morally killing" (115) ocean changes Pi from a carefree boy to a determined young man over the 277 days of solitude that he endures.
Pi Patel was raised in Pondicherry, India as a Hindu. As Pi got older, he learned about Christianity and Islam and decided to adopt all three religions. Pi references the Catholic religion (65), Islam (85), and Hinduism (17) earlier in the book. Pi doesn't see anything wrong with his multiple religious perspectives and compares it to a normal rebellious teenager saying "All sixteen-year olds have secrets" (90). His decision puzzled his family, who were critical about his religious declarations. Pi's culture and social perspectives are greatly influenced by the Indian culture he was raised by: India is a very diverse country, and the city of Pondicherry was once controlled by France. This influences Pi's outlook on people of other cultures that he experiences during his travels across the ocean.
Pi's family decides to move to Canada during a time of political turmoil in India. These political events were known as "The Emergency" and occurred in 1975. The Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi was forced to resign after she was charged in respect to her election campaign. Instead of resigning, she ordered a State of Emergency and resided over the country by a rule of decree. This period lasted from 1975-1977 and was easily one of the most controversial events in Indian politics. In Martel's book, Pi's father decides to sell his zoo and move to Canada out of fear that the Indian government would take over the zoo and in part due to the rapid decline of the Indian economy.
When & Where?
Significance to Your Peers
Review of "Life of Pi"
In Life of Pi, Yann Martel effectively portrays the will to live through his main character, Pi Patel. Pi has an undying determination to survive his 277-day voyage through the Pacific Ocean. Martel tells the audience about Pi’s background, and he begins his novel with a flashback to Pi’s boyhood. Martel relays Pi’s views on life through his explanation of Pi’s family life and his interests in religion and zoology. Pi has a great interest in animals since he was raised on a zoo and developed an open mind which helps him on his journey in the ocean.
During part two, Martel introduces Richard Parker, the one and only Bengal tiger confined to the lifeboat with Pi. The audience doesn't have a lot of information about Richard Parker. As Part Three begins, we see that something has changed as Martel uses Richard Parker to mimic some of Pi’s moods and thoughts. Richard Parker is not only a tiger anymore, but something much more significant; Richard Parker is the sole reason Pi was able to survive these past 277 days on the Pacific Ocean.
Martel’s novel, Life of Pi starts off in Pondicherry, India- his family’s hometown with Pi set as a young and innocent boy. While he may have started off as a young boy who grew up on a zoo, the ocean and the hardships presented have turned Pi into a courageous, determined man. This harsh setting sets Pi up to fail, but somehow through his undying will to live, he pushed through and grows into a better, and stronger individual.
60 Second Recap
Books Like "Life of Pi"
The Old Man and the Sea- Ernest Hemingway
The Old Man and the Sea has a lot of the same ideas as Life of Pi. Both stories take place on a large body of water and focus on the struggle between a beastly animal and man. After some initial struggle the man and the beast learn to get along and live in harmony, or at least without major conflict, with each other.
Alice in Wonderland- Lewis Carroll
Alice in Wonderland is similar to Life of Pi in that both stories have a seemingly unrealistic idea yet incorporate the use of animals to represent real people in the characters' lives. Life of Pi's use of animal figures to represent his family creates a sense of familiarity when compared to Carroll's Alice in Wonderland
Lord of the Flies- William Golding
In Golding's Lord of the Flies, a group of people leave Britain during the war, similar to how Pi's family left during a time of political turmoil. The plane crashes and the only survivors are some of the young boys, again similar to Pi's situation. The plane crashes on an island and the boys spend the majority of the time attempting to govern themselves.