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Free Study Guide for Life of Pi by Yann Martel Book Summary

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LITERARY ELEMENTS

SETTING

The story is initially set in India in the late 1990ís. The author has traveled to Pondicherry, a coastal town in the former French territory of India, which joined Independent India in 1954. The territory of Pondicherry still has many French citizens, as well as an unusually wide variety of churches/places of worship. The author then travels to Canada to interview Pi Patel, the narrator of the story, but little of the actual story is set there, save the authorís observations of the adult Piís home.

Pi grew up in Pondicherry in the mid-1970ís, but the setting for the greater part of his story is the Pacific Ocean, specifically along the equatorial counter-current which runs east to west along the equator. The last pages are set in Mexico where Pi recovers from his 227 day ordeal at sea.


CHARACTER LIST


Major Characters


Piscine Molitor Patel (Pi)
Pi is the main character/protagonist of the story. He is a teenage Indian boy, son of a zookeeper. He practices three religions, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. His faith and knowledge of animal psychology help him survive 227 days at sea in a lifeboat with a 450 pound Bengal tiger.

Richard Parker
He is the Bengal tiger that becomes Piís nemesis as well as his reason for living. The tiger ended up with a human name as the result of a clerical error where the name of the tiger, Thirsty, and the name of his captor, Richard Parker, were accidentally reversed.



Minor Characters


The Author
Though it would seem unusual to include the author as a character, in Life of Pi, the author is more than a narrator. He interacts with the adult Pi as well as describes Piís home, family, cooking, etc. The character of the author adds authenticity to the story by reminding the reader periodically that the narration coming from Pi is the result of an interview process, not just the spinning of a tale.

Francis Adirubasamy
He is a close friend of the Patel family and a former competitive swimmer. He teaches Pi to swim. Pi refers to him as Mamaji, mama meaning uncle and ji indicating respect and affection. He is also the man who refers the author to Pi for the ďstory that will make you believe in God.Ē

Pi's Father (Santosh Patel)
Piís father is the owner/keeper of the Pondicherry Zoo. He teaches Pi the finer points of animal care and control, along with respect for the animalsí strength. He dies in the shipwreck.

Pi's Mother (Gita Patel)
Piís mother is loving and nurturing, especially in the area of education. She reads widely and shares her books with Pi. She dies in the shipwreck, or, she may have had the role of the orangutan in Piís second story.

Ravi
He is Piís older brother who loves to tease Pi. Unlike Pi, he is popular and athletic. Nonetheless, the brothers are close. He dies in the shipwreck.

Mr. Satish Kumar
He is an excellent biology teacher who finds nature to be an illustration of the logic of science. He is an atheist, and through him Pi learns to accept atheists as believers - but of another faith. This Mr. Kumar inspires Pi to study zoology in college.

Mr. Satish Kumar
Ironically, this man of faith has the same name as the atheist science teacher. He is a shopkeeper in the Muslim section of town. He is also a Sufi, a Muslim mystic. Pi feels that Mr. Kumarís shop/home is a sacred place and learns to practice Islam there. This Mr. Kumar inspires Pi to study religion in college.

Father Martin
He is the Catholic priest who exemplifies Christís love to Pi. He meets with Pi several times, each time explaining that Jesus Christ lived the way He did because of love. Father Martin unknowingly catalyzes Piís acceptance of multiple faiths.

Mr. Tomohiro Okamoto
He is the senior representative from the Japanese Ministry of Transport. He and Mr. Chiba question Pi in Mexico about the sinking of the Tsimtsum and about Piís incredible survival story. He is reluctant to believe the story.

Mr. Atsuro Chiba
He is the junior representative from the Japanese Ministry Of Transportation who accompanies Mr. Okamoto to Mexico. He sees deeper meaning in Piís story, but goes along with whatever Mr. Okamoto says.


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