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

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FREE PLOT SUMMARY / NOTES: LIFE OF PI


CHAPTERS 18, 19, 20


Summary

A year later, Pi feels the same timid curiosity he had about a church, this time about the Great Mosque. He describes the building, but dares not go in. He wanders along the adjacent buildings to a bakery. Here, while speaking to the owner, Pi hears the muezzin (a servant at the mosque who leads the call to prayer), and in response the owner immediately excuses himself. Pi watches the owner go through the gestures and prayers of Muslim worship. Later, while kneeling still at church, Pi remembers the yoga-like physical Islamic way of praying.

Pi returns to the bakery to inquire about Islam. The man tells Pi, “It is about the Beloved.” They go together to the mosque and Pi takes pleasure in bowing to the ground to pray.

The baker is also a Sufi, a Muslim mystic. His name is Satish Kumar, the same as Pi’s biology teacher. Pi prays with him and feels that Mr. Kumar’s home is a sacred place. One day, on his way home from praying with Mr. Kumar, Pi experiences a profound feeling of the connectedness of all things natural and divine. He recounts a later experience of the nearness of God that happened in Canada. He had a vision of the Virgin Mary (in Christianity, the Mother of Christ).

Pi is now happily practicing three religions. “The presence of God is the finest of rewards.”


Notes

Two of the themes are brought out in these chapters, the syncretic approach to religion and the importance of the better story. Regardless of the methods of worship, to Pi, it is all about believing in something beyond the tangible. This belief allows Pi to experience the better story. “Atman met Allah.” The universal spiritual force and God have come together.

The third theme is also hinted at, the idea that science and religion are both ways to understand the world. Mr. Kumar the teacher and Mr. Kumar the Sufi are both the “prophets” of Pi’s youth. One inspires him to science, the other to religion. There is also a real-life Satish Kumar. He is a former Jain monk from India who literally walked across the world to promote disarmament and raise awareness of the beauty and connectedness of all things. His book, Path Without Destination, describes his journey and his beliefs and makes him a likely inspiration for the characters of Mr. and Mr. Kumar.


CHAPTER 21


Summary

The author reflects on his afternoon with Pi. He writes down his impressions of Pi’s concepts of “dry, yeastless factuality” and “the better story.”

Notes

This brief reflection demonstrates that the author understands Pi’s perspective on life. He understands the common thread of Pi’s three religions, love. Though only half a page long, Chapter 21 represents the heart of the novel. Along with the paragraph that follows, i.e. Chapter 22, the whole point of the novel is revealed.


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