Pi notes, “The Greater Good and the Greater Profit are not compatible aims, much to Father's chagrin” (78). What is the significance of this observation in the context of the Pondicherry Zoo...

Pi notes, “The Greater Good and the Greater Profit are not compatible aims, much to Father's chagrin” (78). What is the significance of this observation in the context of the Pondicherry Zoo and in the context of modern society?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Pi's father owns and runs the Pondicherry zoo, but when there is a political transition in the mid-1970s, the nation's economy suffers and he has to sell out. Pi says that small businesses are the ones that risk the shirts on their backs. That is to say that since small businesses are run by one or a few families, people's own finances can get hurt more easily. Unfortunately, they don't have multiple resources to keep going if people stop showing up. Father also says the following to describe their situation:

". . . the Greater Good and the Greater Profit are not compatible aims" (78).

This means that a zoo—which provides services that positively influence the community's education and culture—usually doesn't make the most money for profit. He also mentions that public libraries and museums can be placed in the same category as zoos because the benefits from these businesses provide enrichment for the greater good, but they aren't necessarily good for the private owner's pocket.

In 2008, the United States suffered a decline in the economy because of a recession. Created mostly from the housing market crash, the recession forced many to lose their jobs and homes. When economic recessions or depressions afflict a nation, the small business owners and average laborers tend to feel the pinch in their pocketbooks the most. This is what happened to Pi's father. The nation suffered an economic hardship and he was forced to sell. Not only that, he decided to move to Canada in search of better financial opportunities.

For further examples of how economic decline affects service-oriented jobs, educational services and government services, look up the Great Depression that started in October of 1929, and/or government shutdowns, and the influence of national debts as seen on the news recently. When a nation falls financially, the little man seems to fall first, faster, and harder.

jenntof | Student

Piscine’s family is in the zoo business, and he explains in the beginning of the book how a zoo is a public institution much like a library or a museum. While institutions such as these provide many benefits for the people in the community, their purpose is to provide education and betterment of society rather than making profit. While libraries and museums are usually owned and operated by the government, Piscine’s father needs to make money to provide for his family, hence his dissatisfaction.

The saying “for the Greater Good and the Greater Profit are not compatible aims” is also commonly applicable to our world today, as many businesses and careers that serve the community don’t equate to great monetary rewards. Take for example a business like The Salvation Army, which is a company that serves the community in many ways. One could argue that because it helps those in need, that the company’s goal aligns with the Greater Good. However, it does not turn a profit nearly as much as regular fashion clothing stores or home goods stores. While there are definitely ways you can achieve both the greater good and a handsome profit, in many cases, Piscine’s father’s statement holds true.