At a Glance

Life of Pi key characters:

  • In Life of Pi, Pi is a likable and curious teenager who loses his family after a shipwreck. He is unique in his study of three major religions and science to understand the world.

  • Mr. Santosh Patel is Pi’s father who tries to teach his son caution and seeks a better life for his family in Canada. Mr. Patel is killed when the ship sinks.

  • Mrs. Gita Patel is Pi’s mother. She is also killed when the ship sinks.

  • Richard Parker is the Bengal tiger who shares the lifeboat with Pi. He is both a friend and a menace.

  • Mr. Tomohiro Okamoto is one of the Japanese government officials who investigates the sinking of the ship and questions Pi’s story.

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The author's persona
Early and late in the novel, the author projects himself into the novel, speaking of "I" and how the novel came to be. The author shares little about himself, only that he is a writer from Canada with two books published prior to Life of Pi. These details are true of Yann Martel but in a book that accents the constructed nature of stories so heavily, readers cannot assume they are completely one and the same.

Pi, born Piscine Molitor Patel, is the central character in the novel and at times the only human character. Born and raised in India Pi received his given name as homage to a family friend, Francis Adirubasamy, a great swimmer who spoke highly of the Piscine Molitor pool in Paris. Pi renamed himself to escape ongoing jokes about his name.

Pi is raised on the premises of his father's zoo in Pondicherry, India, until his father decided to move the entire family to Canada. Pi's life is defined by two factors, one internal and one external. The internal factor is his lifelong interest in and dedication to religion. Pi studies all religions for the sheer joy of it. The external factor is the shipwreck that kills his family and strands Pi in a lifeboat with only a few animals for company. Pi is an intelligent and likeable sixteen-year-old when he loses his family and passes into this ordeal.

Mr. Santosh Patel
Pi's father, Mr. Santosh Patel, is called simply "Father" throughout most of the novel. Readers catch a glimpse of Santosh's character in his attempt to teach his sons caution by letting them see a tiger kill a goat, and in his decision to change countries in search of a better life. A modern and pragmatic man who had run a hotel before opening a zoo, Mr. Patel is killed when the Tsimtsum sinks.

Mrs. Gita Patel
Pi's mother, Mrs. Gita Patel, is called simply "Mother" throughout most of the novel. A quiet woman who likes to read, the biggest glimpses of her character come when she and her husband must...

(The entire section is 803 words.)