Literature Study GuidesLife Of PiPart 1 Chapters 29 31 Summary

Life of Pi | Study Guide

Yann Martel

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Life of Pi | Part 1, Chapters 29–31 : Toronto and Pondicherry | Summary

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Summary

Part 1, Chapter 29

Pi describes the mid-1970s, the decade when he was a teenager, as "troubled times in India." As a 16-year-old he didn't understand the extent of the political unrest. The Tamil Nadu government, the local government of Pondicherry, is overtaken by Mrs. Gandhi in 1976. Pi's father considers this overthrow a troubling symptom of Mrs. Gandhi's dictatorial power over the country. Angry, he worries for the future of his zoo and the future of India.

Mr. and Mrs. Patel agree to move to Canada. They want a better life for both themselves and their children. To Pi and Ravi, Canada seems impossibly far away.

Part 1, Chapter 30

The visiting writer meets Pi's wife. She's a pharmacist who, like Pi, is Indian. The writer never noticed Pi was married; Pi is a shy man who hides what's precious to him.

Part 1, Chapter 31

Mr. Kumar the baker comes to visit Pi at the zoo. They run into Mr. Kumar the teacher. Both men feed the zebra (an animal the baker has never seen before).

Analysis

The tension implied in the name of Part 1, "Toronto and Pondicherry," gains ground in the next several chapters. Pi thinks in natural metaphors as he prepares to enter the "jungle of foreignness" of a new country. Humans, as a group, are just as confused as animals when they transplant themselves. But humans have different needs and aspirations and can leave "in the hope of a better life." The reader will slowly realize the irony in the Patels' hopeful move.

Though Pi explains that outside events seemed irrelevant to his rich interior world, these events set the narrative in motion. Mr. and Mrs. Patel, as adults, feel their identity wrapped up in the fate of their country. They want a better world for their children, something Pi doesn't fully realize until he has children himself. They want, essentially, to be part of a better story.

Mr. Patel is also affected by the government's lack of support for the "cultural institution" of the zoo. He echoes the visiting writer's plea in the Author's Note for citizens to support art—another type of cultural institution. The echo is even more pronounced when Pi compares a zoo to a "public library" and a "museum."

In Part 1, Chapter 30 and its shift to the visiting writer's perspective readers see Pi's hoarding extends not only to food but also to people who are important. He will gradually share more with the visiting writer, who must earn his trust. For now the reader is reassured that Pi has a new family, whatever the fate of his old family may have been. This chapter builds on the previous chapter's assertion that family members will go to drastic lengths to build "happiness and prosperity" for future generations. Pi has begun to build a foundation for himself in Canada.

In Part 1, Chapter 31 Pi becomes comfortable with opposites, things "strange in a familiar way, familiar in a strange way." Two adults he admires, one an atheist lover of science and one a devout Muslim, come together in admiration of a zebra. Pi admires the zebra, too—the animal is awe inspiring enough to transcend cultural differences. Both men honor nature in their own way, and the scene ends simply: "We looked on." This scene becomes especially poignant when the zebra ends up in the lifeboat near death.

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