Short-Answer Quizzes

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Study Questions

1. Where did Pi get his given name? (Chapter 3)

2. How did Pi come to be called Pi? (Chapter 5)

3. What does the Pi mean? (Chapter 5)

4. What does Pi's home in Toronto tell the author about his character? (Chapters 6 and 15)

5. Who is Mr. Satish Kumar? (Chapters 7 and 20)

6. How does Pi's father prepare him for the ordeal on the lifeboat (unknowingly), and how does he handicap him in this ordeal? (Chapter 8)

7. How is the Patel's family departure from India like the attempts of animals to escape from the zoo, and how is it different? (Chapter 10)

Answers

1. Pi was given the name Piscine Molitor Patel after a family friend (Francis Adirubasamy)'s favorite swimming pool.

2. Pi renamed himself, starting with his first day at Petit Séminaire when he wrote his name on the blackboard in each class and underlined the "Pi" in Piscine. He forced the nickname on those around him through repetition, which he thought was important in training not only animals but also humans.

3. Pi (π), the mathematical symbol, represents the ratio between the distance around a circle (the circumference) and the distance across its center (the diameter): π=3.14.

4. Pi's house is jammed full of food; he is terrified of ever going hungry again. But it is also jammed full of religious icons, as if he were terrified of going "hungry" of meaning.

5. There are two Satish Kumars in Life of Pi. One is a biology teacher, a Communist, a rationalist, and an atheist. The other is a baker and a Sufi mystic. Both teach Pi in ways that shape his soul.

6. The answers to both questions are the same: the intimate knowledge he provides of animals. This knowledge lets Pi survive and guides him in taming Richard Parker. It also handicaps him because Mr. Patel taught him never to get close to an adult tiger.

7. In chapter 10, Pi notes that animals try to escape not to something, but from something. The Patel family's "escape" from India is similar to this in that Mrs. Gandhi's changes force Mr. Patel to leave India. Their departure is different in that they were not fleeing blindly, but rather consciously seeking something better.

Study Question

1. What are Pi's initial objections to Christianity? (Chapters 17)

Answer

1. Pi objects to the fact that Christianity has only one core story, which gets told and retold; this seems sparse compared to Hinduism's profusion of stories. Pi is troubled by the content of the story and reacts with disbelief that Christ had to die for the sins of humanity. He also objects to the character of Christ, who seems an unconvincing and unimpressive god compared to Hindu gods, a god who seems too human.

Study Question

1. What does the author learn about Pi in Chapter 30, and what does this fact teach him about himself? (Chapter 30)

Answer

1. He learns that Pi is married (and meets Pi's wife, Meena). Once he meets Meena, the author realizes that there had been "small signs of conjugal existence" and that they "were there all along"; Pi's home was marked by his marriage, but the author did not pay sufficient attention to notice.

Study Question

1. What were the major difficulties in preparing to move the Patel family zoo from India to Canada? (Chapter 34)

Answer

1. There were physical difficulties and social ones. The physical difficulties—actually shipping the animals—were less challenging than the social ones. The social challenges took the form of the paperwork required and of the respective value the market placed on the animals.

Study Question

1. Why did the Tsimtsum sink? (Chapter 38)

Answer

1. No one knows. Pi heard an unfamiliar noise, perhaps an explosion, but never got an explanation before the ship sank.

Study Questions

1. Where did Richard Parker get his name? (Chapter 48)

2. How does Pi tame Richard Parker? (Chapters 57-92)

Answers

1. The hunter who captured him and his mother was named Richard Parker, and a clerical error swapped the hunter's name with the name for the baby tiger (which was "Thirsty").

2. Through studying all the signals the tiger sends, by facing him with a shield on his arm made from turtle shells, by training him to believe food comes from Pi, and by methodically claiming the tiger's territory.

Study Questions

1. What happens when Pi kills a dorado? (Chapter 61)

2. What happens on the bottom of the raft, and how does it matter? (Chapter 67)

Answers

1. The dorado changes color, flashing several different colors. Pi is struck by the beauty of this but also feels like he "was beating a rainbow to death." Given his strong religious training, it is reasonable to assume that Pi knows the meaning of the rainbow in Christianity: God's promise that he will not flood the world again/will not kill off humanity as he had before. Killing this promise would be canceling the promise not to drown/kill humanity.

2. Algae begins to grow on the underside of the raft, then other sea life appear—tiny shrimp and fish, worms, crabs—until it is so crowded and busy that Pi sees it as "an upside-down town." It matters because it provides Pi some other food, because watching it gives him entertainment, because it seems cool, calm and peaceful (unlike the top of the raft), and because it is an example of how one arena of life mirrors another: the plants and animals make a town, like people.

Study Question

1. How does Pi try to lift his spirits while lost at sea? (Chapters 74-75)

Answer

1. Through religious rituals and through singing "Happy Birthday" to his mother. He sometimes succeeds, but sometimes fails and falls into despair.

Study Questions

1. When does Pi become sure of his mastery over Richard Parker? (Chapters 80-81)

2. How do the lightning storm and the ship that does not see Pi's flare show the differences between Pi and Richard Parker? (Chapters 85-86)

3. What is Pi's "dream rag"? (Chapter 87)

Answers

1. When Richard Parker is ready to attack him over a dorado, Pi stares him down until the tiger turns away.

2. Richard Parker is terrified by the storm. Pi is scared, but he can see the glory in the storm as well. When the ship comes, Pi goes through hope and despair; Richard Parker does not react to the ship, but only to Pi's emotions.

3. It is a piece of cloth Pi soaks with salt water and puts on his face. It cuts down on the amount of oxygen in the air he breathes and gives him hallucinations. These allow him to escape from his ordeal, however briefly.

Study Questions

1. What happens when the lifeboat runs into a mass of floating trash? (Chapter 88)

2. When does Pi die symbolically? (Chapters 89-90)

3. Who does Pi talk to in Chapter 90?

4. Why is the island Pi finds so disturbing? (Chapter 92)

5. Pi saves Richard Parker by giving him food and water. How does Richard Parker save Pi? (Throughout Part Two of the novel)

Answers

1. Pi finds a refrigerator with a rotted animal carcass in it; he thinks it is a lamb. He finds an empty wine bottle and puts a message in it, acting out the cliché of a message in a bottle.

2. Pi dies symbolically in Chapters 89-90. He has been keeping his soul alive in part by keeping a journal, but his pen dies. Soon after his words die, he goes blind. While he is blind, he meets another human lost on the sea. Though it is Richard Parker who kills the man, Pi eats part of him and thinks, "Something in me died then that has never come back to life."

3. Pi thinks he is talking to Richard Parker. He even gets answers that would fit Parker's character, about eating humans. However, late in the chapter it becomes clear that he is actually talking to another human being.

4. It is intrinsically disturbing because it is carnivorous. It is an island of plants that kill animals, including humans. However, it is also disturbing because it disrupts the stories Pi has been counting on to guide him, specifically the stories in the survival guide, which tell him to seek out the green of plants for salvation.

5. By giving Pi a focus and helping him overcome fear, by giving Pi a society to be a part of, and by giving Pi something to care about.

Study Questions

1. What is special about Chapter 97?

2. Why don't Mr. Okamoto and Mr. Chiba believe Pi's story about what happened to the Tsimtsum? (Chapter 98-99)

3. Pi tells two different stories about what happened in the lifeboat. How are they similar? (Chapter 99)

4. Pi tells two different stories about what happened in the lifeboat. How are they different? (Chapter 99)

5. What eventually convinces Mr. Okamoto of Pi's story? (Chapters 99-100)

6. What is the relationship between the three sections of the novel?

Answers

1. It is two words long: "The story." In it, the entire story that has happened up to that point is retold.

2. They claim it is because his story does not hold together—that it is neither factual nor logical: bananas do not float, a carnivorous island is impossible, no trace of Richard Parker was ever found, and two blind strangers in lifeboats meeting in the Pacific Ocean is unlikely. Pi says it is because it asks them to expand their horizons and look beyond their own limited experience.

3. In both stories, there are a limited number of characters, one preys upon another, and Pi eats human flesh.

4. In the first story, which fills Part Two of the novel, Pi is the only human for almost the entire story. The other characters are animals (the zebra, orangutan, hyena, and tiger). In the second story, which he tells Mr. Okamoto and Mr. Chiba in Part Three, all characters are human.

5. Judging by what he says and by what he includes in his report, it is part the intrinsic quality of the stories told (the one with animals just seems better) and part Pi's own character.

6. Part One is Pi's life in India. Part Two is Pi's time spent lost at sea. Part Three is Pi's recovery and his attempt to convince others of his story.

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