Life of Pi

Every once in a while, you read a book you can truly call absolutely fabulous. Life of Pi, by Yann Martel was one of those, at least for me. A simple story: 16-year-old Pi and his family, and some of their zoo animals, are on a cargo ship headed from Pondicherry, India to Canada, where they planned to immigrate. The ship sinks. Pi find himself in a lifeboat with an injured zebra, an orang-utan, a heyena and a Bengal tiger. The tiger finishes off the other animals, and Pi finds himself alone with the tiger. And survives. For 227 days. The introduction to the story has a character saying the story will “make you believe in God.” I’m not sure about that. It did engross me, thrill me, amaze me and fill me with wonder. I couldn’t put it down.

13 thoughts on “Life of Pi

  1. Melissa – could you explain really what you liked about the book? I found the book disturbing – mostly because of the descriptions of the tiger eating the other animals in the boat. I found this unnecessarily brutal, and couldn’t concentrate on the main theme of the book after that (which I’m not really sure of anyway). But so many people enjoyed the book that I’m puzzled about what I missed. Thanks.

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  2. Oscar,

    First off, I usually don’t sit and think about what I like or don’t like about a book. It’s usually a visceral reaction: I either like a book or I don’t. I didn’t, for example, like either Cold Mountain or Angela’s Ashes, in spite of what everyone said.

    So, what did I like? I liked the first chapters, when we were getting to know Pi. I liked how he discovered Christianity and Islam. I liked how he survived the ordeal on the sea — I liked his ingenuity and resourcefulness. I was grossed out when the tiger killed the Frenchman, but I chalked it up to the animalistic experience. I didn’t “get” the meercats and tooth tree, but I don’t think it bothered me that I didn’t get it. I liked the conversation with the Japanese guys at the end.

    Russell brought up the possibility that the made-up story he told to his interviewers — the one about the cook and cannibalism — was the “real” story. I, on the other hand, am perfectly willing to believe that the story told is what really “happened”.

    As for what it’s about? Survival. Endurance. Life. Wonder. God? I don’t know about that, but I can see that his survival was a miracle.

    Anyway. Hope this helps.

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  3. Wayne M. says:

    I was looking for something “different” to read and picked this up solely on your high recommendation. I found it fascinating, engrossing and thought provoking. Thank you very much for a really good read, even though I am totally confused about the entire island episode. I have noticed, by the way, in reading other reviews of Life of Pi that no one else has an explanation for it, the merkeets or the teeth. A small blip on an otherwise totally enjoyable experience.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    to whom it may concern…i am a fourteen year old girl who read the Life of Pi. i found it one of the most fascinating and thought-provoking reads i have ever had the pleasure to enjoy. like many other readers, i couldn’t put it down for a second. i wasn’t even grossed out by the tiger’s brutal killing of the other animals. it was neccessary to tell that; i don’t think the book would have the same intensity or engrossing quality it does without relating these happenings. so i didn’t mind it. as for the meercats and the tooth tree, i’m not sure whether my interpretation was correct about this but-Pi was so horrified because he realized, first, that the island was carnivorous. it’s sort of like the concept of a Venus fly trap, which is a carnivorous plant. the island let its vegetation float in the shallow pools underneath. fish drifted up into these shallow pools and got entangled. the vegetation slowly killed them with its acid. that is why Pi couldn’t find any fish in the pools. they were all stuck underneath slowly dying from the island’s acid. in the nighttime, the ground also became acidic. that’s why the meercats climbed up into the tree. they knew the ground became dangerous. when Pi tested the ground himself, he was in agony from the high acid content of the ground. okay. now that that’s cleared up, onto the tooth tree. Pi figured out that a long time ago, some person must have found the island. like him, the person decided to take shelter, finding the island plentiful in flora and fauna. also like him, the person slept in the tree. however the tree itself was acidic, not enough to induce agony, but enough to kill him/her slowly. Pi reasoned that the person stopped moving (from depression and loss of hope), and just sat gazing out of the tree. gradually the vines wrapped around the person, and by then they were too far gone to care. slowly the acid wore away at the person’s bones, and finally devoured him/her. the undeceasable parts of the body (like teeth) traveled slowly up the vines and finally the tree built up a round covering of leaves around each tooth. that is why Pi was filled with such disgust and horror. the tree (and the island) had eaten the person alive. yes, it’s gruesome, but in some way it was fascinating. nature is so amazing.anyway, i hope this makes sense and cleared something up for someone.

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  5. Certainly you have restated the occurrence of his experience on the island but what was the analogy of the island. Did he actually come upon land? I just finished it but the island is really bothering me. I haven’t went back to look for all clues but I almost want to say that the main lifeboat was the island. His delirium had him thinking this and the teeth were that of the Chinese kid. Anyone else have a better reason?

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Oscar, i think you need to stop, and think.It is a wonderful book full of surprises and wonder. Get your head around the fact that animals eat other animals and it wasn’t even that bad. So you need to suck it up, read it again, be a man, and realize that it is an amazing book that you are missing out on.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    The meerkats were the ones that never face up to dangers and always run away. The island in itself is symbolic to the garden of Eden, because it is like stumbling upon paradise. The tree with the teeth wrapped in leaves are the ‘forbidden fruit’ which once they are discovered will make the paradise fall apart.

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  8. Rob says:

    I think there are a lot of people taking the story literally, it is an analogy of Pi’s experience. The reason that he offers the two stories as options is an analogy for faith, his point being neither story made a difference to the outcome or the reason that the ship sunk in the first place, therefore what difference does it make in what reality you experience (islam, hindu or christianity), reality has to be subjective as we all interpret life differently.Anyway, I came here looking for an explanation for the island as I do not really get that part. My feeling is that it was representative of his shock and horror in realising that something so good and seemingly harmless as Pi (read algae) could become a man eater. This happens just after the tiger (read Pi) kills the French cook so it follows that the island experience would be at the time when Pi ate the cook. I think the island represents his horror and revulsion at himself for doing this.Just my opinion though…

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  9. Gian M says:

    Here is my take on the whole island situation… Like Rob, I always felt the island had some relation to Pi himself. When he first arrives on the island he is greeted by shade, food, and comfort. The island is a simple, peaceful place, devoid of any sort of problems and convolutions… much like Pi. Until he killed the cook on the life boat, and experienced the horrors of his ordeal, Pi was a loving, kind, virtuous human being. The island represents the change he encountered while on the ocean… the almost supernatural change of being a kind, god loving mortal, to a horrified, cannibalistic, desperate shell of a person. The island is at first pure comfort, and then becomes a nightmare. Pi was a gentle human being, and now a murderous cannibal. I am not the most eloquent writer, but I hope that my idea is comprehensible. This part of the book disturbed me greatly the first time I read it and I think that it deserves analysis.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    The part about the island was bugging me forever about the book. I got all the other representations in the book except that, now I totally understand the book, and for that, I thank you. I love Life of Pi.

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  11. The shape of the island was a woman lying on her back. Pi ate from the island (human flesh) and the meercats represent maggots. he finally finds a human tooth, which is inedible.

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