Life of Pi Study Guide

Life of Pi By Yann Martel

Piscine Molitor Patel is named after a famous swimming pool in Paris, and the most significant events of his life are all about water - but not in a positive way. His father is an zookeeper, and when political events force the family to move, he loads everything up on a ship bound for Toronto, Canada.

The ship is wrecked, and Pi (so nicknamed because his full first name sounds too much like "pissing" for his own taste) is the sole human survivor -- but he ends up on a lifeboat with a zebra and a hyena.

Passing nights see him rescuing first an orangutan who is riding the waves on a pile of bananas, and then "Richard Parker" -- his father's 450 pound Bengal Tiger.

Over the next weeks, the hyena eats the zebra, and then the orangutan, and then Richard Parker eats the hyena. Pi realizes he isn't safe, and sets up a raft behind his lifeboat to which he can retreat. Slowly, he learns to fish, and trains Richard Parker with an emergency whistle and some fish. They don't get enough to eat, and both get quite weak.

Pi goes blind from malnutrition, and some time later, comes across another man who is also stranded on a lifeboat, and is also blind from malnutrition. The man tries to kill Pi for food, but Richard Parker kills the man and eats him instead. Pi cries for the loss of the man's life, and his tears help to clear out his eyes. He finds some food on the other boat, and starts to regain his strength.

He comes across an island populated with meerkats, which Richard Parker eats; and algae, which Pi eats. He is happy there and lives there for a few weeks, until he finds evidence of a previous man's death and realizes that the island isn’t a permanent home. He coaxes Richard Parker back onto the boat, and they leave.

Finally, he arrives in Mexico, where Richard Parker immediately and permanently vanishes into the forest, and he relays his story to an incredulous village.

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