Piscine Molitor Patel (Pi)
The protagonist of the story. Piscine is the narrator
for most of the novel, and his account of his seven months at sea
forms the bulk of the story. He gets his unusual name from the French
word for pool
—and, more specifically, from a pool
in Paris in which a close family friend, Francis Adirubasamy, loved
to swim. A student of zoology and religion, Pi is deeply intrigued by
the habits and characteristics of animals and people.
Royal Bengal tiger with whom Pi shares his lifeboat. His captor,
Richard Parker, named him Thirsty, but a shipping clerk made a mistake
and reversed their names. From then on, at the Pondicherry Zoo,
he was known as Richard Parker. Weighing 450
and about nine feet long, he kills the hyena on the lifeboat and
the blind cannibal. With Pi, however, Richard Parker acts as an
omega, or submissive, animal, respecting Pi’s dominance.
in-depth analysis of Richard Parker.
narrator of the (fictitious) Author’s Note, who inserts himself
into the narrative at several points throughout the text. Though
the author who pens the Author’s Note never identifies himself by
name, there are many clues that indicate it is Yann Martel himself, thinly
disguised: he lives in Canada, has published two books, and was
inspired to write Pi’s life story during a trip to India.
The elderly man who tells the author Pi’s story during
a chance meeting in a Pondicherry coffee shop. He taught Pi to swim
as a child and bestowed upon him his unusual moniker. He arranges
for the author to meet Pi in person, so as to get a first-person account
of his strange and compelling tale. Pi calls him Mamaji,
Indian term that means respected uncle
older brother. Ravi prefers sports to schoolwork and is quite popular.
He teases his younger brother mercilessly over his devotion to three
father. He once owned a Madras hotel, but because of his deep interest
in animals decided to run the Pondicherry Zoo. A worrier by nature,
he teaches his sons not only to care for and control wild animals, but
to fear them. Though raised a Hindu, he is not religious and is
puzzled by Pi’s adoption of numerous religions. The difficult conditions
in India lead him to move his family to Canada.
beloved mother and protector. A book lover, she encourages Pi to
read widely. Raised Hindu with a Baptist education, she does not
subscribe to any religion and questions Pi’s religious declarations.
She speaks her mind, letting her husband know when she disagrees
with his parenting techniques. When Pi relates another version of
his story to his rescuers, she takes the place of Orange Juice on
atheistic biology teacher at Petit Séminaire, a secondary school
in Pondicherry. A polio survivor, he is an odd-looking man, with
a body shaped like a triangle. His devotion to the power of scientific
inquiry and explanation inspires Pi to study zoology in college.
Catholic priest who introduces Pi to Christianity after Pi wanders
into his church. He preaches a message of love. He, the Muslim Mr.
Kumar, and the Hindu pandit disagree about whose religion Pi should
plain-featured Muslim mystic with the same name as Pi’s biology
teacher. He works in a bakery. Like the other Mr. Kumar, this one
has a strong effect on Pi’s academic plans: his faith leads Pi to
study religion at college.
The Hindu Pandit
One of three important religious figures in the novel.
Never given a name, he is outraged when Pi, who was raised Hindu,
begins practicing other religions. He and the other two religious
leaders are quieted somewhat by Pi’s declaration that he just wants
to love God.
wife, whom the author meets briefly in Toronto.
Nikhil Patel (Nick)
Pi’s son. He plays baseball.
young daughter. She is shy but very close to her father.
ugly, intensely violent animal. He controls the lifeboat before
Richard Parker emerges.
beautiful male Grant’s zebra. He breaks his leg jumping into the
lifeboat. The hyena torments him and eats him alive.
maternal orangutan that floats to the lifeboat on a raft of bananas.
She suffers almost humanlike bouts of loneliness and seasickness.
When the hyena attacks her, she fights back valiantly but is nonetheless
killed and decapitated.
The Blind Frenchman
A fellow castaway whom Pi meets by chance in the
middle of the ocean. Driven by hunger and desperation, he tries
to kill and cannibalize Pi, but Richard Parker kills him first.
An official from the Maritime Department of the Japanese
Ministry of Transport, who is investigating the sinking of the Japanese Tsimtsum
with his assistant, Atsuro Chiba, Okamoto interviews Pi for three
hours and is highly skeptical of his first account.
assistant. Chiba is the more naïve and trusting of the two Japanese
officials, and his inexperience at conducting interviews gets on
his superior’s nerves. Chiba agrees with Pi that the version of
his ordeal with animals is the better than the one with people.
human counterpart to the hyena in Pi’s second story. He is rude
and violent and hoards food on the lifeboat. After he kills the
sailor and Pi’s mother, Pi stabs him and he dies.
human counterpart to the zebra in Pi’s second story. He is young,
beautiful, and exotic. He speaks only Chinese and is very sad and
lonely in the lifeboat. He broke his leg jumping off the ship, and
it becomes infected. The cook cuts off the leg, and the sailor dies slowly.