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Life of Pi

Yann Martel

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Life of Pi | Motifs



Pi prays throughout the novel. His prayers represent his moods—anger, gratitude, grief, and awe. Pi prays out of reverence in Part 1, Chapter 16 as a devoted Hindu whose "hands naturally come together in ... worship." Pi prays out of frustration in Part 2, Chapter 37 when he asks why everything he loves has been destroyed. Pi prays out of guilt for the souls of the Frenchman and the fish he kills. When Pi is suffering in Part 2, Chapter 60 he murmurs "words of Muslim prayer." Prayer is Pi's search for meaning and purpose.

Prayer is how Pi communicates with the natural world and the divine. The physical act of Muslim prayer makes him feel close to the earth. The design of Pi's prayer rug reminds him "the earth is the creation of God." On the lifeboat in Part 2, Chapter 74 Pi prays by claiming the objects he sees is part of God's creation.

Territory and Belonging

Animals are territorial, Pi explains. He survives with Richard Parker on the lifeboat because he establishes his territory and gives Richard Parker his own. Territory is home, control, and shelter. When Pi takes control of Richard Parker in the lifeboat in Part 2, Chapter 70 he knows what will save his life: "It was time to impose myself and carve out my territory." His training is survival.

Belonging is also central to Pi's story. His family searches for a place to belong. They want the kind of freedom Pi describes in Part 1, Chapter 29—constitutional rights and a better future. Belonging is also part of family. When Pi's family dies he has to reassess where he belongs.

Pi questions belonging and group identity when he joins three religions at once. Each house of worship is a community, and each leader is territorial. They want Pi to belong to their religion only. Mrs. Patel offers the example of "one nation, one passport" to show Pi the importance of loyalty. Pi believes belonging is more fluid. He can belong to multiple communities—Hindu, Christian, and Muslim and his past and his future families.

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