Setting in Life of Pi

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Setting/Historical Element

The time and place that the novel, The Life of Pi by Yann Martel, starts with Piscine Monitor Patel as a middle-aged man in Toronto, Canada recalling his early life, beginning in Pondicherry. Pondicherry is a French colony in India in which Pi grows up. He and his family are zookeepers and decide to emigrate with their zoo animals to Canada in 1977 on a Japanese cargo ship. When a storm sinks their ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and Pi is the only survivor with a bengal tiger named Richard Parker, they float lost at sea for 227 days. He lands on a carnivorous island populated by thousands of meerkats that is somewhat of a utopia by day, but becomes toxic at night, causing Pi to float on his boat again until reaching the coast of Mexico. He then recovers and moves to Canada.

1977 was around the height of power of the Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, while the economy in an upheaval and the family felt nervous about the future outcome of their zoo. Pi’s family worried about their own welfare and their current low funds for the zoo, and feels safer moving away. Growing up in a French colony many received mixed messages about religion and Pi embraced many spiritual connections, though mainly in Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. His family allowed his own beliefs despite his father primarily believing in reason and his mother closely related to her religion.

On his voyage to Canada, he and his family were discriminated for being vegetarian “curry eaters” by the crew. Though they were serving his family as crew, they still felt superior to them as Indians. Pi suffered loads of depression stranded on his lifeboat alone with a tiger in the middle of the ocean. Handling the death of his family, the anxiety and fear of starvation, danger of being killed by the tiger on other sea creatures, drowning, and several others crushes him in life changing ways. The novel added to an understanding of Indian history when there was a diaspora...
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