Title: Life of Pi
Author: Yann Martel
Publisher: RHC (Random House Canada)
Genre: Magical Realism, Fiction
First Publication: 2001
Major Characters: Piscine Molitor Patel (aka Pi), The narrator, Richard Parker (aka Thirsty) The Tiger
Setting Place: Pondicherry, India, the Pacific Ocean, Mexico, and Toronto, Canada
Narration: First Person
Theme: Survival, Religion and Faith, Anthropomorphism
Awards: The Booker Prize
Book Summary: Life Of Pi
Yann Martel’s Life of Pi is a transformative novel, an astonishing work of imagination that will delight and stun readers in equal measure. It is a triumph of storytelling and a tale that will, as one character puts it, make you believe in God.
After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wide, wild Pacific. The crew of the surviving vessel consists of a hyena, one zebra (with broken leg), an orang-utan, a 450-pound Royal Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker and Pi – a 16-year-old Indian boy. As the ‘crew’ begin to assert their natural places in the food chain, Pi’s fear mounts, and he must use all his wit and daring to develop an understanding with Richard the tiger.
Life of Pi takes the reader on an extraordinary journey – geographical, spiritual and emotional. A rare thing, here is a novel that will change your view of the world.
Book Review: Life Of Pi
Yann Martel wrote Life of Pi to reveal his ideas on faith and inner strength. He does this through the character of Piscine Patel, also referred to as Pi – who exhibits qualities such as, immense faith, inner strength, determination, and the will to live, which help him survive his 227-day voyage through the Pacific Ocean.
Life of Pi is a fiction novel, but Martel tells Pi’s story with a very realistic sense. In the Author’s Note, Martel explains how he spoke with Pi and met with him in order to learn about his story as if this was an actual event that had occurred. Throughout Part One of the novel, Martel talks as if this story is true – he even directly states in the Author’s Note that the story is true.
“It is true that those we meet can change us, sometimes so profoundly that we are not the same afterwards, even unto our names.”
Martel begins Life of Pi with a flashback to Pi’s childhood; he uses this to explain his family’s situation, why they were moving to Canada, and Pi’s unique views on life. Within Part One, Pi describes in detail the zoo his father owned and the lesson his father taught him about animals – “every animal is dangerous if you aren’t careful.” Other than describing the zoo, Pi also describes how he came to know three different religions and how he feels about it all, how being involved in these religions effect the way he looks at life. By the end of Part One, we have a deep knowledge and understanding of Pi.
“To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.”
During Part Two, Richard Parker is introduced, we don’t have much knowledge of him except that Pi “has grown to fear him and yet love him”. Richard Parker is a Bengal tiger that is trapped on the lifeboat with Pi, and because of the way Pi felt about Richard Parker, he develops as the novel progresses.
“When you’ve suffered a great deal in life, each additional pain is both unbearable and trifling.”
By the time Part Three roles around, we have a better understanding of Richard Parker, we think, until Martel throws a whole new idea out – what if Richard Parker was solely a metaphor for Pi himself? This might actually be true considering Pi’s mood often reflected in the tiger’s. Through this, we can see great attributes in each of them, Pi adapts easily and quickly in is current situation and also displays faith, hope, and perseverance.
“You must take life the way it comes at you and make the best of it.”
Life of Pi is initially set in Pondicherry, India – Pi’s hometown, while the end of the novel is set in Canada; each place represents a safe haven, which contrasts to most of the novel. The majority of the novel was set on the ocean, in which Pi must learn to survive despite the storms, lack of supplies, and a tiger that essentially threatens his life. The harsh setting of the ocean sets Pi up with trouble from the beginning to the end of his voyage, but with faith and strength, Pi shines through even the toughest of times.
“Life will defend itself no matter how small it is.”
Life of Pi serves a great lesson – to have faith in the toughest of times. You may not be a religious person, but I recommend Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, he does an exceptional job of carrying the theme through to the reader. Chapter after chapter, Pi finds himself with new problems, but it’s the way he deals with these problems that’s extraordinary.