Literary Text: Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Life of Pi is divided into three parts with a total of 100 chapters. Part 1 consists of chapters one to thirty-six and tells of the author’s initial meeting with Piscine Molitor Patel, also known as Pi. Pi retells his life in India before his family’s departure to Canada when Pi is sixteen years old. Part two tells of Pi’s experience being stranded along the Pacific Equatorial counter-current trail. This experience lasts approximately seven months. Part 3 details Pi’s experience in relating his tale back to two Japanese investigators, who don’t believe his story.
The chapters are kept relatively short, especially throughout Part 1. They are told and written like short individuals stories presented in a series.
This would be an excellent book for students who were either juniors or seniors in high school as it uses very advanced language and literary devices. Students of younger age or grade may not understand the concept of the story.
Issues Related to this Study of Literature
Higher Power- Throughout the novel, a common idea presented is the idea of a higher power watching over and being near to everyone. In Life of Pi, Pi follows three main religions—
Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam. He repeatedly explains that his only desire is to “love God” and he will do so in whatever way he feels comfortable. During his time at sea, Pi relies heavily on God to give him strength. In Chapter 63 where he explains his typical day on the boat, he describes praying five times throughout the day (pgs 190-191). This is evidence that Pi, even during probably the hardest trial of his life, still put his faith in God.
Belief in oneself- In this text, Pi relies on himself in order to stay alive. He frequently finds himself becoming discouraged and must put aside the thoughts. He does what he deems necessary so that he might be able to live to tell his tale. When he is being investigated by the Japanese men, no matter how much they criticize his story and demean him, he does not allow them to convince him otherwise. He has firm and unwavering belief in himself (pgs 290-318).
The novel takes place in India, the Pacific Ocean, and Mexico. However, it is important to mention that the author is being told the story at Pi’s home in Canada. While not much is described of this area, the author does detail the appearance of Pi’s home there. In Pondicherry, India Pi’s father runs a zoo.
During the uprisings of the 1970s, Pi’s father chooses to move the family to Canada. It is during their travel aboard a
Japanese shipping boat, that Pi’s journey while lost at sea begins. He spends roughly 7 ½ months at sea and then finds himself on a Mexico beach. He is found and taken to a Mexican hospital where he remains for the final duration of the story.
Point of View/Narrative Voice
The novel is told through the first person, with Pi narrating his story to the author.
Throughout the first part there are multiple chapters told from the author’s perspective. In Part two, the story is told solely through the eyes of Pi as he recount his experience on the lifeboat with
Richard Parker. Part three contains the perspectives of Pi, the Japanese Investigator, and the author.
The various narrative voices provide an added element to the story allowing us to hear what the author sees in Pi before he even hears his story. We are given more glimpses of Pi the man, while the story recounts the tale of Pi the boy. By including the thoughts and words of the Japanese investigator, we are given a skeptical view, perhaps one that a reader may already have. All of these various voices allow us to delve deeper into the stories and the characters.
In the novel, Pi tells of the multiple animals he has watched and eventually befriended