Instructor Claudia Gresham
24 February 2014
Literary Analysis of Life of Pi
The novel Life of Pi by Yann Martel is an intriguing story of a boy, a tiger and their perils of life at the hands of the Pacific Ocean. There are many elements of fiction the characters of Pi Patel and Richard Parker. The setting of the limitless Pacific Ocean, the many different themes like survival and religion, and the symbolism of the color orange are all very important elements in this story that will also be analyzed. Together, the significant elements of characterization, setting, theme and symbolism draw the reader in and will keep the reader on the edge of their seat while reading Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. Characterization is the first very important element in Life of Pi, especially the characterization of Pi Patel. Piscine Molitor Patel is the protagonist in the novel, lost at sea after the devastating sinking of the Tsimtsum that killed his mother, father and brother. His name comes from the famous swimming pool in Paris called the Piscine Molitor. Pi grows up as the son of a zookeeper in Pondicherry, India. He is described as “a small, slim man—no more than five foot five. Dark hair, dark eyes” (Martel, 7). During his childhood, Pi (who is already a Hindu) adopts the Christian and Muslim religions. Pi is very passionate about religion and states “Since when I could remember, religion had been very close to my heart” (Martel, 27). As a child, everyone always mispronounced his name as “pissing”. The other children would say things like “Where’s Pissing? I’ve got to go.” Or “You’re facing the wall. Are you Pissing?” (Martel, 20). This nickname affects him so drastically that the pain stays with him until adulthood. When he starts a new school, Petit Séminaire, he does everything he can to give himself the new nickname of Pi to avoid the mispronunciation of his name. Pi is the narrator throughout the second section of the book. He is a middle aged man with a wife, kids and a job at this point. He is sixteen years old when the Tsimtsum sinks, leaving him desperate and alone with no family left. On the day he realizes his family is really gone, is when his grief really hit him. He states “I lay down on the tarpaulin and spent the whole night weeping and grieving, my face buried in my arms” (Martel, 128). Pi must now overcome the grief of losing his family and become independent and self-sufficient. Pi is forced to grow up while he is in the vast Pacific Ocean and his survival instincts start to kick in. He finds a survival guide and learns how to fish, quickly realizing that he does not have the luxury of being a vegetarian anymore. This is an internal struggle that he has to face, but he now realizes how important it is to his survival to eat meat. Pi learns how to protect himself from the dangers of the ocean and the Bengal tiger (Richard Parker) this is inhabiting the lifeboat with him. Pi relies a lot on god to help him through his 227 day journey. He prays daily and thanks god for everything. Characterization of Richard Parker is another very important element in Life of Pi. Richard Parker is the antagonist in the story, although this depends on which of the two stories the reader choses to believe. Richard Parker is a 450 pound, 9 foot long Bengal tiger who finds his way onto the lifeboat with Pi. Pi spots the panicked tiger in the water right as the ship goes under and encourages him to swim to the lifeboat. He is muscular with a glossy coat of bright orange and black fur. Martel writes, “Richard Parker was so named because of a clerical error” (Martel, 132). He was found as a cub by a hunter whose name was Richard Parker. He was originally named “Thirsty” by the hunter, but there was a mix-up when he was brought to the Pondicherry Zoo and his name ended up being Richard Parker on all of his paperwork. The name stuck. He spends the majority of his life at the Pondicherry Zoo being taken care of by the zookeepers....
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Martel, Yann. Life of Pi: A Novel. New York: Harcourt, 2001. Print.
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