In Life of Pi, how does the author use imagery? I'd like specific examples.Why does the author use imagery?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yann Martel uses imagery masterfully in his novel Life of Pi. He mixes the use of imagery with similes, metaphors, personification, and more to bring an intriguing story to life for the reader. For example, he uses imagery of sight and sound to contrast the behavior of the hyena and the tiger on the life boat. First, in chapter 43, Martel describes the hyena's behavior with visual and auditory imagery:

"All morning the hyena ran in circles going yip yip yip yip yip . . . every lap was identical to the previous one, with no variations in movement, in speed, in the pitch or the volume of the yipping . . . Its yipping was shrill and annoying in the extreme. Even the zebra, which at first snorted each time the hyena raced by its head, fell into a stupor" (115).

Notice the use of onomatopoeia to engage the sense of sound, accompanied by the exhaustion of sight and emotion that Pi and the zebra feel as a result of the hyena's crazy behavior.

In contrast, from chapter 53, Richard Parker is also described with visual images. Words such as "glossy coat," "black vertical stripes," and "Atop the head were small, expressive ears shaped like perfect arches" (151). Richard Parker also moves more slowly and deliberately than the hyena. Consequently, Pi feels respect and amazement when he first sees the tiger. In fact, Pi notices that the tiger is silent whereas the hyena, as shown above, is loud and frantic with its movements. Then, Martel uses two similes to provide visual and auditory images of Richard Parker eating a rat:

"Richard Parker opened his maw and the squealing rat disappeared into it like a baseball into a catcher's mitt. Its hairless tail vanished like a spaghetti noodle sucked into a mouth" (153).

From this example, one might imagine hearing the squeal of the rat, the baseball going into the catcher's mitt, and a spaghetti noodle being sucked (sight and sound) into someone's mouth. These are just a few examples of the use of sight and sound from Life of Pi. There are many more examples, and readers searching for imagery will reap rewards by turning to any page of the text. Martel, along with other authors, use imagery in order to help readers to relate to the story through real world experiences and senses. If this use of imagery is successful, readers will be more engaged in the story and have a good experience reading the book.

cbaileyenotes | Student

According to one scholar, imagery is the use of "words and phrases that appeal to the senses" to "make an imaginary world seem real." The Life of Pi's author thus uses this literary tool to help readers believe Pi's fantastic tale. This is important because of the extraordinariness of his story. Specific examples of imagery used for this purpose include: (1) Pi's detailed explanation of animal hunger, which preceded (and made plausible) the hyena's attacks on the orangutan and zebra. (2) Pi's discovery that "that the sea is a city" wherein he compares ocean life to the bustling highways of a city and fish to trucks.  (3) Pi's explanation about the number of animals that would "pour out" if Tokyo were turned upside down.  

Note also that imagery can be used for symbolic purposes. For example orange images (life jacket, whistles, buoy, tarpaulin, cat, Bengal tiger, and "Orange Juice") are used in this text to signify survival and / or hope.  Also, the images associated with the floating island of algae and with Pi's father's zoo are used to symbolize the importance of zoos for "preserving unique wildlife that would otherwise be subject to the continual changing balances of ecosystems."

See also:

http://www.enotes.com/life-pi/q-and-a/what-some-examples-symbolism-life-pi-3701