A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Pi, the main character of Yann Martel's Life of Pi, shares a wealth of detailed information on a variety of topics: zookeeping, animal behavior, survival techniques, and religious beliefs and practices of Catholics, Muslims, and Hindi. However, Pi is a somewhat unreliable narrator, and a lot of what he explains about wild animals falls into the "Don't try this at home" category.
The strongest message of Yann Martel's unusual novel is one of survival and the value of life. Though Pi, a lifelong vegetarian, must kill all manner of creatures to survive, the author never treats these events lightly. Pi is ever driven by his will to live and his inclusive, multi-religious love of God.
Positive Role Models
In Part 1 of Life of Pi, young Pi is guided by his parents and three religious teachers. His father uses a fairly shocking method to teach his sons to respect wild animals, but his motives are well-intentioned. Pi's mother is affectionate and protective. Pi gets to know a Catholic priest as well as leaders in the Hindu and Muslim faiths. He is moved by all of their teachings, and incorporates ideas from all three religions into his own belief system. Pi is also close to some of his schoolteachers, from whom he learns valuable academic and life lessons.
Violence & Scariness
Whether or not Pi's survival stories are to be believed, they are extremely violent and graphic. The narrator uses elaborate detail to describe wild animals killing and eating each other, and humans killing and eating animals. The book also includes acts of murder and cannibalism.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Early in the book, Pi describes the sexual behavior of zoo animals.
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Pi, whose real name is Piscine (the French word for swimming pool), is teased by other children, who call him "Pissing."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Pi says that some crew members aboard the cargo ship have been drinking alcohol.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Yann Martel's novel Life of Pi is the story an Indian zookeeper's son, who survives a shipwreck. Though Pi generally describes his many days at sea as monotonous, he also describes the sexual behavior of zoo animals and relates tales of danger and survival with great tension, using elaborate detail to describe wild animals killing and eating each other and humans killing and eating animals. The novel also includes acts of murder and cannibalism. This is a gory book, no question, and not recommended for the squeamish. Parents might also note that Pi forms his own belief system from the teachings of the Catholic, Hindu, and Muslim religions, saying that he simply wants to "love God."
Is It Any Good?
Life of Pi is a fascinating and original story of survival and identity. Martel creates a wonderfully realized, clever character in Pi, and a unique world of home, zoo, school, and various houses of various gods. The bit where all three religious figures realize that Pi has joined their faith is quite funny, and so wise. Readers have come to love Pi by the time his ship sinks, and every terrifying, bloody struggle he faces is met with intelligence and frought with tension. This is a smart, absorbing novel, although, given its gory descriptions, not a book to be enjoyed with a meal.
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