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Life of Pi | Study Guide

Yann Martel

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Life of Pi | Part 1, Chapters 10–12 : Toronto and Pondicherry | Summary

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Summary

Part 1, Chapter 10

Animals will occasionally escape from zoos, Pi says, especially if the zoo habitat is unsuitable. Besides, all living things have "a measure of madness" that sometimes saves them. He emphasizes animals escape "from something" instead of "to somewhere."

Part 1, Chapter 11

Pi describes the case of a female black leopard that escaped from a Switzerland zoo. The leopard remained undetected in the Swiss winter for two months. This proves to Pi that escaped animals are only "wild creatures seeking to fit in." Pi says, for example, that hundreds of exotic animals might be hiding in a large city like Tokyo. He laughs at the possibility of trying to find an animal in the Mexican tropical jungle.

Part 1, Chapter 12

The writer notices Pi's agitation as he relates his story and worries Pi will want to stop. "Richard Parker still preys on his mind," the writer says. But Pi continues to talk and regularly cooks meals for the writer, although the food is too spicy for his taste.

Analysis

The idea of enclosure and escape recurs in Part 1, Chapter 10. With the reference to animals escaping "from something"—as Pi's family goes to Canada to escape the increased restrictions and political oppression of Indira Gandhi's political regime in India—the zoo-keeping metaphor becomes more and more a reflection on human behavior. Later in Part 1, in Chapter 29, Mr. Patel will reference Indira Gandhi's practice of throwing dissidents in jail, again bringing up the idea of enclosure. Nothing—not humans, animals, or human-made ships—behaves predictably, including Pi with his own "irrational" name and nature. There's always a "measure of madness," a wild card. Pi realizes the importance of adapting to an environment, but he recognizes adaptation is easier when security and safety are assured.

This story, or a version of it, will recur in Part 3 when Pi attempts to tell Mr. Okamoto and Mr. Chiba that Richard Parker is untraceable in the Mexican tropical jungle. The reader is predisposed to accept the story of the escaped black leopard as fact, and the reference to the many animals in Tokyo as fact, because here Pi presents it as fact. He's a reliable narrator so far. In Part 3 he'll be less of a reliable narrator when his story is called into question. The inability to find Richard Parker will later be a key reason investigators doubt Pi's story. But for now the visiting writer never doubts him, so the reader doesn't either.

The book emphasizes the body's physical reaction to outside intrusions. Pi spends almost a year exposed to the weather. The visiting writer is simply not accustomed to spicy food. Both must adapt to their surroundings as outsiders.

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