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Life of Pi

Yann Martel

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Life of Pi | Character Analysis


Pi Patel

Pi, as an adult, reflects on the experiences that shaped him as a child, particularly his knowledge of animals, his religious conversions, and his transformative journey across the Pacific Ocean. Pi is intelligent and well educated. He loves science and learning, often recounting biological or psychological facts to make his points. He realizes, however, that humans cannot explain every event. Pi's faiths in Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism deeply influence his worldview. Pi's parents and brother passed away in a shipwreck that Pi, at 16, survived. As an adult he lives contentedly with his wife and two children, but he thinks often of his departed family.

Richard Parker

Richard Parker came to the Pondicherry Zoo after a hunter (the original Richard Parker) killed his mother in the wild. As an adult Richard Parker weighs 450 pounds. Pi describes him as beautiful and graceful, with an overwhelming presence. At first Richard Parker is antagonistic toward Pi, but he adapts when Pi establishes himself as the dominant animal. Richard Parker's companionship gives Pi purpose and peace on their long journey.

Visiting Writer

The visiting writer is thoughtful and reflective. He describes his own life as "glum contentment." He originally seeks out Pi because he's looking for an extraordinary story for his next book. After many encounters and interviews with Pi, the visiting writer feels his own worldview and beliefs being challenged. He concludes Pi's story will make listeners believe in God.

Mr. Patel

Mr. Patel is an experienced and skilled zookeeper. He's proud of the "modern, biologically sound principles" on which the zoo is run. He raises his family to be secular (nonreligious); though he grudgingly accepts Pi's religious interests, he does not share them. Mr. Patel has a deep faith in technology and human progress.

Mrs. Patel

Mrs. Patel is intelligent and compassionate. She loves to read. She has a deep affection for India and misses her country when she leaves for Canada with her family. She identifies as secular—Pi describes her as "serenely impious"—but is more open than Mr. Patel to accepting Pi's religious zeal. In Pi's second story to the Japanese officials, Mrs. Patel survives the shipwreck and remains in the lifeboat with Pi. She's killed by the cook in a squabble over food.


Ravi is popular in school, and Pi admires and looks up to him. Pi calls Ravi the "dazzling hero of my childhood." Ravi often teases Pi, including mocking him about his religious beliefs, but he seems to have a real affection for his younger brother. Ravi is adventurous and loves to explore. He watches the engines on the Tsimtsum before it sinks. In one version of the story Ravi dies during the explosion on the ship. In the other version the blind Frenchman kills Ravi.

Blind Frenchman

The blind Frenchman is an unapologetic carnivore who will eat every part of an animal. As he and Pi discuss food, Pi imagines the Frenchman's voice to be the voice of Richard Parker, another carnivore. Because of their similarly hopeless situations, Pi feels a kinship and brotherhood with the Frenchman and mourns his death.

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