In Life of Pi by Yann Martel, how does Pi Patel affect the understanding of the story?

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Pi Patel is the narrator and protagonist for most of the story.  The book begins with Pi as an older man that is narrating his early childhood and then at length his time in the lifeboat with Richard Parker.  

The story is first affected by the reader knowing that...

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Pi Patel is the narrator and protagonist for most of the story.  The book begins with Pi as an older man that is narrating his early childhood and then at length his time in the lifeboat with Richard Parker.  

The story is first affected by the reader knowing that Pi is narrating events from earlier in his life.  Because the reader knows that Pi is telling us about his adventures after they have happened, the reader knows that Pi ultimately survives the sinking ship and the months in the lifeboat with a tiger. The effect is that the reader is a bit distanced from the events.  We care about Pi and worry about his chances, but we also aren't overly concerned because we know that he survives.  

Pi also tells readers throughout the book that he likes to tell "the better story."  He even asks which story the officials liked better after having heard both of his survival accounts.  The affect is that Pi's narration becomes quite suspect.  A reader might be suspicious that Pi is an unreliable narrator, and the end chapters really emphasize his unreliability.  

"So tell me, since it makes no factual difference to you and you can't prove the question either way, which story do you prefer? Which is the better story, the story with animals or the story without animals?"

The effect on the story is drastic, because it calls into question the validity of several hundred pages worth of text.  

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