Download Life of Pi Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Summary and Analysis: Part One—Toronto and Pondicherry—Chapters 12-21

Chapter 12:
The author discusses how much telling his story upsets Pi, and how spicy the food is that Pi serves.

These unrelated details go together thematically; Pi has not "digested" the "spicy" story he lived through in the past, just as the author cannot in the present.

Chapters 13-14:
These two brief chapters both discuss pack relations. Chapter 13 notes that an animal will attack primarily to protect its territory and that a trainer must gain a psychological edge over an animal by establishing territorial ownership before the animal does. Chapter 14 follows this by observing that pack hierarchy will aid this; a trainer can train the "socially inferior" animal more easily because a close relationship with the trainer means protection from the other animals.

While again seeming to be simply interesting information Pi would have learned from his family, these chapters foreshadow the precise knowledge and techniques he will have to use with Richard Parker, with one exception: he will be in that cage/territory himself, with no escape.

Chapter 15:
The author describes the many religious icons that fill Pi's home.

This chapter shows not only how intensely Pi worships but also how broadly: he is not limited by specific traditions. The breadth of faith refers to his childhood; the intensity, his ordeal.

"His house is a temple."

The author makes this flat observation about Pi's home when he sees it, noting the many icons and representations of different religions filling it. At the time, the very multitude of these symbols is a mystery: how can one man worship these different religions? Later, it becomes a larger mystery: how can a man who has been through such an ordeal still believe?

Chapters 16-17:
These chapters discuss the origins of two of Pi's religious faiths, Hinduism and Christianity. He suggests that we are all "born like Catholics," in that we are born in limbo, but our context provides a religion. Pi grew up a Hindu and describes the details that shaped him as one. Pi then tells of his first encounter with Christianity at age fourteen.

Pi's description of Hinduism is so detailed and so loving that it clearly shapes him, and the fact that it is his primary world view is demonstrated in Pi's first reaction to Christianity. However, Pi's suffering in the lifeboat is much closer to the agonies of Christ on the cross (down to the shared thirst) than to Hindu stories.

Chapters 18-20:
These three chapters...

(The entire section is 644 words.)