Life of Pi

Life of Pi Summary and Analysis of Part 1, Chapters 12-28


The author mentions that Pi sometimes gets agitated by his own story, and that the author is tortured by the spiciness of the food Pi makes for him.

Pi explains that an animal will attack you for entering its enclosure only because you have threatened its territory, and that most hostile behavior is the expression of social insecurity. The socially inferior animals will make the greatest effort to befriend the alpha-human, be he the lion tamer or the zookeeper, because they have the most to gain from his friendship and his protection from the other animals.

The author describes Pi’s house, which is filled with religious symbols and idols and articles of devotion-but of many different religions, not just one. Pi describes the time when his Auntie Rohini takes him, as an infant, on his first trip to a temple, thereby beginning his religious life. Pi then describes what it is that makes him a Hindu, and why he has been a Hindu his whole life, but why that does not have to mean he is closed off from ideas outside of Hinduism, and why all religions are connected.

When he is fourteen, Pi and his family go on a trip to Munnar. While exploring the place, Pi comes upon a Christian church. He watches the priest, then returns to the church the next day and has tea with Father Martin. Father Martin explains the story of Christ and his death, but Pi finds the tale irritating: he cannot believe it.

He meets with Father Martin for three days straight, continuing to ask questions. On his last day in Munnar, Pi tells Father Martin that he wants to be a Christian, and Father Martin tells him that he already is, for he has met Christ in good faith.

When he is fifteen, Pi comes upon the Muslim section of Pondicherry while exploring his neighborhood. He ends up in a small bakery, and while he is talking to the baker, the call to prayer comes and Pi watches the baker pray. He finds the physicality of it satisfying.

Pi returns to see the baker and asks him about Islam, which he finds beautiful. The baker, named Satish Kumar, allows Pi to explore this faith, and Pi recounts two experiences during which he encounters God.

The author considers what Pi has said about religion in an aside, and then Pi imagines an atheist and an agnostic on their respective deathbeds, which for him exemplifies why he can respect the first but not the second—one has belief where the other only has doubt.

Pi’s parents find out that he is a practicing Hindu, Christian, and Muslim, when they run into his priest, imam and pandit at the same time. The three religious men, upon realizing that each has only a third of Pi, break into heated arguments over whose is the true religion. Pi says that he just wants to love God, which quiets the three of them effectively. Ravi then finds out about Pi’s tri-piousness, and mocks him for it. Pi finds it harder to practice his religions as people react to his multiplicity of beliefs.

Pi asks his father for a prayer rug and to be baptized. His father tries to convince him to pick one religion, and tells him to talk to his mother, who tries to convince him of the same thing. He is unswayed. Pi overhears his parents discussing his religious fervor. They decide to just accept it, and wait for it to pass: Pi gets his prayer rug and is baptized.


This section deals primarily with one of Pi’s central characteristics—his piousness. Pi here tells the story of how he became Hindu, Christian, and Muslim, and it becomes clear to the reader that God is central to Pi, and was even in his early years. That this kind of piousness is unique becomes equally evident when we see the three holy men in Pi’s life fight with each other over whose religion is best. Even the men who have helped Pi to find God in so many different ways become divisive over details.

This section also illuminates Pi’s devotion to his religions, for we see him up against many obstacles. The holy men themselves do not want to share him with other religions, his parents would prefer he were as secular as they were, and his brother mocks him. Even the religious communities see him differently once they know that he is not solely devoted to any one of their respective creeds. Yet none of this dims Pi’s dedication to his three religions, and to God.

However, after this section, Pi’s piousness is never again quite as central to the narrative, and during his suffering at sea, though he makes allusions to spirituality, his physical fight for survival dominates. Thus, his dedication to God here, which requires overcoming obstacles, only serves to emphasize the overpowering nature of his fight for survival later, as that fight seems to diminish his devotion to God.

This section also reiterates the theme of storytelling. In one chapter the author describes his own writing of the story, trying to remember Pi’s exact words and the impression they left on him. The next chapter contains those words the author was trying to remember. He exists as a figure standing between the story and the reader; even if he remembers and tells it "perfectly", he is nonetheless controlling our perspective of it, and thus rendering the heretofore objective subjective.

It also becomes clear here - in Chapter 21 specifically - that the author is already beginning to open up to Pi’s story, to find faith in Pi’s words. Storytelling and belief in God are inextricably linked; both require faith. Moreover, within a story, one may find God.