Life of Pi Questions and Answers
by Yann Martel

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What are some metaphors from Life of Pi?

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Heather Nieto eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Yann Martel's Life of Pi is chock full of metaphors, so I will focus on religious and animal metaphors in this post. 

Religious Metaphors

1. "In a second everyone was laughing. It fell away as we filed into the class. I walked in last, wearing my crown of thorns." 

This metaphor alludes to to Jesus Christ's crown of thorns, which he wears upon his crucifixion. The metaphor of a crown of thorns indicates shame, isolation, and pain. Pi is isolated from his peers because of his name, his beliefs, and his character. He is not a "normal" kid. He is extraordinary. 

2. "She came floating on an island of bananas in a halo of light, as lovely the Virgin Mary. The rising sun was behind her. Her flaming hair looked stunning."

When Pi first sees Orange Juice the orangutan, he sees visions of the Virgin Mary and expresses this using a simile, a type of metaphor that compares two unlike things using the words "like" or "as." Often in literature and in art, the Virgin Mary is depicted as being surrounded by a "halo of light." What makes this metaphor even better is the fact that Orange Juice also stands for Pi's mother. Martel links the Virgin Mary to Pi's mother, a mother who makes an incredible sacrifice, through this one animal.

Speaking of animals . . .

Animal Metaphors

1. Orange Juice the orangutan. As stated above, she stands for Pi's mother. She is gentle and loving and takes on Pi's suffering as he navigates between Richard Parker, the hyena, and the ocean. Orangutans (and monkeys in general) usually represent cunning, intelligence, and humor, and she also represents courage and the willingness to sacrifice herself for Pi, a true expression of a mother's love.

2. Richard Parker, the tiger. The tiger, Richard Parker, metaphorically represents Pi. Tigers usually represent strength, agility, fierceness, and power. Pi feels powerless, and through his tangle with Richard Parker in the boat, he attains that power and grows into "Richard Parker." He becomes the tiger.

3. The Hyena. The hyena represents the Cook from the Tsimtsum. Think about all of the movies in which you've seen hyenas (like The Lion King, for example). How were the hyenas portrayed? They are nasty, vicious, and without moral compunction. The same goes for the hyena in Life of Pi. This hyena represents pure evil—a killer who kills without reason or thinking. The cook in the story is just as vicious, and by having the hyena stand in for him in the boat, Pi is forced to face that evil head on.

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