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

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[Page numbers are from the paperback edition, Harcourt, 2001.]

1. “I have a story that will make you believe in God.” Author’s Note p. x This is spoken by Francis Adirubasamy to the author. At first the reader may think the story is about believing in a religion but it is not. It is not about holding on to the particulars, but about having faith in something beyond what is seen. At the end of the book the reader may choose to believe or not.

2. “If we citizens do not support our artists, then we sacrifice our imagination on the altar of crude reality and we end up believing in nothing and having worthless dreams.” Author’s Note p. xii

The author is thanking the Canada Council for the Arts for their support, but he is also encouraging the promotion of the better story.

3. “But religion is more than rite and ritual. There is what the rite and ritual stand for.” p. 48

Pi is describing the sights, sounds, and smells of Hinduism. He goes on to explain the fundamentals of that religion. He sees the world from a Hindu perspective, but cautions against fundamentalism. This points out again that it is not about the particulars of the religion, but about faith.

4. “Tree took account of road, which was aware of air, which was mindful of sea, which shared things with sun. Every element lived in harmonious relation with its neighbour, and all was kith and kin.” p. 62

Pi is returning home from a visit with Mr. Kumar, the Sufi. He has a feeling that the connectedness of all things has been revealed to him by God.

5. “I felt like a small circle coinciding with the center of a larger one.” p. 62

This is another part of Pi’s revelation. He has a sense of peace, unity, and harmony resulting from his ability to weave three religions and science into his personal belief system. The circle simile is appropriate for someone named Pi.

6. “The presence of God is the finest of rewards.” p. 63

Pi is pleased with the spirituality he has achieved. He has just described two instances where he felt that God had come close to him. With three religions he can strive for three times the presence.

7. “Jesus, Mary, Muhammad and Vishnu, how good to see you Richard Parker!” p. 97

Pi is shipwrecked and sees Richard Parker swimming toward him. There is ironic humor in his multi-religious exclamation (one of many). Also, not yet knowing who Richard Parker is, the reader is led to believe momentarily that someone else has survived the wreck.

8. “After a thorough investigation, I made a complete list:

!" 192 tablets of anti-seasickness medicine !" 124 tin cans of fresh water, each containing 500 milliliters, so 62 liters in all !" 32 plastic vomit bags .........

!" 1 boy with a complete set of light clothing but for one lost shoe !" 1 spotted hyena !" 1 Bengal tiger !" 1 lifeboat !" 1 ocean !" 1 God” p. 145-146

Pi makes a very specific, quantitative list that goes on for two pages. The last entries on the list are both humorous and philosophical. Pi has God with him, even alone in the middle of the ocean.

9. “Only fear can defeat life.” p. 161

Pi is explaining the dangers of fear, but at the same time seems to be talking himself out of being afraid. Fear can cause the loss of belief and the loss of reason. The “light of words” defeats fear by not allowing your mind to wallow in it.

10. “It came as an unmistakable indication to me of how low I had sunk the day I noticed, with a pinching of the heart, that I ate like an animal, that this noisy, frantic, unchewing wolfing-down of mine was exactly the way Richard Parker ate.” p. 225

Pi kills and eats quickly so he can get his share before having to give it up to Richard Parker. He has become like an animal. Animals are not accountable to God for their actions. This scene comes at a time when Pi’s faith has waned.

11. “I know what you want. You want a story that won’t surprise you. That will confirm what you already know. That won’t make you see higher or further or differently.”

Pi is angry that the Japanese men do not believe his story. The have told him they want to know what really happened. This quote brings the climax of the story. Pi will tell a second story, without animals, about his survival. He will then press the men into confessing which they thought was the better story.

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Life of Pi Study Guide Free BookNotes Plot Summary
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