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.

  • Piscine Patel (Pi) – The main character and narrator of the story in the novel, Pi is a teenage Indian boy. His father ran a zoo and he practices three major religions – Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. The knowledge his father gives him about animals is key to his surviving in a lifeboat with Richard Parker, the400 pound Tiger.
  • Richard Parker – The 450 pound tiger and 227 day companion to Pi on the lifeboat, Richard Parker becomes not only Pi’s arch nemesis, but his closest friend and only reason to stay alive on the boat. Often taking on numerous human characteristics, Richard Parker is an ambiguous silent character throughout the novel.
  • The Author – Only present as a voice in the first Chapter (directly) the author here is a narrator as well as a man seeking a story, which he finds in Pi. He later describes bits of Pi’s life as well as interacting with the adult Pi as he tells the story.
  • Francis Adirubasamy - A close friend of the Patel family and a world class swimmer, it is Francis who is responsible for Pi’s name as well as sending the author to Toronto to hear Pi’s story.
  • Pi’s Father – A zookeeper with strong political views and a habit of teaching his son all that he can about animals and their psychology. He dies after the ship sinks.
  • Pi’s Mother – A caring woman and a natural educator, Pi’s mother reads a lot and shares what she can with her son. In Pi’s first story she dies on the boat. In his second, she is one of the survivors who eventually die on the boat.
  • Ravi – Pi’s brother who becomes everything that Pi is not, popular and athletic. They are very close before he dies in the shipwreck.
  • Satish Kumar'– Pi’s biology teacher and a masterful scientist who teaches Pi much of his thirst for knowledge. He is a natural atheist and teaches Pi the faith of an atheist as well as the desire to study zoology in college.
  • Mr. Satish Kumar (Sufi) – The other Satish Kumar is a shopkeeper in the Muslim part of town and introduces Pi to Islam.
  • Father Martin – A catholic priest who introduces Pi to Jesus Christ and the Catholic faith. They meet often and talk of Christ’s works, breeding in Pi the desire to accept multiple faiths.
  • Tomohiro Okamoto and Atsuro Chiba – The two men from the Japanese Ministry of Transport who arrive on behalf of the Tsimtsum sinking to question Pi about his story of survival. They do not immediately believe him but consent to writing his story up in their report.

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