Symbolism in Yan Martel's 'Life of Pi'

Symbolism in Yan Martel's 'Life of Pi'

  • Submitted By: stourboy
  • Date Submitted: 07/04/2008 10:58 AM
  • Category: English
  • Words: 2512
  • Page: 11
  • Views: 6

In Life of Pi, Martel uses a wide range of literary devices to present the different themes in the novel. One of these devices is symbolism. The narrative begins after the Author’s Note in which a persona explains the background and inspiration for the book. Martel presents the scenario as being real; he is trying to make us believe what we are going to read. In the author’s note, Martel explains that he flew to India in spring 1996 after his second book wasn’t successful in his native Canada. He describes meeting Francis Adirubasamy in a café, and is told the story about Pi. He eventually meets Pi back in Canada and Martel decides to tell the story from Pi’s perspective.

Martel is careful to provide a realistic context for his novel. The first part of the novel is set in India. In Chapter 4, Pi explains that India was “seven years old as a republic” when Pondicherry became part of India in November 1954. Some land in the botanical gardens became available and the Pondicherry Zoo was born – and Pi’s family lived on and ran the zoo. We realise this is set in the 20th century – Pi’s family leave for Canada in June 1977, the ship sinks a month later and Pi finally arrives in Mexico in February 1978. Within this detailed setting and social and historical context, Martel makes use of symbolism to help create meaning for the reader.

Many of the names of animals, objects and humans in the novel have a symbolic meaning. Many of these symbols are connected with the name ‘Pi’. One of these is the number 3.14. Pi describes this number as “elusive” and “irrational”. This reflects Pi’s own unusual personality. He attends three different places of worship mentored by three separate men without them knowing of Pi’s multi-faith, until they meet accidentally at LOCATION HERE. Pi’s uniqueness is also illustrated in the way he speaks out against the criticism of zoos and has a different way of thinking to many people, who believe that zoos are cruel. We learn in Chapter 63...

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