Literature Study GuidesLife Of PiPart 1 Chapters 32 33 Summary

Life of Pi

Yann Martel

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Life of Pi | Part 1, Chapters 32–33 : Toronto and Pondicherry | Summary



Part 1, Chapter 32

Animals can come to unusual living arrangements if necessary, explains Pi, through a process called zoomorphism—where an animal treats another animal as one of its own kind. In the Pondicherry Zoo he's seen examples of the "freak suspension of the predator-prey relationship." He attributes zoomorphism to the "measure of madness" in all living things.

Part 1, Chapter 33

The writer and Pi look through Pi's photo albums. Pi has many records of his wedding, his college graduation, and his student life. But he has few photos of his childhood in India and none of his family. Pi points out Richard Parker in one hazy, black-and-white zoo photo. Pi can't remember what his mother looks like, and he's distressed.


Part 1, Chapter 32 seems out of place as Pi returns to detailed zoological discussions. In fact he's preparing the reader to encounter things that are unusual or hard to accept. The reader has already seen how people can't accept Pi's practice of three religions. Now they see animals suspending the predator-prey relationships that normally keep them alive. Pi again reminds the reader of the "measure of madness" he sees in humans and animals, the unpredictable instinct that sometimes causes living things to act in surprising ways for survival's sake.

Pi places the animals as characters in stories with their own personalities, using anthropomorphism, or the giving of animal traits to humans. Are animals, for example, capable (like humans) of feeling "something greater was just missed"? Pi thinks they might be. He also mentions motherlessness as the "worst condition imaginable" right before the visiting writer delves into Pi's memories of his own mother in Part 1, Chapter 33.

Autofiction imitates life—the visiting writer and Pi don't give more importance to the photos than they hold. The visiting writer dismisses the images as "nearly irrelevant" to the story of Pi's life. The writer tries to "extract personality from appearance" in Richard Parker's photo. He implies the animal has a distinct personality.

The reader still doesn't know Richard Parker's identity, but they begin to piece together Pi's loss of his family. From Pi's inability to even picture his mother, the reader can tell Pi lost his family a long time ago and is still grieving the loss. Even as Pi smiles in later pictures of a rebuilt life, his "eyes tell another story."

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