full title Life of Pi
author Yann Martel
type of work Novel
genre Allegory; fable
time and place written Researched in India and Canada and written in Canada in the late 1990s
date of first publication 2002
publisher Canongate Books Ltd.
narrator Piscine Molitor Patel and the author, Yann Martel
point of view The prefatory Author’s Note is written in first person by the author, who explains how he came to hear the story we are about to read from Pi Patel himself. The account (Part One and Part Two) is told in first person by Pi. The final section of the book (Part Three) is written mainly as a transcript of a conversation between Pi and two officials, bookended by first-person comments from the author.
tone Funny, surreal, ruminative, philosophical, and, at times, journalistic
tense Past tense
setting (time) The author tells Pi’s story from an undetermined contemporary point, some years after the publication of his second book in 1996. Pi’s ordeal begins on July 2, 1977, and continues for 227 days.
setting (place) Pi’s boyhood home in Pondicherry, India; the Pacific Ocean; Tomatlán, Mexico; and, briefly, Toronto, Canada
protagonist Piscine Molitor Patel
major conflict he Tsimtsum sinks, drowning Pi’s entire family, the crew, and most of the animals aboard. For months, Pi, along with a Royal Bengal tiger, must fight for survival aboard a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean
rising action The Patel family sets sail to Canada.
climax The first climax is when the Tsimstum sinks and Pi’s family dies, leaving him alone with wild animals on a lifeboat. Another climax occurs when Pi lands in Mexico.
falling action Pi is rescued in Mexico. Two Japanese officials interview him. His story is called into doubt.
themes The power of life’s force; the human desire for companionship; storytelling as a strategy for self-preservation
motifs Territorial dominance; hunger and thirst; rituals
symbols Pi, the lifeboat, Richard Parker
foreshadowing The opening pages of the book are supremely suspenseful, as the author and Pi himself continually make reference to some tragic episode in Pi’s life without actually naming it. Pi describes his gloomy state of mind upon arriving in Canada and explains how his religious and zoological studies helped him to rebuild his life. But it is not until the Tsimtsum sinks in Part Two and Pi loses his family that we understand the source of his intense suffering, though we do sense it coming all along.