“Showing convincingly how characters develop and so achieve a sense of identity is an essential way in which novelists and poets engage fully with their readers”
Identity, in Life of Pi, is crucial to the storyline and plot. We, as the reader, see the transition of Pi Patel, finding and developing qualities within himself that help him to finally overcome his great ordeal at sea. The one thing, arguably, that keeps Pi alive is identity; the exploration for identity is unique to humanity and is especially unique in Martel’s novel. Pi endures an eternal struggle based around culture, religion and upbringing. The author unravels and develops this search for identity within Pi largely through ironic humour, which makes for an especially interesting read as it is a comical, honest way of showing how the main character finally achieves his sense of identity within religion and culture.
From the outset, Pi’s name plays a fundamental part of his sense of identity. Piscine Molitor tells the reader of how his name came to be from an old family friend nicknamed Mamaji. At first, he conveys pride in the fact that he was named after his idol’s favourite swimming pool, claiming that it “was a pool the god would have delighted to swim in”. It is apparent that at this stage, he identifies himself completely by his name; “I remained faithful to my aquatic guru”. This statement in itself is ironic because Pi would later require faith to conquer the sea, something that he would not refer to as his “guru” after the experience. However, in secondary school, he is mocked for his name and is often called “pissing Patel”. Here, we see him attempt to search for a new sense of identity because he hated the way in which his name was ridiculed, asserting that “the sound would disappear, but the hurt would linger, like the smell of piss long after it has evaporated”. Martel’s use of simile when comparing Pi’s feelings to the smell of “piss” is comical as he utilises the exact thing...
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