HomeLiterature Study GuidesLife Of PiPart 1 Chapters 2628 Summary

Life of Pi | Study Guide

Yann Martel

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Life of Pi | Part 1, Chapters 26–28 : Toronto and Pondicherry | Summary

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Summary

Part 1, Chapter 26

Teenage Pi tells his father he'd like to be baptized and receive a prayer rug. Both his parents are mystified by Pi's religious enthusiasm. They tell him he can only pick one faith, and he doesn't need to practice faith at all. Pi is unconvinced. He compares religions to nations. People can have residencies in multiple countries, why not residencies in multiple faiths?

Part 1, Chapter 27

Pi overhears his parents discussing him. They don't know what attracted him to religion. The Patels consider themselves a secular, modern family of the "New India." They don't revere Mrs. Gandhi, or Bapu Gandhi, as much as Pi appears to. They're particularly puzzled by his interest in Islam, since Muslims are "outsiders" in India. Despite their reservations, Pi's parents conclude his religious obsession is a mostly harmless phase.

Part 1, Chapter 28

Pi receives a prayer rug, which he loves. He prays outside, ignoring his family's curious looks. He can see an aviary and an open yard from the spot where he prays. The place where Pi prays is important and described in loving detail, but the rug makes him feel he can be "at home anywhere."

He is also baptized, a ritual he describes as "slightly awkward" but cleansing. The baptism water trickling down Pi's neck has the effect of a "monsoon rain."

Analysis

Pi's religious zeal for Islam and Christianity directly conflict with his Indian identity. His parents have a better sense of what it means to be Indians in a world dominated by colonialism and whiteness. They understand the need to preserve their heritage. However, they want to move forward into the modern world. Pi's parents' bewilderment at their "old-fashioned" son reflects an inversion of the typical parent-child dynamic.

Mrs. Patel, an avid reader, does love a good story. She doesn't mention religious stories to Pi but classic adventures—Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and the works of Robert Louis Stevenson. It isn't a coincidence that several of these books are about shipwrecks and castaways. Pi already sees his life as a great adventure, but he has no idea how great it will become.

Part 1, Chapter 27 leads up to the family's move to Canada by planting more direct references to political unrest and disapproval of Mrs. Gandhi. It also hints at Islamophobia as part of the Hindu character, a part Pi seeks to change. Earlier he challenged the reader to learn about Islam to love the brotherhood it stood for.

Mr. Patel is a zealot in his own way, devoted to modernism. He feels, like Pi's other role model Mr. Kumar the teacher, that technology and progress are incompatible with religion. Mrs. Patel sees "a different drumbeat of progress," marking Pi as an explorer, an adventurer, and an individual. Though his parents don't take his religious views seriously, they do seem to respect the individuality of their son.

Nature has different meanings to Pi and his father. Mr. Patel's reference to the "laws of nature" seems to have nothing to do with the laws of nature that help his zoo keeping. Instead, he praises technology and good ideas. To Pi, in contrast, the natural world is an intrinsic, inextricable part of his faith, perhaps because of his upbringing in a zoo. The prayer rug reminds him "earth is the creation of God and sacred the same all over." When he is baptized the element of water recurs symbolically as a warm, cleansing, powerful, and necessary element.

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