# What is the significance of Pi's unusual name in Life of Pi?

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Joann Wentworth | Certified Educator

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When Pi begins being teased about his full name, Piscine, and mockingly nicknamed "Pissing Patel," he decides to take matters into his own hands. When he begins as a student at a new school, he claims a new identity for himself:

I got up from my desk and hurried to the blackboard. Before the teacher could say a word, I picked up a piece of chalk and said as I wrote: My name is Piscine Molitor Patel, known to all as—I double underlined the first two letters of my given name—Pi Patel. For good measure I added Pi =3.14 and I drew a large circle, which I then sliced in two with a diameter, to evoke that basic lesson of geometry.

With his new name established, Pi thinks, "I was saved. I could breathe. A new beginning . . . [S]o, in that Greek letter that looks like a shack with a corrugated tin roof, in that elusive, irrational number with which scientists try to understand the universe, I found refuge."

The number "pi" represents the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. This irrational number's decimal representation is never-ending; that is, no person can grasp the entire number. Similarly, Pi's story is equally difficult to grasp, as Mr. Tomohiro Okamoto and Mr. Atsuro Chiba of the Maritime Department in the Japanese Ministry of Transport elucidate when they tell Pi that they find his story "extremely hard to believe." Just as the number is elusive, so too is Pi's story, for it is left up to the reader to determine which version is "truth."

Additionally, Pi is a relentlessly curious person. His pursuit of knowledge, be it religious or biological, is endless, similar to the decimal representation of pi. He also finds the ocean to be endless as he floats adrift during his days stranded at sea, conjuring the seeming endlessness of pi.

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Jonathan Beutlich, M.A. | Certified Educator

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