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Chapter Summary In the opening chapters of Life of Pi, we are introduced to two separate narrators and narratives. One of the narrators is the author and his narrative of writing the book; the second is adult Pi and the recollection of his life. The Author’s Note gives us the background story of how the author came to write this book. We learn that he began to write a novel about Portugal in 1939, but during his trip to India, he abandons that idea. Instead, he is told about a story that “will make [him] believe in God” (x).
Chapter Summary Chapters 1-3 introduce us to the character of Pi. In chapter 1, we learn that adult Pi graduated with degrees in zoology and religious studies while living in Canada. Chapter 2 is the author’s narrative in which we get a physical description of adult Pi. In chapter 3, we learn about Mamaji and the reason Pi’s full name is Piscine Molitor Patel.
Chapter Summary In chapter 4 we are reintroduced to the theme of zoology and religion. Pi tells us about the zoo his family owned in Pondicherry and the similarities he sees between animal behavior and human religious behavior. In chapter 5, we return to the theme of Pi’s name. We learn that Pi tires of the constant teasing of his full name and shortens his name to Pi, after the mathematical number 3.14 and Greek
Chapter Summary Chapter 6 is part of the Author’s narrative and we learn that adult Pi stocks a wide variety of food stuffs. Chapter 7 introduces us to Mr. Kumar and Pi’s observation that in life one must believe in something. In chapter 8, Pi learns a valuable lesson about the dangers of anthropomorphizing animals.
Chapter Summary In Chapters 9-11 and 13-14, Pi expands on his theories of animal behavior. We learn that animals crave familiarity and order. Animals feel the need to understand and control their surroundings. Similarly they crave some kind of order or hierarchy, so they know their place. Pi implies that man isn’t all that different. Chapter 12 is part of the Author’s narrative and we learn that Pi’s story (and
Themes There are several intertwined themes introduced in these opening chapters. However this presentation will focus on the nature of belief and human/animal behavior. In the author’s note we are told that Pi’s story “will make [one] believe in God” (x). This seems to imply that at some level this novel will address the issue of faith and belief. This idea is further reinforced in Chapter 8, when Pi tells of Mr. Kumar, his atheist biology teacher. Although Pi doesn’t agree with Mr. Kumar’s beliefs, he respects the fact that Mr. Kumar believes in something. Pi lets us know that people must believe in something and reasons that “to
Themes A great deal of this section of the book deals with animal behavior and its similarity to human behavior. In chapter 4, Pi tells us that animals are conservative in the sense that “they want things to be just so, day after day, month after month” (16). He says that humans are the exact same way. What animals (and humans) “hate above all else…is the unknown” (41). All animals (including humans) crave security and control. Furthermore, he claims that humans mistakenly think that animals in zoos crave the “freedom” of the wild. Pi believes that these “illusions about freedom” plague both zoos and religion (19).
Themes Similarly, animals also need some kind of social order or hierarchy. He claims that “until it knows its rank for certain, the animal lives a life of unbearable anarchy” (44). Pi uses the example of the circus lion tamer to show how this theory works. He says that social control is psychological in nature not physical. The circus lion tamer manipulates the lion’s fear and doubt in order to “make it clear to it where it stands, the very thing it wants to know” (44).
Keyword Definitions Animalus Anthropomorphicus Context: “Father believed there was another animal more dangerous to us…the redoubtable species Animalus anthropomorphicus” (31). Definition: “the animal as seen through human eyes” (31) or giving animals human characteristics or values. Significance: Pi states that there is danger in understanding animals as having human qualities and that this action is extremely arrogant of man to do so.
Keyword Definitions Agnostic Context: “It is not atheists who get stuck in my craw, but agnostics” (28). Definition: “one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god” (Websters Dictionary). Significance: In Pi’s opinion, an agnostic is someone who lives in constant doubt. Pi firmly believes that one has to make a decision on what to believe.
Keyword Definition Hejira Context: “But just as he planned his flight to Medina, the Hejira that would mark the beginning of Muslim time” (21). Definition: “the flight of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in 622 which marked the beginning of the Muslim era; the Muslim calendar begins in that year” (dictionary.com) Significance: In this passage, Pi equates his “flight” from his full name Piscine to Pi with the prophet Muhammad’s flight. It also marks a new “time” for him.
Discussion Questions In the Author’s Note, Martel defines the purpose of fiction as “the selective transforming of reality” and “the twisting of [reality] to bring out its essence” (viii). What does this mean and how might this view affect we read Life of Pi? Similarly, Martel also says that “If we, citizens, do not support our artists, then we sacrifice our imagination on the alter of cruel reality and we end up believing in nothing and having worthless dreams” (xii). What is the significance of this statement? How does it directly relate to what Pi says in his narrative.
Discussion Questions In Chapter 4, Pi goes to great lengths to let us know that zoo animals don’t really want “freedom” from the zoos, as humans mistakenly think. He says that religion, like zoos, are faced with “certain illusions about freedom” (19). What does he mean? Is this positive or negative? About his name, Pi says that “in that Greek letter that looks like a shack with a corrugated tin roof, in that elusive, irrational number with which scientists try to understand the universe, I found refuge” (24). What is the significance of this statement. How does it relate to everything else he says?
Discussion Questions Pi says that “the obsession with putting ourselves at the centre of everything is the bane not only of theologians but also of zoologists” (31). What might this mean? How is this significant in terms of what he says about the similarities between zoos and religion?