Life of Pi Study Guide

Life of Pi

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Life of Pi by Yann Martel tells the story of a young man named Pi Patel, whose family owns a zoo in India. They decide to move to Canada and transport their zoo, but the ship they were sailing across the Atlantic encounters a storm and sinks. Pi is the only survivor, as he finds himself on a lifeboat with a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and Bengal tiger he names Richard Parker.

The two arrive on an island made entirely of plant mass. There is only green, which Pi finds soothing as his favorite color and the shade of Islam, but Pi thinks it to be an illusion until he steps on it and smells the plants. He falls to the ground and decides to taste the algae, a sugary coating and salty inside. He weeps in joy at having found food after going to sit under the shade of a tree.

Richard Parker also leaves the boat, with all the strength he can muster and leaves for the midst of the island. Afraid of the tiger claiming the island as his own, Pi returns to the boat after eating and resting, to be joined later by a much livelier and fed Richard Parker.

The next day, the two return to the island and eat again. After Pi returns to the boat, Richard Parker comes charging at him. He tries to stop him with the whistle, but the discomfort of the tiger forces him into the water where he swims toward the boat instead.

The next day, the two go out for more of the same, regaining their strength. Pi attempts walking for the first time again and they are feeling much healthier. After another day, Pi decides to explore the island a bit, seeing all kinds of ponds, trees and thousands of tiny meerkats. The meerkats are huddled around a pond snagging fish from below and Pi soon joins them by soaking the fresh water of the pond. Richard Parker soon arrives and decimates the meerkats. They simply allow it, not knowing anything of predators on their algae island.

After a few more days, Pi cleans out the lifeboat and explores the island further. He decides it must about 7 miles in diameter and 20 miles around. He continues and makes further scientific judgments of the algae on the island as well.

As time passes, the two regain much of their health and strength. With the tiger regaining so much strength, Pi decides to resume training to keep him safe. He teaches the tiger how to jump through hoops, not quite able to teach him the more complicated rolling hoop tricks.

On a particular night, Pi decides to sleep in a tree with the thousands of meerkats that climb them every night. In the morning all of the furry little creatures crawl off of him and head for the ponds. He eventually brings supplies and continues sleeping in the trees, enjoying the meerkats’ company. One night, he notices a dead fish in the pond that causes the meerkats to yell. In the morning the dead fish is gone.

In further travels on the island, Pi finds that the island may be carnivorous with a tree that holds a human tooth. He tests this by dropping a meerkat onto the algae at night and watching it scurry back up the tree. He decides that the island emits some kind of acid at night to digest whatever is still on it. It’s time to leave the island. When he leaves, he brings a plentiful supply of water, meerkats, and fish as well as some of the algae (though it dissolves at night in the acid). He waits for Richard Parker and when the tiger returns sets back out to wander the sea in his boat.

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