Student Question

What is the name of the ship in Life of Pi?

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Quite simply, the name of the ship is the Tsimtsum

The Tsimtsum is a cargo ship based out of Japan.  The necessity of a frieghter is apparent because the Patel family own a zoo in India.  Their plan is to sell the expensive animals that they have aquired in order to pave their way in the New World.  Obviously, the animals will fetch a bigger price where they are going as opposed to India; therefore, their only choice is to transport the animals in conjunction with small cages and tranquilizers. 

The animals are even further confined on the Tsimtsum.  Some of Pi's earlier statements about animal confinement in zoos are bolstered during this part of the novel.  Further, zoos & animal behavior continually inspire Pi to think more critically about religion:

I have heard nearly as much nonsense about zoos as I have about God and religion.

Animals in the wild lead lives of compulsion and necessity within an unforgiving social hierarchy in an environment where the supply of fear is high and the supply of food low and where territory must constantly be defended and parasites forever endured.

I know zoos are no longer in people's good graces. Religion faces the same problem. Certain illusions about freedom plague them both.

Interestingly enough, the importance of the Tsimtsum becomes apparent again at the end of Life of Pi.  Due to the extreme financial loss (as well as many deaths) associated with the sinking of teh Tsimtsum, two Japanese men are dispatched from the Japanese Maritime Department in order to investigate.  It is a very disappointing experience to see the Japanese men associated with the cargo ship bolster Pi in their English words, but mock him in thier Japanese words.  Their frustration, at least, leads Pi to the point of the book because it leads Pi to tell two different stories, asking the Japanese men to choose which one they prefer:  "And so it goes with God."

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