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Life of Pi

Yann Martel

Part One: Chapters 21–36

Part One: Chapters 7–20

Part One: Chapters 21–36, page 2

page 1 of 3


The author sits in a café after a meeting with Pi and thinks about what he has just heard. He considers his own mundane life and writes down some thoughts about Pi’s religious philosophies. We switch back to Pi’s narration. Pi describes the final deathbed moments of an atheist, who he imagines would take a “leap of faith” at the last minute. Then he describes the tiresome rationalizing of an agnostic, who on his deathbed would try to present a reasonable explanation for the white light rather than letting his imagination supply him with a “better story.”

One day, Pi tells us, he and his parents were out enjoying the weather at a seaside esplanade when the priest, imam, and pandit with whom Pi had been practicing his various religions approached them. Each was shocked to discover that Pi was not just a Hindu, Christian, or Muslim, but rather all three simultaneously. Pi’s parents were also surprised to learn Pi’s secret. The religious figures protested that such a thing was not possible and demanded that Pi choose a single religion. Pi responded that he just wanted to love God. Pi says his brother, Ravi, teased him mercilessly for some time afterward. Pi speculates that people who act out in violence or anger in the name of god misunderstand the true nature of religion.

Pi describes asking his father and mother for a prayer mat, a request that flustered both of them. His mother attempted to distract him with books: Robinson Crusoe and a volume by Robert Louis Stevenson. Finally, however, they gave in, and Pi came to treasure his rug. He used to pray in his yard, with his parents and brother watching him like an exotic creature. Not long after he got his rug, he continues, he was baptized in the presence of his parents.

Pi explains that the 1970s were a difficult time in India, though he admits that political troubles did not really affect him. His father, though, became incensed over the government’s actions and decided to move his family to Canada—a place completely foreign to Pi and Ravi.

We return to the author’s first person. The author describes meeting Meena Patel, Pi’s wife, whose existence first comes as a shock to him. Once he knew about her, the author began to see signs of her all over Pi’s house; until that point he had not noticed any because he had not been looking for them. He wonders if Meena is the one who has been cooking spicy food for him, but confirms that the cook is indeed Pi himself.

Pi narrates the one-time meeting of the two Mr. Kumars, the atheist biology teacher and the Muslim baker. One day they joined Pi for an outing at the Pondicherry Zoo, during which Pi introduced them to a Grant’s zebra. Neither had ever seen an exotic zebra before, but both were in awe of the splendid creature. Pi segues into a discussion of zoomorphism: when an animal sees another animal, or even another human, as being of its own kind. Pi says these animals know the truth—the lion cubs know the dog is not their mother, and the lions know the human is a human, not a lion—but they embrace the fiction because they are also in need of stories to get through life.

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Symbolism of The Algae Island

by davidtoc, December 30, 2012

Quick summary:

Pi's lifeboat = faith
Island = Religion
Sea and Sun = harsh realities of real life, scrutinizing your faith
Trees = clergy/priests/rabbis/imams, etc.
Meerkats = followers of religion

The overall message of the chapter is that although religion (organized faith) can aid us and stabilize us and nourish us spiritually in the short term, it is not a viable long-term answer to our spiritual questions, and will ultimately kill us mentally and spiritually.

Pi discovers the island when "


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Overview: The Question

by MitziDadford, May 29, 2013

Pi, who is named for an irrational idea that is used to pose and solve scientific whims, presents two parallel stories--he describes as one's perception of the world--to explain his survival on the Pacific for a remarkable 227 days. This is itself a momentous reflection of one's theological beliefs. This novel promises to make one believe in God, and it does. The animal story, with its far-fetched aspects, is much more difficult for the investigators to believe than the human story, as Pi says clearly annoyed, they want a story they already ... Read more


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Essay Topics

by jas777g, June 04, 2013

Truth vs. Fact
Will to survive

See all 5 readers' notes   →

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