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

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The Life of Pi by Yann Martel: Summary / Booknotes




The protagonist of a story is the main character who traditionally undergoes some sort of change. He or she must usually overcome some opposing force. The protagonist in this story, Pi, is also the narrator. Therefore the reader gains understanding through Piís point of view. He is a young man who is confident about his knowledge of zoology, but eager to learn more. He respects and appreciates the beauty of Hinduism, the religion he was born into, but is still striving to find his connection with God. Pi has not done anything to cause his life-threatening situation.


The antagonist of a story is the force that provides an obstacle for the protagonist. The antagonist does not always have to be a single character or even a character at all.

On the surface, it would appear that the antagonists here are Richard Parker and Nature. Piís hardships at sea begin with the threat presented by the tiger, and progress to surviving starvation and the elements. However, the real conflict is an internal struggle. Pi must maintain his faith in order to survive, but he must compromise his beliefs in order to live. For example, he includes prayer in his daily routine at sea, but he must kill and forego vegetarianism to stay alive. Pi Patel is a seeker of knowledge and a seeker of God. He is striving to choose ďthe better storyĒ for his life.


The climax of a plot is the major turning point that allows the protagonist to resolve the conflict. The climax in this story comes in Part Three of the book. The reader has known all along that Pi survived his ordeal because it is he who is narrating the story. So none of the drama at sea is truly climactic. The twist at the end, when Pi reluctantly offers a second story devoid of animals and devoid of faith, brings the climax. Pi allows Mr. Okamoto and Mr. Chiba to believe the second story if they choose, but presses them to confess which story they think is better.


The outcome, resolution, or denouement of this is that both men admit the first story is better. This reaffirms Piís own beliefs (even though the men may or may not really believe the story). Mr. Okamoto chooses to include the first story in his official report. However, the ultimate outcome is left to the reader because which story is actually true is never firmly established.

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